When was Feudalism established in England?
Feudalism in England was established by William the Conqueror and the Normans following the defeat of the English Anglo Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The system and structure of feudalism had been well established in Europe for some time and the Normans imposed feudalism in England.
What was Feudalism?
Feudalism was based on the exchange of land for military service. King William the Conqueror used the concept of feudalism to reward his Norman supporters for their help in the conquest of England. Life lived under the Medieval Feudal System, or Feudalism, demanded that everyone owed allegiance to the King and their immediate superior.
Feudalism had a dramatic effect on England and Europe during the Middle Ages. The pyramid of power which was the Feudal system ran to a strict 'pecking' order - during the Medieval period of the Middle Ages everyone knew their place.
The Feudal system of the Middle Ages affected all spheres (areas) of Medieval society: a land-based economy, the judicial system and the rights of the feudal lords under the feudal system and the lack of rights for the serfs and peasants.
For safety and for defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle, the church, the village, and the surrounding farm land. These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.
In this "feudal" system, the king awarded land grants or "fiefs" to his most important nobles, his barons, and his bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king's armies. At the lowest echelon (rank) of society were the peasants, also called "serfs" or "villeins." In exchange for living and working on his land, the lord offered his peasants protection.
Peasants worked the land and produced the goods that the lord and his manor needed. This exchange was not without hardship for the serfs. They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish(give up) much of what they harvested.
The peasants did not even "belong to" themselves, according to medieval law. The lords, in close association with the church, assumed the roles of judges in carrying out the laws of the manor.
Role of Women
It should come as no surprise that women, whether they were nobles or peasants, held a difficult position in society. They were largely confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, and spinning. However, they also hunted for food and fought in battles, learning to use weapons to defend their homes and castles.
Some medieval women held other occupations. There were women blacksmiths, merchants, and apothecaries. Others were midwives (helped with childbirth), worked in the fields, or were engaged in creative endeavors such as writing, playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting.
Some women were known as witches, capable of sorcery (witchcraft) and healing. Others became nuns and devoted their lives to God and spiritual matters. Famous women of the Middle Ages include the writer Christine de Pisan; the abbess and musician Hildegard of Bingen; and the patron of the arts Eleanor of Aquitaine.
A French peasant's daughter, Joan of Arc, or St. Joan, heard voices telling her to protect France against the English invasion. She dressed in armor and led her troops to victory in the early fifteenth century. "The Maid of Orleans" as she was known, was later burned as a witch.
Most medieval homes were cold, damp, and dark. Sometimes it was warmer and lighter outside the home than within its walls. For security purposes, windows, when they were present, were very small openings with wooden shutters that were closed at night or in bad weather. The small size of the windows allowed those inside to see out, but kept outsiders from looking in.
Many peasant families ate, slept, and spent time together in very small quarters, rarely more than one or two rooms. The houses had thatched roofs and were easily destroyed.
During the Middle Ages most people wore clothing made of wool. Undergarments were often made of linen. People rarely cleaned their outer garments, but the linen clothing was cleaned regularly. Unlike the Roman clothes which were just wrapped and tied around the body, the clothes during the Middle Ages were cut and sewn to fit. They had necklines, bodices, sleeves, waists, and legs.
During Medieval Times people bathed about once a month. When cleaning the people used herbs such as lavender flowers and mint instead of soap. These herbs helped keep fleas away. Fleas were a problem since many items were stuffed with straw.
Peasant men wore tunics. The tunics were usually knee length. The women wore sleeveless tunics. Cloaks made from sheepskin, woolen hats, and mittens were wore in the winter. Leather boots were an important piece of clothing. Many of the boots were mid-calf length with turned down or rolled tops.
Wealthy men and women wore brighter colors than the peasants. The men wore tunics. Nobility usually wore their tunics ankle length from the fourteenth century until the mid sixteenth centuries. These were often made of velvet or damask. The men also wore stockings made from wool or silk. During more formal occasions men would wear a loose, sleeveless outer garments called mantles. These were at times embroidered with gold or silver threads. The mantle could even had jewels on them or be lined with fur.
Wealthy women wore ankle length gowns. During the early Middle Ages the gowns were full and loose fitting. The gown had a round neck with a split so it would fit over the head. During the fourteenth century the gowns had fitted bodices with long flowing skirts. The sleeves of these gowns were tight and could have fifty button on each arm.
The women also wore large headdresses. The head pieces were often shaped like hearts. Another popular shape was the tall pointed hat with long flowing pieces of fabric attached to the top. This type of hat was called a barbette.
