6 Aralık 2010 Pazartesi

Medieval European Politics: Kings and Vassals

Dynamics of Feudalism

Parcellization of sovereignty
Combination of jurisdiction with economic exploitation
Nature of the relationship of the producers to the means of production
Feudalism as the first mode of production to allow autonomous development of commodity production
Dynamic opposition of town and country
Contradiction at the summit of the feudal chain: Primus Inter Pares
The potential for centralization and decentralization

Roland pledges his fealty to Charlemagne

Cleric, Knight, Peasant
Serfs on land

Knight in Armour

Medieval West (Political History)

In 5th and 6th centuries, Western Europe was under the dominion of Germanic Kingdoms.
Around 7th century, three main political powers emerged in the continent: Britain under the rule of Anglo-Saxons, Franks under Merovingian dynasty, and Papacy.
In this early phase, all these different cultures combined some Roman institutions with their own indigenous culture:

Ø  The Merovingian king was the master of the booty of war. He was in charge of the redistribution of conquered wealth among his followers.
Ø  Merovingian kings owed their rule to establishing a good alliance with big aristocratic families.
Ø  The kings appointed magnates to be counts, charging them with defense, administration, and the judgment of disputes. The counts had to provide armies that were endowed with land in return. These armies were subject to the king's call for military support.
This system developed in time into feudalism.        

In 8th century a new dynasty emerged in France. In 751, Pepin the Short deposed the last Merovingian King and started the Carolingian Dynasty. The source of their power was
Ø  Allying with the papacy
Ø  Suppressing the power of local aristocrats
Ø  Invasion of foreign lands.
Charlemagne (768-814) is the most famous king of the Dynasty. He was crowned imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III in 800 becoming the First Holy Roman Emperor.

In 9th century, the Carolingian rule slowly disintegrated by various rebellions and new invasions. Europe entered in a period of rebarbarization defined by wars and famine, out of which the institution of Feudalism was born.

Feudal Society

Feudal society, then, was a society dominated by a vast network of mutual relationships based almost entirely on personal loyalty and service. 
This loyalty was ensured by an oath which was not only oral but also written so that there were legal ties between the vassal and the lord. That is why Feudalism is a contractual relationship and also an institution that was able to survive for several centuries.
Lords gave their vassals pieces of land called fief in return for military and political support. The fief was inhabited by peasants who were bound to the lord through serfdom.
 The general effect of such a practice was fragmenting the land and authority from the highest to the lowest levels.
Over time the occupation of land gradually led to claims of hereditary possession. Such a practice became a legally recognized principle and laid the grounds for claims to real ownership. Fiefs given as royal donations became hereditary possessions.

Fiefs: A self-sufficient stationary estate, or fief that was under the control of a lord who enjoyed a variety of rights over it and the peasants attached to it by means of serfdom.
Manorialism or Seigneurialism was the organizing principle of rural economy and society widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe. Manors each consisted of up to three classes of land
Serf was the statue of the peasants working under a lord. There was a complex set of personal relationships which defined the obligations between serf and lord. In return for security and the right to cultivate fields and to pass their holdings on to their sons, the serf had many obligations to their lord.
Ø  Bound to the land, they could not leave the manor without the lord's consent.
Ø  In addition to working their own land, the serfs also had to work the land of their lords. (Rent in Labor) The lord's land had to be harvested by the serfs before they could harvest their own land.
Ø  The serfs had to give part of the produce of their own land to the Lord. (Rent in Kind)
Ø  In general, more than half of a serf's workweek was devoted to rendering services to the lord. (Labor Dues)The serf also paid a variety of dues to the lord: the annual capitation or head tax (literally, a tax on existence) (Money Rent)

Parcelization of Sovereignty: Political power is a private possession. The responsibilities of the state are divided between a network of lords and vassals. This political parcelization creates the basic contradiction of Feudal institution. Every system needs stability in order to continue its existence yet Feudalism itself tends to instability.