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Examples of feudalism

Examples of feudalism

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Examples of feudalism are helpful to fully understand feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 and feudal society. Feudalism was practiced in many different ways, depending on location and time period, thus a high-level encompassing conceptual definition does not always provide a reader with the intimate understanding that detail of historical example provides.

12th century England


Feudalism in 12th century England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 was among the better structured and established in Europe at the time. However, it could be structurally complex, which is illustrated by the example of the feudal barony
English feudal barony
In England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was a form of Feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. It must be distinguished from a barony, also feudal, but which existed within a county palatine, such as the Barony...

 of Stafford
Stafford
Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands region of England. It lies approximately north of Wolverhampton and south of Stoke-on-Trent, adjacent to the M6 motorway Junction 13 to Junction 14...

 as described in a survey of knight's fees made in 1166 and recorded in The Black Book of the Exchequer. This was a roll of parchment, or several such, recording the quantity and tenant of each knight's fee held in capite. It was a record commissioned by the Treasury
Treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

 as the knight's fee was the primary basis for assessing certain types of taxation, for example feudal aid
Feudal aid
Feudal aid, or just plain aid is the legal term for one of the financial duties required of a tenant or vassal to his lord. Variations on the feudal aid were collected in England, France, Germany and Italy during the Middle Ages, although the exact circumstances varied.-Origin:The term originated...

.

Feudalism is the exchange of land for military service, thus everything was based on what was called the knight's fee
Knight's fee
In feudal Anglo-Norman England and Ireland, a knight's fee was a measure of a unit of land deemed sufficient from which a knight could derive not only sustenance for himself and his esquires, but also the means to furnish himself and his equipage with horses and armour to fight for his overlord in...

, which was a fiefdom or estate of land
Estate (law)
An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time. It is the sum of a person's assets - legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind - less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person...

. A feudal barony
English feudal barony
In England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was a form of Feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. It must be distinguished from a barony, also feudal, but which existed within a county palatine, such as the Barony...

 contained several knight's fees, for example the baron Robert of Stafford
Robert de Stafford
Robert de Stafford was a Norman nobleman, the builder of Stafford Castle in England. He may or may not be the same as Robert de Tosny Lord of Belvoir or of the Robert de Tosny who was son of Raoul II of Tosny ; primary evidence is lacking to determine his parentage, according to Cawley...

 held a barony containing 60 knight's fees. Often lords were not so much lords presiding over great estates, but managers of a network of tenants and sub-leases.

Stafford tenants were themselves lords of the manors
Lord of the Manor
The Lordship of a Manor is recognised today in England and Wales as a form of property and one of three elements of a manor that may exist separately or be combined and may be held in moieties...

 they held from him, which is altogether different from their being barons
English feudal barony
In England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was a form of Feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. It must be distinguished from a barony, also feudal, but which existed within a county palatine, such as the Barony...

. Henry d'Oilly, who held 3 fees from Robert of Stafford, also held, as a tenant-in-chief
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

, over 30 fees elsewhere that had been granted to him directly by the king. Thus while Henry was the vassal of his overlord Robert, Henry was himself a lord of his own manors held in capite
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

 and sub-enfeoffed
Subinfeudation
In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands....

 many of his manors which he did not keep in demesne
Demesne
In the feudal system the demesne was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and support, under his own management, as distinguished from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants...

, that is to say under his own management using simple employees. It would also have been possible and not uncommon for a situation where Robert of Stafford was a vassal of Henry elsewhere, creating the condition of mutual lordship/vassalage between the two. These complex relationships invariably created loyalty problems through conflicts of interests. To resolve this the concept of a liege lord
Liege Lord
Liege Lord was an American speed/power metal band, active in the 1980s and considered to be a pioneer of the genre. It was formed by Matt Vinci, Anthony Truglio and Frank Cortese....

 existed, which meant that the vassal was loyal to his liege lord above all others, except the king himself, no matter what. However, even this sometimes broke down when a vassal would pledge himself to more than one liege lord.

From the perspective of the smallest land holder, multiple networks of tenancy were layered on the same small plot of land. A chronicle of the time says "different lordships lay on the land in different respects". Each tenant laid claim to a certain aspect of the service from the land.

