All of these factors conspired to weaken the feudal system based on land ownership and service even if feudalism would continue beyond the medieval period in some forms and in some places. The feudal system perpetuated itself as a status quo because the control of land required the ability to perform military service and, because of the costs involved , land was required to fund military service. Thus there was a perpetual divide morningnewsbeat between the landed aristocracy and those who worked the land for them who could be free or unfree labourers. Unfree labourers were serfs, also known as villeins, who were at the bottom of the social pyramid and who made up the vast majority of the population. The peasantry worked, without pay, on the land owned or rented by others to produce food for themselves and, just as importantly, food and profit for their masters.

Feudalism relied on personal and/or family honor as well as self–interest to work. Its informal and varied methods required a balance between superiors and dependents, rights and responsibilities. Though not in practice today, feudalism and the legends it inspired continue to fascinate many people. Feudalism developed in western Europe because people needed protection for themselves, their homes, and their lands. Feudalism and the related term feudal system are labels invented long after the period to which they were applied.

The system developed under the eleventh-century Byzantine rulers who tried to reduce the power of the military class and to increase that of the civil bureaucracy by demilitarizing the administration. This policy clearly reflected the decay of the former organization of the military-peasant colonies . The military commander , who usually served as governor of a province, was replaced by the praetor, who had been the supreme justice on the staff of the strategos. The practor, of course, was a civilian, and thus, the primacy of the military command in the themes gave way to the primacy of a civilian administration based upon the new aristocracy of scholars and civilians in the capital.

From piecemeal purchases of land that often stretched over generations, they assembled large farms and vineyards that produced for the expanding markets. The physical appearance of the landscape changed as consolidated capitalist farms partially replaced peasant villages. Economically, the newly created or expanded farms of the better-off classes were market-oriented, capitalist enterprises worked by tenant farmers or sharecroppers on short-term leases. Under the influence of anthropology, a number of scholars have also attempted to consider feudalism as a comparative subject that had European parallels elsewhere in Eurasia, particularly Japan.

Paying for troops was impossible because society at this time lacked a money system. The kings offered land or estates, to warriors in exchange for military service. They agreed to 40 days of service each year in times of peace and more days in times of war.

The hierarchic principle of cohesion and dependence was sustained economically by the legal hierarchy of land and by the fixed relation of men to land. Only where feudalization did not penetrate the depth of society were there free communities, direct subjects of royalty, and allodial property. Ireland and Scotland preserved clannish cohesion; Frisia preserved independent communities; in Saxony and parts of Spain there were free men; and German nobility kept allodial property late into the twelfth century.

A vassal under knight service was obliged to defend the fief from invasion and fight for a specified number of days in an offensive war. In wartime, knight service also called for guard duty at the lord’s castle for a specified period of time. In lieu of military service, some vassals were given socage, or tenure in exchange for the performance of a variety of duties. These duties were usually agricultural, but they could take on other forms, such as personal attendance to the lord.

State property taxes on landowners resemble the services required of a vassal, and like the old feudal lords, state governments may take possession of land when a landowner dies with no will or heirs. Among the elite nobility; and political in that it created a hierarchical power structure than ran from kings and other high nobles down to middle and lower nobles and finally to peasants, who had limited or no social, economic, and political power. In the standard type of feudalism some characteristics of both the votchina and the pomest’e regimes are combined. However, for this type to develop, certain traits which were lacking in either or both of these regimes are essential. Like the votchina regime, the standard type of feudalism presupposes the expansion of the manor and the growth of the manorial rights of the lord. On the other hand, like the pomest’e regime, feudalism of the standard type is characterized by the conditionality of rights on the land.

Located feudal government in the traditional category, lacking rationality and bureaucracy. It became one of Weber’s Ideal Types and is still sometimes used in Weber’s sense. Clerical privilege also became one of the themes in the criticism of reactionary regimes after 1815, especially during the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Such thought also crossed the Atlantic; from his reading of English and French literature on the subject, for example, the American John Adams wrote his treatise On the Canon and Feudal Laws.