Feudal duties

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Feudal duties were the set of reciprocal financial, military and legal obligations among the warrior nobility in a feudal system. [1] These duties developed in both Europe and Japan with the decentralisation of empire and due to lack of monetary liquidity, as groups of warriors took over the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres of the territory they controlled. [2] While many feudal duties were based upon control of a parcel of land and its productive resources, even landless knights owed feudal duties such as direct military service in their lord's behest. Feudal duties were not uniform over time or across political boundaries. And in their later development also included duties from and to the peasant population, such as abergement. [3]

Feudal duties ran both ways, both up and down the feudal hierarchy; however, aside from distribution of land [4] and maintenance of landless retainers, the main obligation of the feudal lord was to protect his vassals, both militarily from incursion and judicially via court justice. [5] [6] In addition to lands, the lord could grant what were called "immunities", but were rights to conduct governmental functions such as the collecting of taxes and tolls, the holding of judicial proceedings, and even the coinage of money. [7] In addition there were contingent duties the lord owed such as the duty to take back a fief that was rejected by an heir ( droit de déguerpissement ). [8] Sometimes, particularly in the Frankish kingdoms, a lord would grant a fief to an assemblage of men rather than to a single vassal. These grants were called bans [9] and included extensive governmental autonomy, or immunities. [10]

Duties owed by a vassal to his lord can be categorised into four types: [11]

In Europe, church lands were also held with feudal duties. While some churchmen did provide direct military service, most either hired substitutes, paid scutage, or later converted the duty to one of prayer, frankalmoin. [11]


Feudal duties included, but were not limited to:

Notes and references

  1. Ganshof, François-Louis (1944). Qu'est-ce que la féodalité' (first ed.). Bruxelles: Office de publicité. Translated into English by Philip Grierson as Feudalism, 1st ed., London, 1952.
  2. Gat, Azar (2006). War in Human Civilization . New York: Oxford University Press. pp.  332–343. ISBN   978-0-19-926213-7.
  3. Reynolds, Susan (1994). Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 65. ISBN   0-19-820458-2.
  4. All lands belonged to the lord under feudal law, Nulle terre sans seigneur . Gananhof 1944
  5. Briggs, John H. Y.; et al. (1996). "Chapter 1: The medieval origins of the English criminal justice system". Crime And Punishment In England: An Introductory History. London: University College London Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN   978-1-85728-153-8.
  6. Lyon, Ann (2003). Constitutional History of the UK. London: Cavendish Publishing. p.  21. ISBN   978-1-85941-746-1.
  7. Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1968). Medieval Civilization. London: John Wiley. p. 204. OCLC   476424954.
  8. Limayrac, Léopold (1885). Études sur le Moyen-Age: histoire d'une commune et d'une baronnie du Quercy (in French). Cahors, France: Girma. pp.  143–144. OCLC   18315006.
  9. The word ban at the time referred to a troop of armed men. See "Ban" Encyclopædia Britannica 1911
  10. Citation from French Wikipedia, original not viewed: Bouillet, Marie-Nicolas; Chassang, Alexis, eds. (1878). Dictionnaire universel d’histoire et de géographie Bouillet Chassang.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. 1 2 3 Russell 1968 , pp. 204–205
  12. Abels, Richard (1999). "Trinoda necessitas". In Lapidge, Michael; Blair, John; Keynes, Simon; et al. (eds.). The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 456–457. ISBN   978-0-631-22492-1.
  13. An example of such a recurring aid was support for the baillée des roses held each Spring for the French parliaments. Goody, Jack (1993). The Culture of Flowers. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p.  159. ISBN   978-0-521-41441-8., citing Cheruel, Adolphe (1865). "Redevances feodales". Dictionnaire historique des institutions, moeure et coutumes de la France (in French). II (second ed.). Paris: Hachette. p. 1049.

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