The main difference between feudalism and manorialism is that feudalism describes the relationship between the king and his lords, but manorialism describes the relationship between landowning aristocrats and peasants.
Feudalism and manorialism are two systems that existed in medieval Europe. Both these systems involved the exchange of land in return for services. Feudalism mainly describes the obligation of vassals to the king, but manorialism describes the organization of the rural economy in a feudal society.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Feudalism
– Definition, Characteristics, Facts
2. What is Manorialism
– Definition, Characteristics, Facts
3. What is the Difference Between Feudalism and Manorialism
– Comparison of Key Differences
Feudalism, Manor, Manorialism, Medieval
What is Feudalism
Feudalism is a social, political and economic system that existed in European medieval societies. Although different scholars define feudalism in different ways, the term feudalism specifically refers to the hierarchical relationship between different levels of people in society. Moreover, a feudal society had three distinct classes: lords, vassals, and fiefs. In other words, we call these the king, nobles and peasants.
The king (lord) owned all the land, and he gave out parcels of land nobles (vassals) who would promise loyalty and service to the king. The nobles, in turn, rented out their parcel of land to peasants (fiefs). However, before the king granted land to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This was done at a commendation ceremony that consisted of the two-part act of homage and oath of fealty. During this, the king and vassal entered into a contract – the vassal promised to fight for the king at his command, while the king agreed to protect the vassal from external forces. Thus, the feudal system was fundamentally based on the interdependent relationship between lord and vassal.
However, feudalism started to decline with the increase in commerce, the rise of towns, and the population decline caused by the black plague. Although we usually associate feudalism with medieval Europe, characteristics of feudalism are also visible in many other historical societies like Japan and Rome.
What is Manorialism
Manorialism or seignorialism is an economic and social structure based on the medieval manor in which a noble enjoyed a variety of rights over land and tenants. An essential component of the feudal society, this system basically describes the land distribution and rural economic organization. Moreover, manorialism originated in the Late Roman Empire and was popular in medieval Europe.
In manorialism, peasants were totally under the jurisdiction of the lord of their manor. They were also economically, politically, and socially obligated to him. The manor (a landed estate) of the lord was the centre of the economy. Furthermore, the main house was surrounded by small tenant houses, the village, farming lands, and common areas used by the entire community.
Manors typically consisted of three types of land:
Demesne land– part of the lord’s land that he kept for his own use and that of his household
Dependent holdings – land used by tenants (known as serfs or villeins) who were obligated to supply the lord with agreed-upon goods or services.
Free peasant land – land cultivated by peasants who were free, but under the jurisdiction of the manor. These were less common than the other two types of land.
Manor courts (where legal trials took place) also played a central part in the medieval justice system. The manor court handled disputes between tenants (theft, assault, accusations, etc.) as well as offences against the lord (poaching without permission, stealing from the lord’s household, etc.). However, the king or his representatives handled greater offences or criminal activities in a much larger court.
As Europe began to shift towards an economy based on commerce, and with the weakening of feudalism, manorialism also began to decline. By the 17th century, most areas that depended on manorialism had converted to a commerce-based economy.
Difference Between Feudalism and Manorialism
Feudalism is a social, political and economic system having as its basis the relation of lord to with all land held in fee and as chief characteristics homage, the service of tenants under arms and in court, wardship, and forfeiture. In contrast, manorialism is an economic and social structure based on the medieval manor in which a noble enjoyed a variety of rights over land and tenants.
Feudalism relates to the interdependent relationship between king and nobles – the king provided land and privilege while the noble protected the king as needed. On the contrary, manorialism relates to the relationship between lords and peasants.
While feudalism is mainly a social and political system, manorialism is an economic system.
In brief, feudalism is a social, political and economic system having as its basis the relation of lord to with all land held in fee and as chief characteristics homage, the service of tenants under arms and in court, wardship, and forfeiture. In contrast, manorialism is an economic and social structure based on the medieval manor in which a noble enjoyed a variety of rights over land and tenants. The main difference between feudalism and manorialism is that feudalism describes the relationship between the king and his lords, whereas manorialism describes the relationship between landowning aristocrats and peasants.
1. Hirst, K. Kris. “Feudalism – A Political System of Medieval Europe and Elsewhere” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 13 Dec. 2018, Available here.
2. “Manorialism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2019, Available here.
3. Wigington, Patti. “What Is Manorialism? Definition and Examples.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 14 Aug. 2019, Available here.
1. “Louis I of Naples – Order of the Knot” By Engelmann et Graf – Statuts de l’Ordre du Saint-Esprit au droit désir: ou du noeud institué à Naples en 1352 par Louis d’Anjou … avec une Notice sur la peinture des miniatures et la description du manuscrit par M. le comte Horace de Viel-Castel, PL. XIII, Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Riches Heures Berry-Septembre” By Limbourg brothers – Septembre (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Plan mediaeval manor” By William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923 – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia