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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, or a ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the Peera ...

lord
or
monarch A monarch is a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role tha ...

monarch
, in the context of the
feudal 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 discov ...
system in
medieval Europe 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 since the beginning of ...
. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or
fief 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 histor ...
. The term is also applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies. In contrast,
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 ...
(''fidelitas'') was sworn, unconditional loyalty to a monarch.


European vassalage

In fully developed vassalage, the lord and the vassal would take part in a
commendation ceremony A commendation ceremony (''commendatio'') is a formal that evolved during the period to create a bond between a and his fighting man, called his . The first recorded ceremony of ''commendatio'' was in 7th century France, but the relationship of ...
composed of two parts, the homage and the
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 ...
, including the use of Christian sacraments to show its sacred importance. According to
Eginhard Einhard (also Eginhard or Einhart; la, E(g)inhardus; 775 – March 14, 840) 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, Ger ...
's brief description, the ''commendatio'' made to
Pippin the Younger Pepin the Short, also called the Younger (german: Pippin der Jüngere, french: Pépin le Bref, c. 714 – 24 September 768) was King of the Franks The Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historic ...
in 757 by
Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria Tassilo III ( 741 – c. 796) was the duke of Bavaria The following is a list of rulers during the history of Bavaria The history of Bavaria Bavaria (; German language, German and Bavarian language, Bavarian: ''Bayern'' ), officially the Fr ...
, involved the relics of Saints Denis, Rusticus, Éleuthère,
MartinMartin (name), Martin is a popular male given and family name. It may also refer to: Places * Martin City (disambiguation) * Martin County (disambiguation) * Martin Township (disambiguation) Antarctica * Martin Peninsula, Marie Byrd Land * Point M ...
, and Germain – apparently assembled at Compiegne for the event. Such refinements were not included from the outset when it was time of crisis, war, hunger, etc. Under feudalism, those who were weakest needed the protection of the knights who owned the weapons and knew how to fight. Feudal society was increasingly based on the concept of "lordship" (French ''
seigneur ''Seigneur'' (English: ''Seigneur''; ''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, or a ruler. The appellation can also deno ...
''), which was one of the distinguishing features of the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages ...
and had evolved from times of
Late Antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Inst ...
. In the time of
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
(ruled 768–814), the connection slowly developed between vassalage and the grant of land, the main form of wealth at that time. Contemporaneous social developments included agricultural "
manorialism Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership (or "Land tenure, tenure") in parts of Europe, notably England, during the Middle Ages. Its defining features included a large, sometimes fortif ...
" and the social and legal structures labelled — but only since the 18th century — "
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 ...
". These developments proceeded at different rates in various regions. In
Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the ...
times (5th century to 752), monarchs would reward only the greatest and most trusted vassals with lands. Even at the most extreme devolution of any remnants of central power, in 10th-century France, the majority of vassals still had no fixed estates. Ganshof, François Louis, ''Feudalism'' translated 1964 The stratification of a fighting band of vassals into distinct groups might roughly correlate with the new term "
fief 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 histor ...
" that had started to supersede "benefice" in the 9th century. An "upper" group comprised great territorial magnates, who were strong enough to ensure the inheritance of their benefice to the heirs of their family. A "lower" group consisted of landless
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
s attached to a
count Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title 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 ...

count
or
duke Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a , or of a member of , or . As rulers, dukes are ranked below s, s, s, s, and sovereign s. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes ...

duke
. This social settling process also received impetus in fundamental changes in the conduct of warfare. As co-ordinated
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of a professional army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via O ...

cavalry
superseded disorganized
infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfare, armored forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantrymen or infanteer, i ...

infantry
, armies became more expensive to maintain. A vassal needed economic resources to equip the cavalry he was bound to contribute to his lord to fight his frequent wars. Such resources, in the absence of a money economy, came only from land and its associated assets, which included
peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forms of political and cultural organization that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the tra ...
s as well as wood and water.


