If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:10:21

Video transcript

talk about in other videos the middle-ages refers to that roughly one thousand year period of time in Europe from the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 until we get to about a thousand years later with the emergence of the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration and we associated with knights in shining armor and their code of chivalry with kings and castles surrounded by moats and we also associated with the feudal system which is how most of Europe was governed during the Middle Ages now many of you are probably familiar with some of the key actors within the feudal system at the top you would have a king now the king would rule over a kingdom now this is not so easy to govern especially during the Middle Ages and the king might owe many people things especially people who help the king come to power helped him depose the previous king or to conquer this land and so in exchange for that and to help govern he might grant land or feasts to other people and the key currency in the Middle Ages under the feudal system is land and land in exchange for loyalty and service so this whole thing is a kingdom now right over here this is a Duchy and a Duchy will be controlled by a Duke I guess I didn't call it ducky because that just doesn't sound too serious so the King might grant a Duchy a Duchy to a Duke and in exchange the Duke would provide loyalty pledge their fealty if the kingdom is threatened the Duke will fight alongside the King would provide their own troops if the king wants to go conquer other territories same thing and also provide the king with taxes which might be in the form of coinage depending on what time and region we are in the Middle Ages or it might be in the form of a percentage of the agricultural production from this Duchy now the terminology here is that the Duke would be one of the Kings vassals or would-be vassal to the king now with Duchy tends to be a a large amount of territory in medieval England a Duke was the highest title of nobility there's variations on Duke now the Duke might have his own manner or might even have multiple manners that he rules directly over that has there his own serfs or free peasants working that land providing output which helps generate some of the tax revenue that goes to the king or provides some of the necessities for the Dukes own household but the rest of the Duchy they might subdivide further and they would be lord over their own vassals so for example this piece of land right over here this Duke might provide it to someone else let's say a count in which case this would be called a County and that is where we get our modern term County and this count would be vassal to the Duke and the Duke would be the lord of the count and then the count can then be the lord of someone else of their vassals and this goes on and on and on all the way until you get down to the level of the serfs and the peasants who are actually doing the work but the main idea here is is that in exchange for land the king gave this Duke a Duchy or maybe the king's father gave this Duke's father this Duchy and so this grant of land this is called a fief a critical term in the feudal system this county here this is a fief in exchange for that the vassal gives the Lord resources taxes and loyalty now the way I drew it here it seems quite organized and clean but the reality of it it isn't that clean sometimes a kingdom might directly some parts of it might be subdivided into duchies some of it might be divided into a county that it's independent of other any Duchy you might have another Duchy right over here that is not subdivided into counties you might have one count that is more powerful than another count or one count that might even be more powerful than a Duke someplace else so it can actually be quite chaotic and hard to keep track of and this isn't all of the players I mentioned some of the titles of nobility like Duke and count and then below account you might have a baron in England the equivalent of count was an earl who still presided over a county and their wife was a countess and when I say preside they had almost full control over it they would even give justice over the people who happen to be within their fiefdom now I started this video showing a picture of a knight on horseback and Knights are probably one of the strongest association with medieval times so many of you are probably thinking where do Knight fit into this a knight refers to slightly different things depending on what region you are in or what time period within the Middle Ages but it generally refers to a mounted soldier someone skilled in fighting someone who might have nice armor but over time it became a prestigious title that was given by a monarch or by a lord in exchange for service oftentimes military service you might have a knight who is granted a fief from say discount right over here and say they might be Lord of their own Manor they might have their own serfs who are not quite slaves but they're bonded laborers who cannot leave and don't have a lot of right working the field you might have other Knights who got the title but did not get the but did not get the land and to complicate things further any of these characters can have multiple titles for example this Duke might also be knighted now it's worth noting that these titles of nobility Duke count Baron Earl these tended to be hereditary you would pass it down from one generation to the next as long as the next generation pledged fealty to their Lord the title night however was given for service and did not tend to be passed down from generation to generation and to be clear we still aren't all the actors here you also have the church which during medieval times was a very powerful institution at the top of the church you had the Bishop of Rome also known as the Pope and you had their bishops in significant regions you also had monastic orders where you might have an abbot who is the head of a monastery where you have monks who as part of that monastery are praying they might be farming they might be copying text and there was also power dynamics between these and as we're about to see you can even have these non religious figures pledging fealty to religious figures so just to get a sense of what these pledges of fealty were like you have a vassal in this homage ceremony omage or sometimes said homage and it really comes from the French word ohm which refers to man so he is pledging to be his Lord's man so this would be the Lord right over here and this is an actual pledge given by Bernard Aten Viscount of Carcassonne in the year 1110 in France in the name of the Lord I Bernhard atone and I prepolymer NCA ssin Viscount of Carcassonne in the presence of my sons and he goes on list his sons Noble and of many other honorable men who have come to the monastery of st. Mary of Grasse or grass since Lord Leo Abbot of the said monastery has asked me in the presence of all those above-mentioned to acknowledge to him the fealty and a lodge or homage for the castles manors and places which the patrons my ancestors held from him and his predecessors and from the said monastery as a fief and which I ought to hold as they held I have made to the Lord abbot Leo acknowledgment and homage as I ought to do so in this case the Lord is an abbot is a religious figure is the head of a monastery and the vassal is a Viscount you can kind of view them as vice count and notice he's pledging fealty to the Abid and in this case it looks like Bernard atones ancestors were already vassals to the abbot and so this is really renewing it and so that the Viscount could essentially keep his fief now to appreciate how complicated this could get here on the timeline you see when henry ii lived and as you can see he had many titles he was eventually king of england you can see southern england up here he was Duke of Normandy Duke of Aquitaine which was interesting he got that as a dowry when he marries Eleanor whose previous husband was King Louis the seventh of France he is count of Maine Anjou terrain and this is really interesting he's a king of one Kingdom the kingdom of England but he is also a Duke and account within another Kingdom the kingdom of France but this gives you a sense of to some degree how chaotic the Middle Ages were it wasn't well organized like under the Roman Empire or under ancient Persia or even most nation-states today it was many different kingdoms organised into many different duchies and counties there wasn't a very clear rhyme and reason and positions and power constantly shifted depending on loyalty wars marriages and inheritance