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A fief (; la, feudum) was the central element of
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disc ...
. It consisted of
heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, the offspring cell (biology), cells or orga ...

heritable
property or rights granted by an
overlord {{Feudal status An overlord in the English feudal system Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was a combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centurie ...

overlord
to a
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief ...
who held it in
fealty An oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (B ...
(or "in fee") in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty. The fees were often lands or revenue-producing real property held in feudal
land tenure In common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
: these are typically known as fiefs or fiefdoms. However, not only land but anything of value could be held in fee, including governmental office, rights of exploitation such as hunting or fishing, monopolies in trade, and
tax farm Farming or tax-farming is a technique of financial management Financial management may be defined as the area or function in an organization which is concerned with profitability, expenses, cash and credit, so that the "organization may have th ...
s.


Terminology

In ancient Rome, a "
benefice A benefice () or living is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The used the term as a benefit to an individual from the Empire for services rendered. Its use was adopted by the in the as a ...
" (from the Latin noun , meaning "benefit") was a gift of land () for life as a reward for services rendered, originally, to the state. In medieval Latin European documents, a land grant in exchange for service continued to be called a (Latin).Meir Lubetski (ed.). ''Boundaries of the ancient Near Eastern world: a tribute to Cyrus H. Gordon''. "Notices on Pe'ah, Fay' and Feudum" by Alauddin Samarrai
Pg. 248-250
, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1998.
Later, the term , or , began to replace in the documents. The first attested instance of this is from 984, although more primitive forms were seen up to one hundred years earlier. The origin of the and why it replaced has not been well established, but there are multiple theories, described below. The most widely held theory is put forth by
Marc Bloch Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch (; ; 6 July 1886 – 16 June 1944) was a French historian. He was a founding member of the Annales School of French social history. Bloch specialised in medieval history In the history of Europe The ...

Marc Bloch
Marc Bloch. ''Feudal Society'', Vol. 1, 1964. pp. 165–166.Marc Bloch. ''Feudalism'', 1961, p. 106. that it is related to the Frankish term ''*fehu-ôd'', in which ''*fehu'' means "cattle" and ''-ôd'' means "goods", implying "a moveable object of value". When land replaced currency as the primary
store of value A store of value is the function of an asset In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce pos ...
, the Germanic word ''*fehu-ôd'' replaced the Latin word . This Germanic origin theory was also shared by
William Stubbs William Stubbs (21 June 182522 April 1901) was an English historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative a ...

William Stubbs
in the 19th century. A theory put forward by Archibald R. Lewis is that the origin of 'fief' is not (or ), but rather , the earliest attested use being in
Astronomus ''Vita Hludovici'' or ''Vita Hludovici Imperatoris'' (The Life of Louis or the Life of the Emperor Louis) is an anonymous biography of Louis the PiousLouis may refer to: * Louis (given name) Louis is the French language, French form of the Old ...
's (840). Archibald R. Lewis. ''The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society 718–1050'', 1965, pp. 76–77. In that text is a passage about
Louis the Pious Louis the Pious (16 April 778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was King of the Franks The Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Ro ...

Louis the Pious
which says , which can be translated as "(Louis forbade that) military provender which they popularly call 'fodder' (be furnished)." A theory by
Alauddin Samarrai Alauddin (Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transc ...
suggests an Arabic origin, from (the plural of , which literally means "the returned", and was used especially for 'land that has been conquered from enemies that did not fight').
Alauddin Samarrai Alauddin (Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transc ...
. "The term 'fief': A possible Arabic origin", ''Studies in Medieval Culture'', 4.1 (1973), pp. 78–82.
Samarrai's theory is that early forms of 'fief' include , , , and others, the plurality of forms strongly suggesting origins from a
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
. The first use of these terms was in
Languedoc Languedoc (; , ; oc, Lengadòc ) is a former province of France The Kingdom of France The Kingdom of France ( fro, Reaume de France, frm, Royaulme de France, french: link=no, Royaume de France) was a medieval and early modern monarchy ...

Languedoc
, one of the least-Germanized areas of Europe, and bordering , where the earliest use of as a replacement for can be dated to 899, the same year a Muslim base at
FraxinetumFraxinetum or Fraxinet ( ar, فرخشنيط, translit=Farakhshanīt or , from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ...
(
La Garde-Freinet La Garde-Freinet (; Provençal: ''La Gàrdia Frainet'') is a commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstrac ...
) in
Provence Provence (, , , , ; oc, Provença or ''Prouvènço'' , ) is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône The Rhône ( , ; german: Rhone ; wae, Rotten ; it, R ...

Provence
was established. It is possible, Samarrai says, that French scribes, writing in Latin, attempted to
transliterate Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one writing system, script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), letters (thus ''wikt:trans-#Prefix, trans-'' + ''wikt:littera#Latin, liter-'') in predictable ways, such as ...

transliterate
the Arabic word (the plural of ), which was being used by the Muslims at the time, resulting in a plurality of forms ( and others), from which eventually derived. Samarrai, however, also advises that medieval and early modern Muslim scribes often used etymologically "fanciful roots" in order to claim the most outlandish things to be of Arabian or Muslim origin. In the 10th and 11th centuries the Latin terms for 'fee' could be used either to describe dependent tenure held by a man from his lord, as the term is used now by historians, or it could mean simply "property" (the
manor Manor may refer to: Land tenure *Manor, the land belonging to the Lord of the manor under manorialism in parts of medieval Europe, notably England *Manor house, the main residence of the lord of the manor *Lord of the manor, the landholder of a ma ...
was, in effect, a small fief). It lacked a precise meaning until the middle of the 12th century, when it received formal definition from land lawyers. In English usage, the word "fee" is first attested around 1250–1300 (Middle English); the word "fief" from around 1605–1615. In French, the term is found from the middle of the 13th century (Old French), derived from the 11th-century terms , . The odd appearance of the second ''f'' in the form may be due to influence from the verb 'to grant in fee'. In French, one also finds (land and rights possessed by a or "lord", 12th century), which gives rise to the expression "seigneurial system" to describe feudalism.


Early feudal grants

Originally,
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief ...
age did not imply the giving or receiving of landholdings (which were granted only as a reward for loyalty), but by the 8th century the giving of a landholding was becoming standard.Cantor (1993), pp. 198-199. The granting of a landholding to a vassal did not relinquish the lord's property rights, but only the use of the lands and their income; the granting lord retained ultimate ownership of the fee and could, technically, recover the lands in case of disloyalty or death. In
Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest History of the Roman Empire, post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks du ...

Francia
,
Charles Martel Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient ...

Charles Martel
was the first to make large-scale and systematic use (the practice had remained sporadic until then) of the remuneration of vassals by the concession of the usufruct of lands (a ''beneficatium'' or "
benefice A benefice () or living is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The used the term as a benefit to an individual from the Empire for services rendered. Its use was adopted by the in the as a ...
" in the documents) for the life of the vassal, or, sometimes extending to the second or third generation.Lebecq, pp.196-197. By the middle of the 10th century, fee had largely become hereditary.Cantor (1993), p. 200. The eldest son of a deceased vassal would inherit, but first he had to do homage and fealty to the lord and pay a "
relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the ...
" for the land (a monetary recognition of the lord's continuing proprietary rights over the property). Historically, the fees of the 11th and the 12th century derived from two separate sources. The first was land carved out of the estates of the upper nobility. The second source was
allod In the law of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of E ...
ial land transformed into dependent tenures. During the 10th century in northern France and the 11th century in France south of the
Loire The Loire (, also ; ; oc, Léger, ; la, Liger) is the longest river in France and the 171st longest in the world. With a length of , it drains , more than a fifth of France's land while its average discharge is only half that of the Rhône ...

Loire
, local magnates either recruited or forced the owners of allodial holdings into dependent relationships and they were turned into fiefs. The process occurred later in Germany, and was still going on in the 13th century. In England,
Henry II Henry II may refer to: Kings *Henry II of England (1133–89), reigned from 1154 *Henry II of Jerusalem and Cyprus (1271–1324), reigned from 1285; king of Jerusalem in name only from 1291 *Henry II of Castile (1334–79), reigned 1366–67 and ...

Henry II
transformed them into important sources of royal income and patronage. The discontent of
baron Baron is a rank of nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of th ...

baron
s with royal claims to arbitrarily assessed "reliefs" and other feudal payments under Henry's son
King John of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg, Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen re ...

King John
resulted in
Magna Carta (Medieval Latin for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a Royal charter, royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor, on ...

Magna Carta
of 1215. Eventually, great feudal lords sought also to seize governmental and legal authority (the collection of taxes, the right of high justice, etc.) in their lands, and some passed these rights to their own vassals. The privilege of minting official coins developed into the concept of
seigniorage Seigniorage , also spelled seignorage or seigneurage (from the Old French ''seigneuriage'', "right of the lord (''seigneur'') to mint money"), is the difference between the value of money and the cost to produce and distribute it. The term can be ap ...
.


