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Sunday, August 30, 2015

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Feudalism, pilloried and slandered without context

Always ascribing to the past a deceitful and incorrect assessment.

by Ferdinand III




The greatest accretion of wealth in human history, occurred between 900-1300 in medieval Europe. This was the time of 'Feudalism', a much pilloried concept as investigated by the usual cadre of revisionist historians. If Feudalism was so terrible, why did Europe undergo an agricultural, than a capitalist revolution in this period ? Nothing like it in history had been witnessed. If the system was so arcane and unfair, how did the Europeans with their Feudal model, manage to avoid total extermination against the pagan moon worshiping Moslems from the south, the Avars and Magyars [or Huns which is what they really were] from the east; and the Vikings from the north [who linked up the Moslems in the white slave trade] ?


In the Baroque era the remnants of Feudalism as practiced by the Spanish in Sicily for example [amongst other locales], had indeed turned negative. Large baronial estates, a vast rich versus poor divide, a caste system of impermeable hierarchy dominated some parts of the late Feudal era. Sicily for example never recovered with the bandito or later day Cosa Nostra [our thing], originally being outlaws fighting against the Feudal iniquity. The same occurred in many places in Europe and even in North America during the early modern period. By then, technology, communications, and circumstances had all changed.


However, from the period 900-1300, Feudalism must have been quite different. We know this from the wealth, the terms of trade and indeed, the very survival of Christian Europe, which a betting man in 900, would likely have wagered against. In an era of Moslem and Viking pillaging, Jihad, slave trading, raiding and destruction, a Feudal compact would have been the only way a society might have survived. There was no alternative. Liege lords provided a professional militia, protection, certainty, and the formation of social institutions and norms. In exchange serfs, which ranged from the free to the unfree, would give about 1/3 of their production to the Liege as payment, as well as time to serve in the local militia including training, drilling and fighting as needed. It was a practical solution and no other viable option existed, in an age in which communications and technology simply did not lend themselves to centralized states with force projection and defensive capability, stretching over large territories. When the Vikings or Moslems arrived, lustful for women, slaves, and plunder, there was no time for a centralized state to react. It was a local and at best, a regional response which was needed.


Some of the benefits of the Feudal system included:


-Local protection from regional, or external enemies, brigands, violence.

-Establishment of a defined organization to react to, and deal with, conflicts, attacks, and raids.

-Through guilds and family 'skills', a certainty regarding work, vocation and purpose.

-Social cohesion and frameworks of dealing with problems.

-A reduction through Church canon law, of usurious rates of interest. This was mandatory in an agricultural society, in which farmers would never have the surplus profits necessary to repay exorbitant loans.

-An expectation of some level of ethics, morality and proper public decorum and presentation.

-Defined hierarchy of order, institutions, laws, and social support. The beginnings of 'labor rights', the welfare state, social obligations and economic division of skills and productivity; are clearly in evidence between 900-1300.


The above benefits should not blind us to the problems with Feudalism. All too often the Lords and Barons were despots as divorced from Christian idealism as any modern power-hungry politician. But that is the human condition. In the main the inevitable development of strata and privilege of the Feudal system, should not obscure its importance in allowing Christendom to survive. Without that end result there is no modern world.



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