Feudalism, a term first used in the early modern period (17th century), in its most classic sense refers to a Medieval Europe political system comprised of a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. Roland ( Italian: Orlando or Rolando, Frankish: Hruodland, Dutch: Roeland, Spanish: Roldán An Oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas ( Faithfulness) is a pledge of Allegiance of one person to another Charlemagne (ˈʃɑrlɨmeɪn Carolus Magnus or Karolus Magnus meaning Charles the Great) (747 – 28 January 814 was King of the Franks from 768 to his The chansons de geste, Old French for "songs of Heroic deeds lineages" are the epic poems that appear at the dawn of French literature As a means of recording the passage of Time, the 17th Century was that Century which lasted from 1601 - 1700 in the Gregorian calendar A political system is a System of Politics and Government. It is usually compared to the Law system, Economic system, Cultural Law is a system of rules enforced through a set of Institutions used as an instrument to underpin civil obedience politics economics and society A military is an Organization authorized by its Nation to use force usually including use of Weapons in defending its Country (or by attacking According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings Nobility is a government-privileged title which may be either hereditary (see Hereditary titles) or for a lifetime A vassal (also called feodary or fedary) in the terminology that both preceded and accompanied the feudalism of Medieval Europe, Under the system of Feudalism, a fiefdom, fief, feud, feoff, or fee, often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing It often occurs alongside Manorialism. This article is about the medieval system "Manors" redirects here
Although derived from the Latin word feodum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the "system" it purports to describe were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Medieval Period. Latin ( lingua Latīna, laˈtiːna is an Italic language, historically spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome.
Defining feudalism requires qualifiers because there is not a broadly accepted agreement of what it means. In order to understand feudalism, a working definition is desirable and the definition described in this article is the most senior and classic definition still subscribed to by many historians.
Other definitions of feudalism exist. Since at least the 1960s, many medieval historians have included a broader social aspect, adding the peasantry bonds of manorialism, referred to as a "feudal society". A peasant is an agricultural worker who subsists by working a small plot of ground This article is about the medieval system "Manors" redirects here Feudal society is a sometimes-debated term used to describe the Social order in the Western Europe, Central Europe, and sometimes Japan Still others, since the 1970s, have re-examined the evidence and concluded that feudalism is an unworkable term and should be removed entirely from scholarly and educational discussion (see Revolt against the term feudalism), or at least used only with severe qualification and warning. Feudalism, a term first used in the early modern period (17th century in its most classic sense refers to a Medieval Europe Political system composed
Outside of a European context, the concept of feudalism is normally used only by analogy (called semi-feudal), most often in discussions of Japan under the shoguns, and, sometimes, medieval and Gondarine Ethiopia. For a topic outline on this subject see List of basic Japan topics. is a military rank and historical title in Japan. The Japanese word for "general" it is made up of two Kanji words sho, meaning "commander" Gondar or Gonder ( Ge'ez: ጎንደር Gōnder, older ጐንደር Gʷandar, modern pronunciation Gʷender) is a city in NOTE This intro is the result of careful NPOV work Please do not make potentially controversial edits to it without first discussing on the talk page However, some have taken the feudalism analogy further, seeing it in places as diverse as Ancient Egypt, Parthian empire, India, to the American South of the nineteenth century. Ancient Egypt was an Ancient Civilization in eastern North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now Parthia ( Middle Persian: اشکانیان Ashkâniân) was an Iranian civilization situated in the northeastern part of modern Iran The term Indian feudalism is an attempt to classify Indian history according to a European model The history of the Southern United States reaches back thousands of years and includes the Mississippian peoples well known for their mound building  The term feudal has also been applied—often inappropriately or pejoratively—to non-Western societies where institutions and attitudes similar to those of medieval Europe are perceived to prevail.  Ultimately, the many ways the term feudalism has been used has deprived it of specific meaning, leading many historians and political theorists to reject it as a useful concept for understanding society.
The earliest known use of the term feudal was in the 17th century (1614), when the system it purported to describe was rapidly vanishing or gone entirely. A system of government is a term that refers to the set of political Institutions by which a Government of a State is organized in order to exert its powers Politics Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions See also Form of government This article lists forms of government and Political systems according to a series of different ways of categorising them Anarchism is a Political philosophy encompassing theories and attitudes which support the elimination of all compulsory Government, i Aristocracy is a form of Government, where rule is established through an internal struggle over who has the most status and influence over society and internal relations Authoritarianism describes a Form of government characterized by an emphasis on the Authority of the State in a republic or union An autocracy is a Form of government in which the Political power is held by a single self-appointed ruler A band society is the simplest form of human Society. 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A military dictatorship is a Form of government wherein the political power resides with the Military; it is similar but not identical to a Stratocracy, A kleptocracy (sometimes cleptocracy, occasionally kleptarchy) ( root klepto+kratein = rule by thieves) is a term applied to a Kritarchy is a form of government ruled by judges It may have existed in Israel during the period of time described in the Book of Judges and exist in Somalia under the Meritocracy is a system of a government or another organization wherein Appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and Ability A monarchy is a Form of government in which supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in an individual who is the Head of state, often for life or Absolute monarchy is a monarchical Form of government where the king and queen have absolute power over everything A constitutional monarchy, or a limited monarchy, is a form of Constitutional Government, wherein either an elected or hereditary Monarch is An empire (from the Latin " Imperium " denoting military Command within the ancient Roman government) is a State that Ochlocracy ( Greek: οχλοκρατία or okhlokratía; Latin: ochlocratia) is government by mob or a mass of people Oligarchy' ( Greek, Oligarkhía) is a Form of government where Political power effectively rests with a small elite segment Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy or power provided by wealth A puppet state is a State that is nominally independent but in reality under the control of another power A republic is a State or Country that is not led by a hereditary Monarch, but in which the people (or at least a part of its people have impact on its Mixed government, also known as a mixed constitution, is a form of government that integrated facets of government by Democracy, Oligarchy, and Monarchy A constitutional Republic is a State where the Head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people and A parliamentary republic or parliamentary constitutional republic is a form of a Republic which operates under a Parliamentary system of government The term socialist state (or socialist republic, or workers' state) can carry one of several different (but related meanings In strictly speaking any A capitalist republic is a concept of government completely the reverse of Marxist thought A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of Party system Government in which a single Political party Technocracy: A form of government in which scientists and technical experts are in control "technocracy is described as that society in which those who govern justify themselves Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler Theodemocracy is a political system theorized by Joseph Smith Jr Constitutional theory defines a timocracy as either a State where only property owners may participate in Government; or a government Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a concept used to describe Political systems where a State regulates nearly every aspect of public and private A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally consists of a Social group existing before the development of or outside of States Many anthropologists use No writer in the period in which feudalism was supposed to have flourished ever used the word itself. It was a pejorative word used to describe any law or custom that was seen as unfair or out-dated. Words and phrases are pejorative if they imply disapproval or contempt Most of these laws and customs were related in some way to the medieval institution of the fief (Latin: feodum, a word which first appears on a Frankish charter dated 884), and thus lumped together under this single term. Under the system of Feudalism, a fiefdom, fief, feud, feoff, or fee, often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing "Feudalism" comes from the French féodalisme, a word coined during the French Revolution.
"Every peculiarity of policy, custom and even temperament is traced to this Feudal origin. Feudalism, a term first used in the early modern period (17th century in its most classic sense refers to a Medieval Europe Political system composed . . I expect to see the use of trunk-hose and buttered ale ascribed to the influence of the feudal system. "
– Humphry Clinker, 1771
The social and economic system which characterized most European societies in the Middle Ages goes by the name of feudalism. The system, in its most basic essence—the granting of land in return for military service—has appeared all over the world in many different kinds of society—Japan under the shogunates in the 16th century, for example.