11th century France


Among the complexities of feudal arrangements there existed no guarantee that contracts between lord
Lord
Lord is a title with various meanings. It can denote a prince or a feudal superior . The title today is mostly used in connection with the peerage of the United Kingdom or its predecessor countries, although some users of the title do not themselves hold peerages, and use it 'by courtesy'...

 and vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 would be honored, and feudal contracts saw little enforcement from those with greater authority. This often resulted in the wealthier and more powerful party taking advantage of the weaker.

Such was (allegedly) the case of Hugh de Lusignan
Hugh IV of Lusignan
Hugh IV , called Brunus , was the fourth Lord of Lusignan. He was the son of Hugh III Albus and Arsendis...

 and his relations with his lord William V of Aquitaine
William V of Aquitaine
William V , called the Great , was Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou from 990 until his death. He was the son and successor of William IV by his wife Emma of Blois, daughter of Theobald I of Blois. He seems to have taken after his formidable mother, who ruled Aquitaine as regent until 1004...

. Between 1020 and 1025 Hugh wrote or possibly dictated a complaint against William and his vassals describing the unjust treatment he had received at the hands of both. Hugh describes a convoluted intermingling of loyalties that was characteristic of the period and instrumental in developing strain between nobles that resulted in competition for each other's land. According to Hugh's account, William wronged him on numerous occasions, often to the benefit of William's vassals. Many of his properties suffered similar fates: seized by opponents and divided between them and William. William apparently neglected to send military aid to Hugh when necessary and dealt most unfairly in the exchange of hostage
Hostage
A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

s. Each time Hugh reclaimed one of his properties, William ordered him to return it to whoever had recently taken it from him. William broke multiple oath
Oath
An oath is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow...

s in succession yet Hugh continued to put faith in his lord's word, to his own ruin. In his last contract with William, over possession of his uncle's castle at Chizes, Hugh dealt in no uncertain terms and with frank language:

Hugh: You are my lord, I will not accept a pledge from you, but I will simply rely on the mercy of God and yourself.

William: Give up all those claims over which you have quarreled with me in the past and swear fidelity to me and my son and I will give you your uncle's honor [Chizes] or something else of equal value in exchange for it.

Hugh: My lord, I beg you through God and this blessed crucifix which is made in the figure of Christ that you do not make me do this if you and your son were intending to threaten me with trickery.

William: On my honor and my son I will do this without trickery.

Hugh: And when I shall have sworn fidelity to you, you will demand Chizes castle of me, and if I should not turn it over to you, you will say that it is not right that I deny you the castle which I hold from you, and if I should turn it over to you, you and your son will seize it because you have given nothing in pledge except the mercy of God and yourself.

William: We will not do that, but if we should demand it of you, don't turn it over to us.


While perhaps an embellishment of the truth for the sake of Hugh's cause, and not necessarily a microcosm of the feudal system everywhere, the Agreement Between Lord and Vassal is evidence at least of corruption in feudal rule.

Portugal


Portugal, originally a part of the Kingdom of León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

, was an example of a feudal society, according to Marc Bloch
Marc Bloch
Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch was a French historian who cofounded the highly influential Annales School of French social history. Bloch was a quintessential modernist. An assimilated Alsatian Jew from an academic family in Paris, he was deeply affected in his youth by the Dreyfus Affair...

.

Portugal has its roots in a feudal state in northern Iberia
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, the County of Portucale
Portucale
Portucale can mean different things:*Portus Cale, old Roman name of an ancient town and port in current day Portugal, in the area of today's Grande Porto...

, established in 868 within the Kingdom of Asturias
Kingdom of Asturias
The Kingdom of Asturias was a Kingdom in the Iberian peninsula founded in 718 by Visigothic nobles under the leadership of Pelagius of Asturias. It was the first Christian political entity established following the collapse of the Visigothic kingdom after Islamic conquest of Hispania...

. The Vímara Peres
Vímara Peres
Vímara Peres, Count of Portugal was a Galician Christian duke of the 9th century in west Iberia. He was a vassal of the King of Asturias, Léon and Galicia, Alfonso III, and was sent to reconquer and secure from the Moors , in the west coastal fringe of Gallaecia, the area from the Minho River to...

