This is the essay for the 20th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions. The first one is, How did the ninth- and tenth-century invasions affect life in Western Europe?
The second one is, What are manorialism and feudalism?
During the ninth- and tenth-century invasions many different groups were attacking Europe. There were the Vikings from the north, the Magyars from the east and the Muslims from the south. England and France suffered the most from the Vikings, while the Germans suffered the most from the Magyars and Spain from the Muslims. All of these areas got heavily attacked, with cities being sacked and then burnt to the ground. Eventually, everything calmed down around the end of the tenth century. The Vikings raids were brought to an end when they were defeated in 1066 by William the Conqueror and the Magyars were defeated in 955 during the Battle of Lechfeld.
Besides all the destruction caused by the raids, something else changed in Western Europe. The reason that the raids by the invading forces were able to do so much damage was because of the weakness of the kings. By then the Western European kings were weak and weren’t able to defend most of the country, only a very small portion of it. Because the kings couldn’t defend the people, they needed somebody else to defend them. People found lords with large amounts of land and made a contract with them to work on their land in exchange for protection. This is called manorialism.
The way manorialism worked was that serfs chose a lord they wanted to belong to and then they stuck with that lord for the rest of their lives. Serfs couldn’t just leave and choose a different lord. The serfs worked on the lord’s land to provide him with food for some days. During the rest of the days, serfs worked on their own piece of land they could use to feed themselves. The serfs didn’t actually own the land though, but the food that they grew on the land was theirs. The second relationship regarding the lords is between the lords and the vassals. This relationship is called feudalism. The lord owned land but he couldn’t actually defend the land himself. The vassals are the people who fought for the lord. The agreement was that the lord gave pieces of his own land to vassals as fiefs. The land that the lord would give is the land that he didn’t need for himself. This land would give an income for the vassal to pay for the training and food. In return, the vassal would fight for the lord if there was a war. Vassals could even have their own vassals. The relationship between the vassals and their vassals is called subinfeudation.
Another important point about feudalism is that the lords and vassals could make their own laws and rules on their pieces of land. The lord or vassal would be the one that settled agreements between the serfs. Each territory owned by a lord or vassal could have its own laws. There were restrictions on which laws a lord or vassals could create so that they couldn’t abuse the serfs.