|Dr. Hartnell's Nutty the A.D.D. Squirrel||
"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"
As the Carolingian Empire crumbled, warriors and peasants became different groups. Many peasants had served in the army, but by the 11th Century, they were to till the soil... not pick up arms. Because they did not own land, they became serfs. A serf was legally bound to reside and work on the land owned by the local ruler. The word serf comes from the Latin word servus, which means "servant" or "slave". Serfs called their ruler their seigneur [pronounced: sen-yer] or lord, and this system became known as seignorialism (called manorialism in England).
Warriors became an elite class of knights. They rode horses and wielded weapons such as the heavy lance. Unlike serfs, the majority of knights were free men. When a knight pledged loyalty to a lord, he became known as a "vassal". Some vassals received fiefs, which were grants of land owned by their lord that they used and lived on.
Some historians use the term "feudalism" to refer to this contractual system of political and military relationships among the nobility. Feudalism must not be confused with seignorialism, which was the relationship between the lords and their peasants. (Hint: Feudalism Fight; Seignorialism Slave). When the two were put together, they formed "feudal society".
After the 1200s, feudalism declined. Initially, vassals gave military service to their lords for land. Over time, however, they started
giving monetary payments. Lords preferred money because it let them hire
professional troops that were better trained and disciplined. (This was known as "bastard feudalism".)
New weapons like the longbow and muskets could
penetrate armor and chain mail, making knights slow moving targets and obsolete in battle.
Remnants of feudalism and seignorialism continued even after feudal military service died out in the 1500s. Not until 1660 were fiefs abolished in England, and the use of serfs lingered on in parts of Europe and
Russia until the mid-1800s.
King Arthur was the legendary Medieval king of the Britons. He lived at Camelot with the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian Legend produced figures
like Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin, and the sword Excalibur.
In the 1300s, the family insignia was embroidered on the surcoat worn over chain mail (the coat of arms). This helped identify someone in battle. It soon developed into a complex system of social status.