Feudal Institutions: Glossary

Small allotments of land held by free men. The turbulence of the Middle Ages caused most allodial farmers to give up their land rights in exchange for military protection and few allods remained by the late Middle Ages.

A benefice is an income, usually from a church office.

The idealized code of conduct for medieval knights, chivalry exalted courage and courtesy in battle, generousity to one's inferiors and loyalty to one's lord. Church involvement in the Crusades added love of God and the defense of Christian principles to the code. With the end of the Crusading period, chivalric behaviour extended to the idealization of women and courtly love and became the pursuit of the elite who expressed the antiquated military code in mock battles and jousts.

The process by which an allodial farmer passed over the ownership of his land in exchange for military and judicial protection. The farmer generally was granted the right to farm the land as a tenant.

Contumacy is the stubborn or willful disobedience of one's lord. The guilty party would forfeit their fief and, at times, even be excommunicated.

The Crusades were military or quasi-military expeditions launched by Christian secular and religious rulers against the Moslems in the Middle East from 1096 to 1291. The Albigensian Crusade late in the thirteenth century was launched against French heretics.

Fealty is a tenant's or vassal's fidelity, loyalty and allegiance to a lord.

A piece of land, a benefice, an honour or a right held on the condition of giving military and other services to the feudal lord in return for receiving protection.

The superior or sovereign lord to whom a vassal owes ultimate allegiance above all others.

The agricultural system of personal relationships that organized a labour population around the estate of a noble lord. It has been loosely defined as economic feudalism.

Manumission is the freeing of a slave or serf from indentured service.

Meaning firstborn, the law of primogeniture prevented the dispersal of family property by allowing only the eldest son to inherit the entire patrimony.

The class of semi-free peasants that resulted from the mingling of slaves and free peasants in the Middle Ages. Considered the property of a lord and bound to his lands, serfs had few legal rights but most courts upheld reasonable treatment and conditions for them.

tenure or hide
Small plots of land granted by a lord to freed slaves or serfs in exchange for service, tithes and labour.

The holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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