, the local counts dynasty, was suppressed in 1071, but twenty two years later, in 1093, King Alphonse VI of Léon and Castille
Alfonso VI of Castile
Alfonso VI , nicknamed the Brave or the Valiant, was King of León from 1065, King of Castile and de facto King of Galicia from 1072, and self-proclaimed "Emperor of all Spain". After the conquest of Toledo he was also self-proclaimed victoriosissimo rege in Toleto, et in Hispania et Gallecia...

 gave the county as a fiefdom
Fiefdom
A fee was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable lands granted under one of several varieties of feudal tenure by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the...

 to Henry of Burgundy
Henry, Count of Portugal
Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal was Count of Portugal from 1093 to his death. He was brother of Hugh I, Duke of Burgundy, and Odo I, Duke of Burgundy, all sons of Henry, the heir of Robert I, Duke of Burgundy. His name is Henri in modern French, Henricus in Latin, Enrique in modern Spanish...

 (a younger Capet
Capetian dynasty
The Capetian dynasty , also known as the House of France, is the largest and oldest European royal house, consisting of the descendants of King Hugh Capet of France in the male line. Hugh Capet himself was a cognatic descendant of the Carolingians and the Merovingians, earlier rulers of France...

 who was participating in the reconquista
Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

), when he married Theresa
Theresa, Countess of Portugal
Theresa of Portugal was the first ruler of independent Portugal...

, the king’s natural daughter.

In spite of their vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 link, Henri had a remarkable autonomy, especially after his father-in law's death in 1109. The Portuguese independence was obtained by his son, Afonso I of Portugal
Afonso I of Portugal
Afonso I or Dom Afonso Henriques , more commonly known as Afonso Henriques , nicknamed "the Conqueror" , "the Founder" or "the Great" by the Portuguese, and El-Bortukali and Ibn-Arrik by the Moors whom he fought, was the first King of Portugal...

 when, after defeating the Muslims at the Battle of Ourique
Battle of Ourique
The Battle of Ourique saw the forces of Portuguese Prince Afonso Henriques defeat the Almoravid Moors led by Ali ibn Yusuf.-Background:...

, he proclaimed himself King of Portugal in 1139, cutting definitively all feudal bonds with the Kingdom of León. Upon seeing the weakness of feudal society due to the Muslim invasion, Portugal became independent from the Kingdom of León as Castil had done a century earlier.

Semi-feudal


Outside of a medieval European historical context, the concept of feudalism is normally only used by analogy (called semi-feudal), most often in discussions of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 under the shogun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

s, and, sometimes, nineteenth-century Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. However, some have taken the feudalism analogy further, seeing it in places as diverse as Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, Parthian empire
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

, India
Indian feudalism
Feudalism was a social system of medieval European origin, according to which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labor, and a...

, to the American South of the nineteenth century.

Byzantine Empire



Pronoia
Pronoia
Pronoia refers to a system of land grants in the Byzantine Empire.-The Early Pronoia System:...

, the 11th-century system of land grants in the Byzantine empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, makes a useful contrast to feudal tenure in the European West. Another distinction between the European West can be made in that paroiki (people who lived and farmed on the land of the Pronoiars) owed no debt or loyalty to the pronoiars (the recipients of the Pronoia). This system was adopted by Nemanjic Serbia and then the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 after the fall of the Byzantine Empire at their hands, which called their land grants timar
Timar
Timar is a land granted by the Ottoman sultans between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a tax revenue annual value of less than 20 000 akçes. The revenues produced from land acted as compensation for military service. A Timar holder was known as a Timariot...

 and the recipients of the land grants timariots.

Russia



In contrast to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 where feudalism created a strong central power, it took a strong central power to develop feudalism in Rus'
Rus (name)
Originally, the name Rus referred to the people, the region, and the medieval states of the Rus' Khaganate and Kievan Rus' polities...

. A lack of true central power weakened and doomed the Rus' to outside domination. The Rus' developed its system of land/lord/worker, loosely called feudalism, after it had created a strong central power. Lacking a feudal system of vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 loyalty made it impossible for any prince, early on, to gain enough influence and power to project a strong force against any invaders.

