Sociology Index


Feudalism is a system of economic and social organization found historically in several areas of the world including Japan, other parts of Asia, the Americas and many countries of eastern and western Europe. In western Europe, feudalism was at its height between about 1000 and 1500. Feudalism was founded on a web of military obligations between powerful overlords and their vassals.

Vassals, who were usually landlords of knightly rank, owed duties of military service in return for grants of land (fiefs) from the overlord. The land, and the military obligations, were usually passed from father to son. The usual economic foundation of feudalism was the feudal manor, an agricultural organization that included a central farm owned by the landlord and small land holdings for a class of bonded farm labourers (serfs).

The serfs in feudalism were required to work the central manorial farm and to provide the lord with produce and money payments in return for their own rights to land use. Feudalism gradually declined as cities and towns grew, money became the basis for economic transactions and power became centralized in nation states under monarchies. Loss of rural population from plague also hastened the end of feudalism and this system of economic organization, especially in England.

The philosopher and lover of man have much harm to say of trade; but the historian will see that trade was the principle of Liberty; that trade planted America and destroyed Feudalism; that it makes peace and keeps peace, and it will abolish slavery. - Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

In the information age, you don't teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show. - Timothy Leary

The First World War, and especially the latest one, largely swept away what was left in Europe of feudalism and of feudal landlords, especially in Poland, Hungary, and the South East generally. - Emily G. Balch

The Americans still think that feudalism rules the world and therefore demand that Iran explain its handling of the hijacking affair. Iran explains nothing to anyone but God.

In the last quarter of the eighteenth century bourgeois Europe needed to emancipate itself from that combination of feudalism and commercial capitalism which we know as mercantilism. - C. L. R. James

Totalitarianism is feudalism in the twelfth century sense of the word. - Barbara Amiel

We modern Marxists regard socialism as a historically brief transitional stage between feudalism and capitalism, necessary only in backward countries. - John McCarthy

Growing up in the 1930's was like 100 years before. There was a feudalism system that lasted until the early 40's. Life changed only after the war. - Max von Sydow

I'm not just antimachismo, I'm a feminist. One thing that really awakens my rebellious streak is 20 centuries of one sex dominating the other. We talk of slavery, feudalism, exploitation, but the most unjust domination is that of one half of the human race over the other half. - Jose Luis Rodriguez

Feudalism, Capitalism, and the World-System in the Perspective of Latin America and the Caribbean: "Ever More Solitary" - Steve J. Stern - The American Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. 886-897

Feudalism in History by Rushton Coulborn, Joseph R. Strayer, Edwin O. Reischauer, Derk Bodde, Burr C. Brundage, William F. Edgerton, Daniel Thorner, Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Marc Szeftel, Carl J. Friedrich - The American Political Science Review, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec., 1956).