Fief-Holding and the Manorial System

World History
Ch. 13: Europe in the Middle Ages
Feudalism and Manorialism
Answer the following questions in complete sentences using p. 352-353 in the text, class notes on feudalism, and the handout.
1. Explain the practice of feudalism and the relationship between the lord and his vassal.
Contract between a lord and his vassal based on military service in return for land (a fief); started
because civil wars weakened the power of the kings and thus the kings could not protect their kingdoms from
Viking, Magyar, and Muslim invaders; powerful lords took charge of defense of their surrounding lands and the
other nobility who resided in the region
A vassal (“servant”) swore an oath of loyalty and homage to his lord, promising to provide military
service (about 40 days a year), economic aid (in special circumstances), and attendance at court as advisor or
judge; the lord responsible to vassal for protection (military defense or support in court) and financial support
through provision of a fief
2. What impact did the practice of feudalism have on the power of the monarchy and the royal government?
Feudalism decentralized government in Europe; not only military power was spread among many
people – lords and vassals also assumed political, legal, and economic control over their fief: all of those
people were responsible for keeping order, not a single government
The king did maintain symbolic power over a country/kingdom because he was seen as having granted
the great lords land in return for their loyalty and military support; the decentralized power filtered down as
lords took on vassals, who in turn took on their own vassals (called knights) – at each level, the fief was
controlled by a lord (be he a vassal or knight) who had total control in that territory
3. What was manorialism? How did it develop (why did free peasants seek out social and economic
arrangements with landowning lords)?
The practice by which an agricultural estate (the land given to a vassal by his lord) was operated by the
lord and worked by peasants who increasingly became bound to the land; peasants also needed protection in
this unsettled era of invasion and they gave up their freedom and their land to lords return for protection and
the use of the land they had given up; also gave lords the time to devote themselves to the military arts
4. What obligations were peasants expected to perform on manors?
Peasants expected to work the lord’s demesne (land retained by the lord – up to a third or half of the
cultivated lands scattered throughout the manor); they also had to pay rent in money or labor and/or give the
lord a percentage of all products they raised (including crops and domesticated animals); they also had to build
barns and to dig ditches – were basically responsible for the general upkeep of the property
5. Explain the legal relationship between lord and serf. What legal rights did the lord hold over his serfs? What
legal restrictions or rights did serfs have?
Serfs were bound to the lord’s land which made them part of the lord’s labor force and bound them to
the land – they were unable to leave without the lord’s permission; thus, the lord controlled all aspects of his
serfs’ lives
Economic control: serfs were required to pay a fine in order to marry someone from outside the manor
and to pay a fine to inherit property; serfs also had to pay for use of manor’s common pasturelands, streams,
ponds, surrounding woodlands and the use of the lord’s mill and other similar structures; they were also
obliged to pay a tithe to the local village church
Legal control: serfs were subject to the lord’s jurisdiction due to unfree status – they would be tried in
lord’s courts; they required to rely on the lord for the issuing of a legal document, for the performance of
marriage ceremonies, and the verification of buying or selling property
World History
Ch. 13: Europe in the Middle Ages
Manor Design
Following the below guidelines, design and draw a layout of a typical medieval manor on the provided sheet of
paper. Use p. 352-353 in the text, the “Manorialism” handout, and the following websites for reference.
Diagram of a Manor:
Medieval Life:
Make sure you include all necessary elements of a feudal manor, but do not copy (plagiarize) designs/maps
shown in any of the other sources.
-Combine the key elements to create a new design.
(4)-include at least eight different types of buildings
-make sure you label each building clearly
-Manor House
-village church
(3)-show the economic activity of the manor
-how is the land divided/used?
-who controls/uses portions of the land?
-three-field system
-lord’s demesne (around the manor?)
-peasant-cultivated land (strip-farming spread around lands)
-land set aside for church
(3)-show other likely geographic characteristics of the land
-i.e. rivers, streams, etc.