The center of the feudal system in medieval Europe was the king, and a medieval king was, above everything else, a warrior. From the 9th to the 14th centuries—the heyday of feudalism—the most important element in making war was the armored and mounted knight. To maintain a retinue of knights was, however, very expensive. In return for providing the king with warriors, tenants-in-chief were granted large holding of land. A grant of land was known as a "feud" or a "fief": hence the term "feudalism". The tenants-in-chief (commonly called barons in England) received their lands directly from the king and, in turn, leased parts of their estates to the knights, who in their turn gave leases to yeomen. Yeoman is noun used to indicate a variety of positions or Social classes In the 16th century a yeoman was also a Farmer of middling social status who owned That, at any rate, was the theory. There were places where feudalism scarcely gained a hold, and where men held with no obligation to anyone else: such unfettered ownership of land, known as an allod, was, for instance, prevalent in the south of France and Spain. Allodial title is a concept in some systems of property law It describes a situation where Real property ( Land, Buildings and Fixtures) is owned
Feudalism, by its very nature, gave rise to a hierarchy of rank, to a predominantly static social structure in which every man knew his place, according to whom it was that he owed service and from whom it was that he received his land. In order to preserve existing relationships in perpetuity, rights of succession to land were strictly controlled by various laws, or customs, of entail. The most rigid control was provided by the custom of primogeniture, by which all property of a deceased landholder must pass intact to his eldest son. Primogeniture is the Common law right of the Firstborn son to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings
Every man was the vassal, or servant, of his lord. He swore homage to him, and in return the lord promised to give him protection and to see that he received justice. In theory, then, feudalism was the expression of a society in which every man was bound to every other by mutual ties of loyalty and service. In fact, feudal society was marked by a vast gulf between the very few, very rich, great landholders and the mass of the poor who worked for the profit of the nobility. (The nobility included bishops, for the Church was one of the greatest of medieval landowners. ) At the bottom of the social pyramid were the agricultural laborers, or villeins, and beneath them, the peasants, or serfs.
Until the rise of powerful monarchies with central bureaucracies, it was the lord of the manor who was the real ruler of society. The peasant worked the land for him and owed him a number of feudal dues (more and more commuted to money payments as time went by); justice was dispensed in the manorial courts. Customs varied, but it was common for a peasant to have a small plot, or to share a communal plot, on which to grow food for himself and his family and to be entitled to gather firewood from forest land for the hearth fire. More common than single plots, however, was the system of dividing the land into strips, with each household's strips scattered about the manor.
Western feudalism, evolving in turbulent eighth-century France, offered aristocratic landowners potential security in the absence of law and order. By concession or usurpation, major landowners assumed substantial legal and governmental power from the central government and proceeded through private arrangements with lesser landowners to create local militias for defensive purposes. Inherently particularistic and initially undisciplined, feudalism enveloped the monarchy itself. Feudalism evolved its own system of law and code of ethics for its members as it spread throughout Europe to assume a dominant role in the political and cultural history of the Middle Ages. Introduced to England in 1066 by William the Conqueror, who substantially curbed the powers of all feudal vassals while retaining considerable central authority, feudalism incorporated three elements: personal, property, and governmental. All members, including the monarchs who headed the feudal system, enjoyed specific rights but were also bound by feudal law to perform fixed obligations.
Three primary elements characterized feudalism: lords, vassals and fiefs; the structure of feudalism can be seen in how these three elements fit together. Feudal society is a sometimes-debated term used to describe the Social order in the Western Europe, Central Europe, and sometimes Japan Examples of feudalism are helpful to fully understand Feudalism and Feudal society. A vassal (also called feodary or fedary) in the terminology that both preceded and accompanied the feudalism of Medieval Europe, Under the system of Feudalism, a fiefdom, fief, feud, feoff, or fee, often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing A lord was a noble who owned land, a vassal was a person who was granted possession of the land by the lord, and the land was known as a fief. A vassal (also called feodary or fedary) in the terminology that both preceded and accompanied the feudalism of Medieval Europe, In exchange for the fief, the vassal would provide military service to the lord. The obligations and relations between lord, vassal and fief form the basis of feudalism.
