A New Civilization in Europe (500-1000)
Standard: 7.6.3
  • Understand to know the development of feudalism, its role in the medieval European economy, the way in which it was influenced by physical geography (the role of the manner and the growth of towns), and how futile relationships provided the foundation of political order.
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The Development of European Feudalism

Key Terms and People

fief: grant of land

serf: peasants who were legally "tied" to the lord's land and could not leave it

chivalry: Christian warrior's code of behavior

manor: the self-sufficient estate of a medieval lord

Section Notes

A Violent Time

  • Between the years 800 to 1000, invaders threaten Europe from all directions. The boldest and most successful invaders were the Vikings from Scandinavi. Besides, the Vikings wanted new lands in a better climate. As they settled in Britain and France, they brought new cultural ideas into Europe.

A Feudal Society

  • Viking raids hurried the breakup of Charlemagne's empire. Because the government could not protect people from the Vikings, local nobles took over, which led to the development of feudalism.
  • Feudalism was based on an exchange of land for loyalty. A lord gave a fief, or grant of land, to a loyal follower, known as a vassal. In return, the vassal agreed to supply knights, or mounted warriors, to the lord in times of trouble.
  • European lords built their own castles and ruled the territories around them. When danger threatened, local farmers flocked to the castle for protection. In exchange, they gave the lord their loyalty.
  • In Europe, the king was at the top of feudal society. Below him or powerful nobles and churchmen, followed by knights. At the bottom or peasant farmers. Serfs, or peasants who were legally tied to the lord's land and could not leave it, were the lowest class of peasant farmers.
  • side-by-side with feudalism was an economic system called manorialism. A manor was the self-sufficient estate of a medieval lord. At its center a lord's stone house or castle, which was surrounded by a village, a church, fields, and forests. The manner produced almost everything the lord, his family, and the villagers needed. Peasants worked together to plant and tend to the lord's lands and to harvest the crops. They were also given strips of land to work themselves. Women spun and wove cloth for clothing, and specialists such as carpenters and a blacksmith lived on the estate. The lord also owned a mill, where grain was ground into flour.
  • The role of the lady of the manner was to run the castle and the household. She made sure the manner had enough food, candles, and linens. When the lord was away, she ran the manner. The lord judged minor crimes and settled arguments. He had a staff that included a bailiff, who was a sort of business manager, and a reeve, who performed jobs such as repairing buildings and overseeing peasants.


Summary: European feudalism developed during the Middle Ages. The economic and social relationships of feudalism formed the basis for a new political order.

Study Guide Questions

Who were the Vikings?

What was the basis of feudalism?

Why were the years 800 to 1000 terrifying in Western Europe?

How did the Vikings influence Western Europe?

Draw a diagram of the four groups of levels in the feudal social structure.

How did the social structure play a part in the manor system?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 14, section 3 (Page 177)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).