In contrast to other European forms of serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

 and feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 there was a lack of vassalage and loyalty to the lord whose land the serfs worked. It took a much longer period of time for feudalism to develop but when it did it took on a much harsher form than elsewhere in Europe. Serfs had no rights whatsoever; they could be traded like live stock by their lords. They had no ownership of anything, including their own families, all of which belonged to their lord.

Another major difference was the lack of independent principalities; this was due to the lack of vassalage. As separate lords did not command their own troops to protect their own lands.

Armenia



The Nakharar
Nakharar
Nakharar was a hereditary title of the highest order given to houses of the ancient and medieval Armenian nobility.-Nakharar system:Medieval Armenia was divided into large estates, which were the property of an enlarged noble family and were ruled by a member of it, to whom the title of Nahapet...

 system used by the Armenian nobility
Armenian nobility
Armenian nobility has a long history with many interruptions, most notable of which were the Ottoman and Russian occupations of Armenia.-Terminology:...

 throughout Medieval Armenia
Medieval Armenia
-Prelude:Western Armenia had been under Byzantine control since the partition of the Kingdom of Armenia in AD 387, while Eastern Armenia had been under the occupation of the Sassanid Empire starting 428. Regardless of religious disputes, many Armenians became successful in the Byzantine Empire and...

 has often been described as feudal, with hereditary houses of nobles owning large estates, each headed by its own Tanuter
Tanuter
Tanuter was the head of an Armenian nakharar house in ancient and medieval Armenia. Prior to the Russian annexation of Eastern Armenia in 1828, the village headmen of a melikdom carried the title....

, the estates themselves divided amongst the family. For Armenia as a whole, a Sparapet
Sparapet
Sparapet was a hereditary military rank that originated in the 2nd century BC, under the reign of King Artashes I, and was used in the Kingdom of Armenia and the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia , was supreme commander of the armed forces. It was the equivalent of the Parthian Spahbod Sparapet was a...

, King, and chief Aspet
Aspet
Aspet was a hereditary military title of the Armenian nobility, usually found within the Bagratuni family.The name has been derived from either the Old Persian *viƒa/visapati “head of the clan”, or in more likelihood aspapati, later aspbad/-bed which designated the Iranian office of Master of the...

 were each taken from individual noble houses. However, it differs from the feudalism of most of Europe as the estates were owned by families, not lords, and could not be split or given without the family's permission. Also, if a tanuter
Tanuter
Tanuter was the head of an Armenian nakharar house in ancient and medieval Armenia. Prior to the Russian annexation of Eastern Armenia in 1828, the village headmen of a melikdom carried the title....

 died heirless, he was succeeded by a different branch of the family, rather than a noble who was sworn to him. Cilician Armenia, through contact with crusader states, had a system even closer to "true" western feudalism.

Pakistan and India



The Zamindari System is often referred to as a feudal-like system. Originally the Zamindari System was introduced in the pre-colonial period to collect taxes from peasants, and it continued during colonial British rule. After independence Zamindari was abolished in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

), but it is still present today in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. In modern times historians have become very reluctant to classify other societies into European models and today it is rare for Zamindari to be described as feudal by academics; it still done in popular usage, however, but only for pejorative reasons to express disfavour, typically by critics of the Zamindari system.

Nepal


Prachanda
Prachanda
Puspa Kamal Dahal ; born Chhabilal Dahal on 11 December 1954, also known as Prachanda ]]. Prachanda led CPN as it launched an insurgency on 13 February 1996. In 2008 the ensuing civil war culminated in the overthrow of the Shah dynasty in favor of a communist...

, the leader of communists in Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, has frequently directed his criticism against feudals.

