The Role of the Black Death in the Decline of Feudalism Essay

The Role of the Black Death in the Decline of Feudalism Essay

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The feudal system began to decline after the Black Death struck Europe in the late 1340’s. The feudal system joined politics and grouped together the social classes of that period. It began with the “relationship between two freemen (men who are not serfs), a lord and his vassal. Vassal derived from a Celtic word for servant, but in feudal terms vassal meant a free person who put himself under the protection of a lord and for whom he rendered loyal military aid.” This relationship was mutually beneficial at first, but throughout the development of the system, great restrictions were endured.
During the late 1340’s a plague fostered in Europe and began to take effect onto the feudal system in place. This plague was known as the Black Death and has been depicted as the most influential and devastating natural disaster that occurred in Western Europe. It swept over Western Europe in an extremely short time period, attacking not one particular person or group and devastated the region by killing one-third to half of the population. The plague caused such a dramatic loss in the population that power roles began to change. This change allowed power to increase within the lower and middle classes. The Black Death played a major role in the decline of the feudal system due to the various effects it brought to society.
Feudalism was the foundation for the working relationship between the serf and the lord or king. A serf was a semi-free peasant, who was allowed minimal legal rights, and was bound to the land. The nature of the relationship that occured “between the strong ‘lord’ and the weak freeman was initially more ethical and emotional than legal binding.” To initiate this “relationship”, an act called homage was customary. Homa...

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... 28-47. JSTOR Arts & Sciences II, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2011).
“The Black Death of 1348 to 1350,” The History Learning Site, accessed November 28, 2011.
Chambers, Moritmer et al.,The Western Experience Volume I 10th Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010).
Yeloff, Dan, and Bas van Geel. 2007. "Abandonment of farmland and vegetation succession following the Eurasian plague pandemic ofad 1347–52." Journal of Biogeography 34, no. 4: 575-582. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2011).
Yeloff, Dan, and Bas van Geel. 2007. "Abandonment of farmland and vegetation succession following the Eurasian plague pandemic ofad 1347–52." Journal Of Biogeography 34, no. 4: 575-582. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2011).

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