Feudal Europe
What was feudalism?


What was Feudalism?

Europe in the year 1000

A mosaic of small states

Around the year 1000, Europe was formed by many kingdoms and independent states: the kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire, the kingdoms and earldoms in the Iberian Peninsula, the Papal states, the Slavic countries, the kingdom of Hungary, the Scandinavian territories and the British and Irish isles.


Europe in the year 1000

Despite this political, linguistic and cultural diversity, there were some elements which gave unity to the European continent:

  • Religion and the written culture. The religion practised throughout the continent was Christianity and books and official documents were written in Latin.

  • Trade, by which communication and exchange between the north and the south was possible.

  • The same social structure, based on the separation between lords and peasants.

Difficult living conditions

The living conditions of the European population around the year 1000 were very tough. Life expectancy was short and those who surpassed the age of 40 were regarded as old people.

Mortality was very high. Wars were numerous, diseases were frequent and there were no efficient remedies to fight them. The population lived on the products they cultivated and any disaster -such as droughts and floods- caused great famine.

More than half of the newborn children died before their first year and many women died in childbirth.

Unsafe times

During the 9th and 10th centuries, the European continent was the target of new waves of invaders.

• The Normans or Vikings originated in Scandinavia and settled in the British Isles and Atlantic coasts.

• The Magyars from the steppes created a kingdom in Hungary.

• The Slavs, from the Russian plains, settled in eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Pillage was frequent and made life unsafe. During this time, Saracen (Arab or Muslim) and Norman pirates attacked the entire European continent. Thieves dominated the roadways.

In the Middle Ages, people were superstitious and regarded disasters as acts of the devil or God’s punishments. Some people predicted that the problems happening in the 9th and 10th centuries implied the end of the world, which would take place in the year 1000.

Medieval Society