Before a lord could grant land (a fief) to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This was done at a formal and symbolic ceremony called a commendation ceremony composed of the two-part act of homage and oath of fealty. A commendation ceremony ( commendatio) is a formal Ceremony that evolved during the Early Medieval period to create a bond between a Lord and his fighting For medieval usage see Homage (medieval and Commendation ceremony, or Homage (disambiguation Homage (from the French An Oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas ( Faithfulness) is a pledge of Allegiance of one person to another During homage, the lord and vassal entered a contract in which the vassal promised to fight for the lord at his command. Fealty comes from the Latin fidelitas and denotes the fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord. "Fealty" also refers to an oath that more explicitly reinforces the commitments of the vassal made during homage. Such an oath follows homage. Once the commendation was complete, the lord and vassal were now in a feudal relationship with agreed-upon mutual obligations to one another.
The lord's principal obligation was to grant a fief, or its revenues, to the vassal; the fief is the primary reason the vassal chose to enter into the relationship. In addition, the lord sometimes had to fulfill other obligations to the vassal and fief. One of those obligations was its maintenance. Since the lord had not given the land away, only loaned it, it was still the lord's responsibility to maintain the land, while the vassal had the right to collect revenues generated from it. Another obligation that the lord had to fulfill was to protect the land and the vassal from harm.
The vassal's principal obligation to the lord was to provide "aid", or military service. Using whatever equipment the vassal could obtain by virtue of the revenues from the fief, the vassal was responsible to answer to calls to military service on behalf of the lord. This security of military help was the primary reason the lord entered into the feudal relationship. In addition, the vassal sometimes had to fulfill other obligations to the lord. One of those obligations was to provide the lord with "counsel", so that if the lord faced a major decision, such as whether or not to go to war, he would summon all his vassals and hold a council. The vassal may have been required to yield a certain amount of his farm's output to his lord. The vassal was also sometimes required to grind his own wheat and bake his own bread in the mills and ovens owned and taxed by his lord.
The land-holding relationships of feudalism revolved around the fief. Depending on the power of the granting lord, grants could range in size from a small farm to a much larger area of land. The size of fiefs was described in irregular terms quite different from modern area terms; see medieval land terms. The Feudal system, in which the land was owned by a Monarch, who in exchange for homage and military service granted its use to tenants-in-chief, who in their turn The lord-vassal relationship was not restricted to members of the laity; bishops and abbots, for example, were also capable of acting as lords. A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight The word abbot, meaning Father, is a title given to the head of a Monastery in various traditions including Christianity.
There were thus different 'levels' of lordship and vassalage. The King was a lord who loaned fiefs to aristocrats, who were his vassals. Meanwhile the aristocrats were in turn lords to their own vassals, Knights who were in turn lords of the manor to the peasants who worked on the land. Ultimately, the Emperor was a lord who loaned fiefs to Kings, who were his vassals. This traditionally formed the basis of a 'universal monarchy' as an imperial alliance and a world order.
In order to understand better what the term feudalism means, it is helpful to see how it was defined and how it has been used since its seventeenth-century creation.
The word feudalism was not a medieval term but an invention of 16th century French and English lawyers to describe certain traditional obligations between members of the warrior aristocracy.  Not until 1748 did it become a popular and widely used word, thanks to Montesquieu's De L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws). Charles-Louis de Secondat baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (Eng The Spirit of Laws (French De l'esprit des lois) is a Treatise on Political theory first published anonymously by Charles de Secondat
In the 18th century, writers of the Enlightenment wrote about feudalism in order to denigrate the antiquated system of the Ancien Régime, or French monarchy. Ancien Régime ( pronounced: /ɑ̃sjɛ̃ ʁeʒim/ refers primarily to the aristocratic social and political system established in This was the Age of Enlightenment when writers valued Reason and the Middle Ages were viewed as the "Dark Ages". The Age of Enlightenment or The Enlightenment is a term used to describe a phase in Western philosophy and cultural life centered upon the eighteenth century Reason involves the ability to think understand and draw Conclusions in an Abstract way as in Human thinking This article is about the phrase "Dark Age(s" as a characterization of the Early Middle Ages in Western Europe Enlightenment authors generally mocked and ridiculed anything from the "Dark Ages" including Feudalism, projecting its negative characteristics on the current French monarchy as a means of political gain.