Tibet



Whether Tibet constituted a feudal social system or if peasants can be considered serfs is still debated. Studied districts of Tibet between the 17th and 20th century show evidence of a striated society with land ownership laws and tax responsibility that resemble European feudal systems. However, scholars have pointed out key differences that make the comparison contested and only limited evidence from that period is available for study. Scholar Geoff Samuel further argued that Tibet even in the early 20th century did not constitute a single state but rather a collection of districts and a legal system of Lhasa with particular land and tax laws did not extend over the entire country.
However, according to Melvyn Goldstein
Melvyn Goldstein
Melvyn C. Goldstein is a US-American anthropologist and Tibet scholar. His research focuses on Tibetan society, history and contemporary politics, population studies, polyandry, studies in cultural and development ecology, economic change and cross-cultural gerontology.-Personal...

, for the 20th century, the Tibetan political system can not be categorized as feudal.

China



In People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, official views of history are based on Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, and attempts have thus been made to describe Chinese historical periods in Marxist terminology. Chinese history from the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 to the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 is thus described as the 'feudal period'. In order to do this, new concepts have to be invented such as bureaucratic feudalism, which most Western historians would consider a contradiction in terms.

As a result of this Marxist definition, feudal, as used in a Chinese context, is commonly a pejorative
Pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

 term meaning 'old unscientific'. This usage is common among both academic and popular writers from Mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

, even those who are anti-Marxist. The use of the term feudal to describe a period in Chinese history was also common among Western historians of China of the 1950s and 1960s, but became increasingly rare after the 1970s. The current prevailing consensus among Western historians is that using the term 'feudal' to describe Chinese history confuses more than it clarifies, as it assumes strong commonalities between Chinese and European history that may not exist after the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

.

The proper "feudal" period in China should be the period from the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 周 to Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 秦 (1122 BC—256 BC) by which time the state of Qin 秦国 had conquered all other states and established the empire. After King Fa (Posthumous Name: Wu) of Zhou had defeated the Yin House of Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 商, the King created five hereditary ranks (Gong 公, Hou 侯, Bo 伯, Zi 子 and Nan 男) for nobles very much similar to the current European nobility system (Duke, Marquees, Earl/Count, Viscount, and Baron). For example, the Lord of Qin 秦伯 (state of Qin) was given the title of "Bo" (equivalent to Earl), the Lord of Chu 楚子 (state of Chu) was a "Zi" (equivalent to a Viscount), Lord of Qi 齐侯 (state of Qi) was a "Hou" (equivalent to a Marquis) and Lord of Song 宋公 (state of Song) (who was part of the Shang Royal Family) was given the title of "Gong" (Duke). Ancient Chinese texts can sometimes cause confusion as it was also considered to be polite to call all nobles as "Gong" (and later "Wang" 王 (King) as the Zhou House lost its grip on power) irrelevant to their actual rank. The sons of the King were called "Wang zi" 王子 (Son of the King), and sons of the nobles were called "Gong zi" 公子 (Son of the Duke, again "Gong" here means noble, but not the rank of Gong). The term "Gong zi" in modern Chinese has now become a polite way to call any person's son.

The term "state" 国 used in classical Chinese specifically refers to the portion of land controlled by a feudal lord, or when referring to a city—the capital city of the land. It does not have the meaning of a country in the modern sense.

The Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 can be seen as a true feudal system as it is in many respects very similar to the system used in Medieval Europe. Each lord was given a state/land, and politics was strongly centred around the noble households. In fact, the notion of "prime minister" 太宰 in ancient Chinese came from the feudal time meaning the "chief housekeeper" or "butler" of the noble household. Each feudal state was governed independently with tax systems, currency and legal systems set by each individual household, but the nobles were required to pay regular homage to the Zhou Kings as an act of fealty. At the time of war the nobles were required to provide armed service to the King. Approaching the end of Zhou dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

, the power of the King dwindled while the power of the nobles had risen. This resulted in what is known as the Spring and Autumn 春秋 and Warring States 战国 periods when the nobles fought each other constantly for supremacy. This had resulted in the collapse of the noble ranking system, and during the late Warring States Period all major nobles had proclaimed themselves the title of "Wang" 王 (King).

The Wang Zheng of Qin 嬴政 (note that at the time the Bo of Qin was self-proclaimed as "Wang of Qin") eventually removed the Zhou household and defeated all other feudal lords and funded the first empire. To the horror of the people at the time, he completely abolished the feudal system in favour of the centrally governed imperial bureaucratic system which was used in China ever since until the foundation of republic in the 20th century. Noble titles, including that of "Wang", were frequently used in the imperial periods, but their function were mostly honour titles that differed very much from that of the Zhou times.

