Medieval feudalism is one of those subjects that most of us are familiar with, and yet have difficulty describing. Was is a political, military, economic, or social system? And how did it develop? All these questions are answered in this superb book. Carl Stephenson has done a magnificent job of paring away all extraneous subjects and focusing on just the key elements. This short book, a masterpiece of brevity, succinctly sums up medieval feudalism better than anything ever written.
Medieval feudalism was essentially a means of paying retainers in land, rather than money. With the collapse of the Roman Empire and the disappearance of coinage, the only medium of exchange left was land and its produce. Thus, the barbarian German rulers of France sought some means of retaining able-bodied soldiery and companions at court.
What evolved was a process of infeudiation - essentially an exchange of land for military service. The entire concept of vassalage, liege lord, and knighthood came about in France in the early Middle Ages, though many of its more advanced forms did not evolve until much later.
This is an important book for any history buff who has the least interest in the Middle Ages.
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