Another kind of headdress was a piece of silk or linen that was wrapped in layers around the head, then over the chin, neck, and shoulders. This was called a wimple.
The wealthy often lined their garments with furs. Diamonds became popular in Europe in the fourteenth century. Gem cutting was invented during the fifteenth century.
Monks wore long woolen habits. The order the monk belonged to could be determined by the color of the habit. For example the Benedictines wore black and the Cistercians wore undyed wool or white.
As the populations of medieval towns and cities increased, hygienic (cleanliness) conditions worsened, leading to a vast (large) array (assortment) of health problems. Medical knowledge was limited and, despite the efforts of medical practitioners and public and religious institutions to institute regulations, medieval Europe did not have an adequate health care system. Antibiotics weren't invented until the 1800s and it was almost impossible to cure diseases without them.There were many myths and superstitions about health and hygiene as there still are today. People believed, for example, that disease was spread by bad odors. It was also assumed that diseases of the body resulted from sins of the soul. Many people sought relief from their ills through meditation, prayer, pilgrimages, and other non-medical methods.
The body was viewed as a part of the universe, a concept derived from the Greeks and Romans. Four humors, or body fluids were directly related to the four elements: fire=yellow bile or choler; water=phlegm; earth=black bile; air=blood. These four humors had to be balanced. Too much of one was thought to cause a change in personality--for example, too much black bile could create melancholy (sadness or depression).
Arts and EntertainmentArt and music were critical aspects of medieval religious life and, towards the end of the Middle Ages, secular life as well. Singing without instrumental accompaniment was an essential part of church services. Monks and priests chanted the mass (church service) daily.
Some churches had instruments such as organs and bells. The organistrum or symphony (later known as a hurdy gurdy) was also found in churches. Two people were required to play this stringed instrument--one to turn the crank and the other to play the keys.
Medieval drama grew out of the liturgy (religious teachings), beginning in about the eleventh century. Some of the topics were from the Old Testament(Bible) (Noah and the flood, Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion's den) and others were stories about the birth and death of Christ. These dramas were performed with costumes and musical instruments and at first took place directly outside the church. Later they were staged in marketplaces, where they were produced by local guilds (groups).
During the Middle Ages the people ate only the foods that grew on the manor grounds or could be found in the nearby forests. Transportation limited the variety of foods.
Peasants ate whatever they could grow or catch. Herbs and spices were used to disguise the taste of old meat.
The meal in the castle was another matter. Peasants planted vegetables including carrots, lettuce, onions, turnips, peas, cabbage, and spinach. In the fields grains were raised such as barley, oats, rye, and wheat. These grains were ground into flour to use in breads and cakes. The peasants also harvested a number of fruits including grapes, cherries, plums, and crab apples. Nuts were also a favorite. Oat-and-vegetable pottage was a mainstay.
The only meat that was eaten was what could be hunted in the manor forests. The meat was heavily salted or smoked to keep it from spoiling. The most common meat was pork. Other meats included beef, some fresh fish, and a variety of fowl including chickens, partridges, peafowl, and pigeons.
Honey was used as a sweetener. Honey was used in the making of cakes and pastries. Verjuice was a sour juice made from crab apples or unripe grapes. It tasted much like cider. and was used as a seasoning.
Favorite drinks included wine, mead and especially ale, generally home-brewed. Mead was a fermented drink made from water, honey, malt, and yeast. Milk from cows or goats was made into cheese.
Only the wealthy lords used goblets and plates made from gold, silver, or pewter. The less important guests were served on wooden platters called trenchers or with wooden goblets . These were often shared by two people. At times the trenchers were made from bread.
Following 1000, peace and order grew. As a result, peasants began to expand their farms and villages further into the countryside. The earliest merchants were peddlers who went from village to village selling their goods. As the demand for goods increased--particularly for the gems, silks, and other luxuries from Genoa and Venice, the ports of Italy that traded with the East--the peddlers became more familiar with complex issues of trade, commerce, accounting, and contracts. They became savvy businessmen and learned to deal with Italian moneylenders and bankers. The English, Belgians, Germans, and Dutch took their coal, timber, wood, iron, copper, and lead to the south and came back with luxury items such as wine and olive oil.
With the advent of trade and commerce, feudal life declined. As the tradesmen became wealthier, they resented having to give their profits to their lords. Arrangements were made for the townspeople to pay a fixed annual sum to the lord or king and gain independence for their town as a "borough" with the power to govern itself. The marketplace became the focus of many towns.