Later feudal grants and knightly service

In 13th-century Germany, Italy, England, France, and Spain the term "feodum" was used to describe a dependent tenure held from a lord by a vassal in return for a specified amount of
knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the pope) or representative for service to the monarch, the christian denomination, church or the country, especially in a military capacity. Knighthoo ...

knight
service and occasional financial payments ( feudal incidents). However, knight service in war was far less common than: * castle-guard (called '' Burghut'' in the Holy Roman Empire), the obligation of a vassal to serve in a
castle A castle is a type of fortification, fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by Military order (monastic society), military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word ''castle'', but u ...

castle
garrison Garrison (from the French ''garnison'', itself from the verb ''garnir'', "to equip") is the collective term for any body of troop A troop is a military sub-subunit Sub-subunit or sub-sub-unit is a subordinated element below platoon lev ...

garrison
of the lord; * suit in court, the vassal's obligation to attend the lord's
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Sta ...
, to give him counsel, and to help him judge disputes; * attendance in the lord's entourage, accompanying the lord when he travelled or attended the court of his lord so as to increase the social status of the lord; * hospitality to the lord or to his servants (accommodation). A lord in late 12th-century England and France could also claim the right of: * wardship and marriage – right to control descent of fee by choosing a husband for a female heir and a guardian for minors (preferably in consultation with the heir's closest male adult kinsmen); * "aids" – payments to aid the lord in times of need (customarily given to the lord to cover the cost of knighting the eldest son, marriage of the eldest daughter, and for
ransom Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a ''commu ...

ransom
ing the lord if required); *
escheat Escheat is a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person ...
– the reversion of the fief to the lord in default of an heir. In northern France in the 12th and 13th centuries, military service for fiefs was limited for offensive campaigns to 40 days for a knight. By the 12th century, English and French kings and barons began to commute military service for cash payments (
scutage Scutage is a Taxation in medieval England, medieval English tax levied on holders of a knight's fee under the feudal land tenure of knight-service. Under feudalism the king, through his vassals, provided land to knights for their support. The knight ...
s), with which they could purchase the service of
mercenaries A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is a private individual, particularly a soldier, who takes part in military conflict War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and ...
.


Feudal registers

A list of several hundred such fees held in chief between 1198 and 1292, along with their holders' names and form of tenure, was published in three volumes between 1920 and 1931 and is known as '' The Book of Fees''; it was developed from the 1302 '' Testa de Nevill''.


See also

*
Appanage An appanage, or apanage (; french: apanage ), is the grant of an estate, title, office or other thing of value to a younger child of a sovereign, who would otherwise have no inheritance under the system of primogeniture Primogeniture ( ) i ...
, part of the liege's domain granted to a junior relative * ''
Book of Fees The ''Book of Fees'' is the colloquial title of a modern edition, transcript, rearrangement and enhancement of the mediaeval (Latin: 'Book of Fiefs'), being a listing of feudal landholdings or fief A fief (; la, feudum) was the central ele ...
'', a scholarly collection of fiefs *
Brahmadeya Brahmadeya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of , the language of ...
, a royal fief given to a
Brahmin Brahmin (; sa, ब्राह्मण, brāhmaṇa) are a varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gulf of Varna **Lake Varna *Vahrn, or Varna, a muni ...

Brahmin
for service to an Indian king. *
Enfeoffment In the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe s ...
*
Fee simple In English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in writte ...
*
Fee tail In English common law, fee tail or entail is a form of trust established by deed or settlement which restricts the sale or inheritance Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property, titles A title is one or more words used be ...
*
Fengjian ''Fēngjiàn'' ( zh, c=封建, l=enfeoffment and establishment) was a political ideology An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is ...
, the Chinese system often compared to European feudalism *
Feoffee Under the feudal system in England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east an ...
*
Feudal land tenure in England Under the English feudal system Feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe, the Midd ...
* Herrschaft, the German equivalent *
Knight-service Knight-service was a form of feudal land tenure Under the English feudal system Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdom of England during the medieval period was a state of human society that organized political and military leadership and force ar ...
*
Knight's fee In feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was a combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring so ...
*
Lord of the manor Lord of the manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England Anglo-Saxon England or Early Medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of until the in 1066, consisted of various kingdoms until 927, when it was ...
*
Seigneurial system of New France The Manorialism, manorial system of New France, known as the seigneurial system (french: Régime seigneurial), was the semi-feudalism, feudal system of land tenure used in the North American French colonial empire. Both in nominal and legal te ...
, a semifeudal system in France's American colonies *
Subinfeudation In English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written op ...
*
Urbarium An urbarium (german: Urbar, English: ''urbarium'', also ''rental'' or ''rent-roll'', pl, urbarz, sk, urbár, hu, urbárium), is a register of fief A fief (; la, feudum) was the central element of feudalism Feudalism, also known as the f ...
, a medieval record of fees


Notes


References

*
Norman F. Cantor Norman Frank Cantor (November 19, 1929 – September 18, 2004) was a Canadian-American historian who specialized in the Middle Ages, medieval period. Known for his accessible writing and engaging narrative style, Cantor's books were among the mos ...
. ''The Civilization of the Middle Ages''. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. * Stéphane Lebecq. ''Les origines franques: Ve-IXe siècles.'' Series: Nouvelle histoire de la France médiévale. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1999. * {{Authority control Feudalism Real property law Land tenure