How European Feudalism was Different from Indian Feudalism?
Since it was practically difficult to maintain strict control over the widespread lands; governance rested mainly in the hands of local nobility. Theoretically, the king owned the land which he granted to the nobles called Lords; who in return would give service, usually in the form of military aid. This feudalism was somewhat similar to the Indian Feudalism. However, it was also significantly different. These estates called fiefs were sometimes so large for a lord that he himself was unable to administer. So, the Lords pledged the fiefs and granted use of part of the land to lesser lords who pledged their service in return. This system continued on until, at the lowest level, the lord administered only a small feudal estate. This is something which we don’t find in Indian Feudalism.
The farming and other labor on the land were performed by serfs who were bound to the land and actually transferred from one landlord to another with its title. They produced the necessities of the estate. In return, they received protection by the nobles and a share of the produce of the land.
The serf was not a slave theoretically for, a class of slaves, usually non-Christian prisoners, also existed altogether. Then, there was also a small class of free men who won their freedom by giving some special service or showing some extraordinary talent to their lords. They usually performed the special skills of craftsmen, artisans, and merchants. These free men later descended into the middle class in Europe.
The wars were common. The most affected people from these near constant wars were the people who loved in the serfs. The slave like status of the residents of these serfs was mainly because they needed constant protection from the wars.
The Economy of the Fiefs
Each fiefdom or serfdom was an individual economic unit, almost self sufficient due to the wars and due to the lack of trade. Each feudal estate featured a fortified castle surrounded by protective walls. The surrounding areas were the fields, herds and villages where serfs lived and worked. The serfs by their labor provided everything needed on the estate.
The Dark Ages
There was almost negligible travel, trade and communication in the medieval Europe. This was opposite to the Roman Empire in which there had been great and widespread trade relations. In Medieval Europe, the travel became dangerous. The perils of travel along with the ignorance and lack of desire to change the situations led the trade to vanish. That is why the medieval Europe is called Dark Ages.
The Indian feudalism had also resulted in the immobility of the population and isolation from the test of the world. Yet, the implication of the Indian Feudalism was very profound such as development of localized customs, languages and rituals.
The Medieval Europe is also designated as Dark Ages due to the fact that there was a steep decline in learning and education. The serfs and slaves were busy in their daily lives and there was no government to sponsor education. These were the times, when Asia was flourishing. Asia became the hub of knowledge, wealth and prosperity, much ahead of the contemporary Europe. The only centre of knowledge during these times was the Roman Catholic Church. This implies that the learning was generally religion based.
At the same time, there were also some true scholars, who isolated themselves from the serfs and fiefs and lived in various isolated places such as monasteries or Christian monastic schools. These monks were able to preserve the ancient writings of the advanced civilizations of the ancient era. Since, they were isolated; this treasure trove of knowledge remained hidden from the world for a long time, waiting for its rediscovery.
Impact of Feudalism on Social and Political Life
The impact of Feudalism on social and political life of Europe can be summarized in below points:
- Feudal was a self-perpetuating society for almost one thousand years. Feudalism decentralized the power of the state and made way for a weak governments. Feudal lords were the real power in their local provinces. Since the soldiers in a feudal army were as likely as not recruited and paid by the lord, kings were very dependent upon their loyalty and weakened because of this feudal system.
- A centralized government would mean a loss of local power of the feudal lords. The Church favored this system of weak monarchies.
- Both the old nobility and the high-ranking Church officials could lose much power of strong national governments developed.
- The lack of learning and education and the lack of travel and trade kept the society as it was. Even if new ideas, products, and methods were discovered, they were not widely introduced.