Overview of the Essential Characteristics of Feudal Europe

Economic Characteristics

Social Characteristics

Political Characteristics

Exchange of land for service

All pay taxes to level(s) above them

Manors were self-sufficient

Barter was main trading practice

Guilds were started by artisans to set standards for quality and prices of products

Exchange of protection for loyalty

Upper and lower classes  (no middle class)

Little to no movement between social classes

Usually only interact with people in one level above or below themselves

        Christianity was
           accepted religion

       Life was focused on “day-
           to-day” living



King appoints others to maintain order

Trained military class (knights)

 Kings own all land – grants property to Church and high nobles

           Frequent civil wars -
nobles trying to take
king’s power




The following questions should be used to go into more depth about each of the essential characteristics of feudal Europe as we examine the online resources.


 Economic Characteristics of Feudalism

Where do they get their goods?


manors produce all needed goods

How do they get their goods?



barter goods for goods or goods for services within in the manor


What were their systems of labor and/or productive resources?


serfs work the land; knights protect lower classes; use resources of area


Are they self-sufficient? Explain.


yes, manor is able to provide all necessities of life


What is the government involvement in the economy?



no strong central government; taxes paid to higher classes; king gives land to vassals



Social Characteristics of Feudalism


What are their beliefs?

Christianity (Roman Catholic)

How do their beliefs influence their cultural practices?

 Church taught that if people did the best they could dealing with the struggles of this life, the reward would come in heaven

What knowledge do they have?

 knowledge was very limited; much learning and advancements from Roman Empire were lost; majority of people were illiterate and knowledge was tied directly to role/position in society

How do they pass on their knowledge (education & communication)?


 very limited as most people are illiterate; most knowledge was shared through position of feudal pyramid (meaning - knights taught other knights, etc.); few people ever go beyond manor life

Explain their social groups.

social groups are clearly outlined by feudal pyramid; upper and lower class only (no middle); majority of people are poor (peasants, freemen, serfs); nobility has different ranks also (baron, lord, vassal, etc.)



Political Characteristics of Feudalism



Type of government


Who has the power?


single monarch (king)

Catholic Church advised king

high ranking nobles have limited authority

How did they get the power?

taken by force or to fill a need

appointed/bought positions within church

nobles are given power by the king


How do they keep the power?



church teaching people should accept their position in life

feudal contract

most of the population is illiterate

What do they do with the power they have?


 gain wealth and land/collect taxes

offer protection to class(es) below on feudal pyramid

maintain order/control behavior of lower classes

What are the rights & responsibilities of the citizens?

citizens only role is to pay taxes; have no say in government

citizens must provide goods/services to levels above them

nobles must protect classes below them





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