Arguably the first emperor of Qin had accomplished in China what Napoleon Bonaparte had partially failed to do in Europe. And indeed, King of Qin at the time was seen among the nobles as public enemy number one, and his abolishment of the feudal system was listed by scholars at the time among the ten "crimes against humanity" he had committed after the fall of the short-lived Qin empire. However the central bureaucratic system he had established had obvious attractions to future rulers of the Han empire 汉, and it was there to stay for the next two millennia.

Japan


The Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 was a feudal-like military dictatorship of Japan established in the 17th century lasting until 1868. It marks a period often referred to loosely as 'feudal Japan', otherwise known as the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

. While modern historians have become very reluctant to classify other societies into European models, in Japan, the system of land tenure and a vassal receiving tenure in exchange for an oath of fealty
Fealty
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas , is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God.In medieval Europe, fealty was sworn between...

 is very close to what happened in parts of medieval Europe, and thus the term is sometimes used in connection with Japan.

Great Lakes


The first Europeans to travel to the Great Lakes region of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 often described the social system there as feudal. The dozens of small states in the region consisted of a ruling class led by a monarch which controlled the lands upon which the great bulk of the population grew banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s or herded cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. In modern times historians have become very reluctant to classify other societies into European models and today it is rare for these kingdoms to be described as feudal.

Scotland


The system of land tenure in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 was until recently overwhelmingly feudal in nature. In theory, this meant that the land was held under The Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 as ultimate feudal superior. Historically, The Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 would make a grant of land in return for military or other services and the grantees would in turn make sub-grants for other services and so on. Those making grants - the "superiors" - retained a legal interest in the land ("dominium directum"), and so a hierarchical structure was created with each property having a number of owners, co-existing simultaneously. Only one of these, the vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

, has what in normal language would be regarded as ownership of the property ("dominium utile").

In the 18th century, peasants were dispossessed of the land to which they were bonded.

The Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000
Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000
The Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. Act 2000 was an act of the Scottish Parliament which was passed by the Parliament on 3 May 2000 and received Royal Assent on 9 June 2000....

 abolished the feudal system of land tenure in Scotland and replaced it with a system of outright ownership of land. Since the Act became fully effective from 28 November 2004, the vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 owns the land outright, and superiority interests disappeared. The right of feudal superiors to enforce conditions was ended, subject to certain saving provisions of a restricted nature. Feu
Feu
Feu was previously the most common form of land tenure in Scotland, as conveyancing in Scots law was dominated by feudalism until the Scottish Parliament passed the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. Act 2000...

 duty was abolished although compensation may be payable. The delay between Royal assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 and coming into force was a result of the great number of transitional arrangements needed to be put into place before final abolition and because of the close relation that the 2000 Act has to the Title Conditions Act 2003.

England


Unique in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, the village of Laxton
Laxton, Nottinghamshire
Laxton is a small village in the civil parish of Laxton and Moorhouse in the English county of Nottinghamshire, situated about 25 miles northeast of Nottingham city centre....

 in Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

 continues to retain some vestiges of the feudal system, where the land is still farmed using the open field system
Open field system
The open field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe from the Middle Ages to as recently as the 20th century in some places, particularly Russia and Iran. Under this system, each manor or village had several very large fields, farmed in strips by individual families...

. The feudal court now only meets annually, with its authority now restricted to management of the farmland.

Sark


The tiny island of Sark
Sark
Sark is a small island in the Channel Islands in southwestern English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. It is a royal fief, geographically located in the Channel Islands in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. It has a population...

, in the Channel Islands
Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

, was the last feudal state in Europe, up until April 9, 2008. The island was a fiefdom of the larger nearby island of Guernsey
Guernsey
Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou, Burhou, and Lihou and their islet...

 and administered independently by a Seigneur, who was a vassal to the land's owner - the Queen of the United Kingdom.

Sark's ruling body voted on 4 October 2006 to replace the remaining tenement seats in Chief Pleas with a fully elected democratic government. This was implemented on April 9, 2008.

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