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: a social system that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages in which people worked and fought for nobles who gave them protection and the use of land in return
Full Definition of FEUDALISM
: the system of political organization prevailing in Europe from the 9th to about the 15th centuries having as its basis the relation of lord to vassal with all land held in fee and as chief characteristics homage, the service of tenants under arms and in court, wardship, and forfeiture
: any of various political or social systems similar to medieval feudalism
Term that emerged in the 17th century that has been used to describe economic, legal, political, social, and economic relationships in the European Middle Ages. Derived from the Latin word feudum (fief) but unknown to people of the Middle Ages, the term feudalism has been used most broadly to refer to medieval society as a whole, and in this way may be understood as a socio-economic system that is often called manorialism. It has been used most narrowly to describe relations between lords and vassals that involve the exchange of land for military service. Feudalism in this sense is thought to have emerged in a time of political disorder in the 11th century as a means to restore order, and it was later a key element in the establishment of strong monarchies. Feudalism also has been applied, often inappropriately, to non-Western societies where institutions similar to those of medieval Europe are thought to have existed. The many ways feudalism has been used have drained it of specific meaning, however, and caused some scholars to reject it as a useful concept for understanding medieval society.