Karl Marx also used the term in political analysis. In the 19th century, Marx described feudalism as the economic situation coming before the inevitable rise of capitalism. Capitalism is the Economic system in which the Means of production are owned by private Persons and operated for Profit and where For Marx, what defined feudalism was that the power of the ruling class (the aristocracy) rested on their control of arable land, leading to a class society based upon the exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under serfdom. Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions (or stratification) between individuals or groups in Societies or Cultures. “The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. ” Marx thus considered feudalism within a purely economic model.
Marxian theorists have been discussing feudalism for the past 150 years. A renowned example is the extensive debate over feudalism and capitalism between the noted Marxian economist Paul Sweezy and his British colleague Maurice Dobb. Paul Marlor Sweezy ( April 10, 1910 – February 27 2004) was a Marxist economist Maurice Herbert Dobb ( September 3, 1900 - 1976 was a British Economist, and a lecturer 1924-1959 and Reader 1959-1976 at Cambridge University (See also mode of production. In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of Historical materialism, a mode of production (in German Produktionsweise, meaning 'the )
Among medievalists, the term feudalism is one of the most disputed concepts.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Horace Round and Frederic William Maitland, both historians of medieval Britain, arrived at different conclusions as to the character of English society before the Norman conquest in 1066. John Horace Round (born 22 February 1854 in Hove, England, died 24 June 1928 in Hove was a Historian and Genealogist of the English Medieval Frederic William Maitland ( May 28, 1850 - December 19, 1906) was an English Jurist and Historian. England is a Country which is part of the United Kingdom. Its inhabitants account for more than 83% of the total UK population whilst its mainland Round argued that the Normans had imported feudalism, while Maitland contended that its fundamentals were already in place in Britain. The debate continues to this day.
A historian whose concept of feudalism was highly influential in the 20th century is François-Louis Ganshof. François-Louis Ganshof ( 14 March 1895 –1980 was a Belgian historian of the middle ages Ganshof defines feudalism from a narrow legal and military perspective, arguing that feudal relationships existed only within the medieval nobility itself. Ganshof articulated this concept in Feudalism (1944). His classic definition of feudalism is the most widely known today and also the easiest to understand: simply put, when a lord granted a fief to a vassal, the vassal provided military service in return.
One of Ganshof's contemporaries, a French historian named Marc Bloch, was arguably the most influential 20th century medieval historian. Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch ( July 6, 1886 – June 16, 1944) was a French Historian of medieval France in the Bloch approached feudalism not so much from a legal and military point of view but from a sociological one. He developed his ideas in Feudal Society (1939). Bloch conceived of feudalism as a type of society that was not limited solely to the nobility. Like Ganshof, he recognized that there was a hierarchal relationship between lords and vassals, but Bloch saw as well a similar relationship obtaining between lords and peasants. A peasant is an agricultural worker who subsists by working a small plot of ground
It is this radical notion that peasants were part of the feudal relationship that sets Bloch apart from his peers. While the vassal performed military service in exchange for the fief, the peasant performed physical labour in return for protection. Both are a form of feudal relationship. According to Bloch, other elements of society can be seen in feudal terms; all the aspects of life were centered on "lordship", and so we can speak usefully of a feudal church structure, a feudal courtly (and anti-courtly) literature, and a feudal economy. (See Feudal society. Feudal society is a sometimes-debated term used to describe the Social order in the Western Europe, Central Europe, and sometimes Japan )
In 1974, U. S. historian Elizabeth A. R. Brown rejected the label feudalism as an anachronism that imparts a false sense of uniformity to the concept. Having noted the current use of many—often contradictory—definitions of feudalism, she argued that the word is only a construct with no basis in medieval reality, an invention of modern historians read back "tyrannically" into the historical record. Supporters of Brown have suggested that the term should be expunged from history textbooks and lectures on medieval history entirely. In Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted (1994), Susan Reynolds expanded upon Brown's original thesis. Susan Reynolds is a British medieval Historian whose 1994 book Fiefs and Vassals the Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted was part of Although some contemporaries questioned Reynolds's methodology, other historians have supported it and her argument. Note that Reynolds does not object to the Marxist use of feudalism.
The term feudal has also been applied to non-Western societies in which institutions and attitudes similar to those of medieval Europe are perceived to have prevailed. Ultimately, critics say, the many ways the term feudalism has been used have deprived it of specific meaning, leading many historians and political theorists to reject it as a useful concept for understanding society.
The following are historical examples that call into question the traditional use of the term feudalism:
Extant sources reveal that the early Carolingians had vassals, as did other leading men in the kingdom. The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolings, or Karlings) was a Frankish noble family with its origins in the This relationship did become more and more standardized over the next two centuries, but there were differences in function and practice in different locations. For example, in the German kingdoms that replaced the kingdom of Eastern Francia, as well as in some Slavic kingdoms, the feudal relationship was arguably more closely tied to the rise of Serfdom, a system that tied peasants to the land. East ( ern) Francia ( Regnum Francorum orientalium) known variously as Francia Orientalis or the Kingdom of the East Franks, was the
Moreover, the evolution of the Holy Roman Empire greatly affected the history of the feudal relationship in central Europe. The Holy Roman Empire ( HRE; German Heiliges Römisches Reich (HRR, Latin Sacrum Romanum Imperium (SRI was a union of territories in If one follows long-accepted feudalism models, one might believe that there was a clear hierarchy from Emperor to lesser rulers, be they kings, dukes, princes, or margraves. These models are patently untrue: the Holy Roman Emperor was elected by a group of seven magnates, three of whom were princes of the church, who in theory could not swear allegiance to any secular lord. The Holy Roman Emperor (Römischer Kaiser or Römisch-Deutscher Kaiser Romanorum Imperator was the elected monarch ruling over the many varying numbers of states
The French kingdoms also seem to provide clear proof that the models are accurate, until we take into consideration the fact that, when Rollo of Normandy knelt to pay homage to Charles the Simple in return for the Duchy of Normandy, accounts tell us that he knocked the king down as he rose, demonstrating his view that the bond was only as strong as the lord—in this case, not strong at all. Rollo, occasionally known as Rollo the Viking, (c 860 - c 932 was the founder and first ruler of the Viking principality in what soon became known as Charles III ( September 17, 879 – October 7, 929) called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the contemporary Normandy (Normandie Norman: Normaundie) is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. Clearly, it was possible for 'vassals' to openly disparage feudal relationships.
The autonomy with which the Normans ruled their duchy supports the view that, despite any legal "feudal" relationship, the Normans did as they pleased. In the case of their own leadership, however, the Normans utilized the feudal relationship to bind their followers to them. It was the influence of the Norman invaders which strengthened and to some extent institutionalized the feudal relationship in England after the Norman Conquest.
Since we do not use the medieval term vassalage how are we to use the term feudalism? Though it is sometimes used indiscriminately to encompass all reciprocal obligations of support and loyalty in the place of unconditional tenure of position, jurisdiction or land, the term is restricted by most historians to the exchange of specifically voluntary and personal undertakings, to the exclusion of involuntary obligations attached to tenure of "unfree" land: the latter are considered to be rather an aspect of Manorialism, an element of feudal society but not of feudalism proper. This article is about the medieval system "Manors" redirects here
Owing to the range of meanings they have, feudalism and related terms should be approached and used with considerable care. A circumspect historian like Fernand Braudel puts feudalism in quotes when applying it in wider social and economic contexts, such as "the seventeenth century, when much of America was being 'feudalized' as the great haciendas appeared" (The Perspective of the World, 1984, p. Fernand Braudel ( August 24 1902 &ndash November 27 1985) was the foremost French historian of the postwar era Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate usually but not always a vast Ranch. 403).
Medieval societies never described themselves as feudal. Popular parlance generally uses the term either for all voluntary or customary bonds in medieval society or for a social order in which civil and military power is exercised under private contractual arrangements. However, feudal is best used only to denote the voluntary, personal undertakings binding lords and free men to protection in return for support which characterized the administrative and military order.
Other feudal-like land tenure systems have existed, and continue to exist, in different parts of the world, including Medieval Japan, and some countries that have embraced Marxism. Protofeudalism (protofeudalismo or feudalismo prematuro is a concept in Medieval history, most especially the History of Spain, according to which the Examples of feudalism are helpful to fully understand Feudalism and Feudal society. Marxism is the political philosophy and practice derived from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.