Difference between "vassalage" and "vassal state"

Many empires have set up
vassal state A vassal state is any state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...
s, based on tribes, kingdoms, or city-states, the subjects of which they wish to control without having to conquer or directly govern them. In these cases a subordinate state (such as a dependency,
suzerainty Suzerainty () is a relationship in which one state or other polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized socia ...
,
residency Residency may refer to: * Residency (domicile), the act of establishing or maintaining a residence in a given place ** Permanent residency, indefinite residence within a country despite not having citizenship Education * Residency (medicine), a ...
or
protectorate A protectorate is a state that is controlled and protected by another sovereign state. It is a dependent territory A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory that does not ...
) has retained internal autonomy, but has lost independence in foreign policy, while also, in many instances, paying formal
tribute A tribute (; from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be ...

tribute
, or providing troops when requested. In this framework, a formal colony or "junior ally" might also be regarded as a vassal state in terms of international relations, analogous to a domestic "fief-holder" or "trustee". The concept of a vassal state uses the concept of personal vassalry to theorize formally
hegemonic Hegemony (, () or ) is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one State (polity), state over others. In ancient Greece (8th century BC – 6th century AD), hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of a city-state o ...
relationships between states – even those using non-personal forms of rule. Imperial states to which this terminology has been applied include, for instance:
Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, the
Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the ...
,
Imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
and the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
. The explanation of the distinction between vassalage and vassal state is still not discussed under this header.


Feudal Japanese equivalents

In Medieval Japan, the relations between the powerful ''
daimyō were powerful Japanese magnate A magnate, from the late Latin ''magnas'', a great man, itself from Latin ''magnus'', "great", is a noble or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities. In reference to the Middle Ages, ...
s'' and ''
shugo , commonly translated as “(military) governor,” “protector,” or “constable,” was a title given to certain officials in feudal Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep ...
'' and the subordinate ''
jizamurai The were lords of smaller rural domains in feudal Japan The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon period, named after its cord-marked pottery, was followed b ...
'' bear some obvious resemblance to western vassalage, although there are also some significant differences.


See also

* Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire *
Freeborn "Freeborn" is a term associated with political agitator John Lilburne (1614–1657), a member of the Levellers shot at the command of Oliver Cromwell in Burford. The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War The Eng ...
* ''
Lehnsmann A ''Lehnsmann'' (plural: ''Lehnsleute'' or ''Lehnsmänner'') or ''Lehnsnehmer'' (also spelt ''Lehens-'') was a nobleman in the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th c ...
'' *
Mandala (political model) ''Maṇḍala'' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'circle'. The mandala is a model for describing the patterns of diffuse political power distributed among Mueang or Kedatuan (principalities) in History of Southeast Asia#angk, early Southeast Asian hist ...
*
Suzerainty Suzerainty () is a relationship in which one state or other polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized socia ...
*
ThegnThe term ''thegn'', also thane, or thayn in Shakespearean English Early Modern English or Early New English (sometimes abbreviated EModE, EMnE, or EME) is the stage of the English language from the beginning of the Tudor period to the English Int ...
*
Vavasour A vavasour (also vavasor; Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin ...

Vavasour
, a type of vassal *
Zamindar A zamindar (also known as zomindar, zomidar, or jomidar) in the Indian subcontinent was an autonomous or semiautonomous ruler of a state who were originally Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnica ...

Zamindar
*


Similar terms

*
Gokenin A was initially a vassal of the shogunate of the Kamakura is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science ...
, vassals of the
shogunate was the title of the military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868. Nominally appointed by the Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sove ...
in
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
*
Manrent Manrent refers to a Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish natio ...
,
Scottish Clan A Scottish clan (from Gaelic Gaelic is an adjective that means "pertaining to the Gaels". As a noun it refers to the group of languages spoken by the Gaels, or to any one of the languages individually. Gaelic languages are spoken in Ireland, ...
treaties of offensive and defensive alliance * ''Nöken'' (plural: ''nöker'') was the
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an East Asian East Asia is the eastern region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") ...

Mongol
term for a tribal leader acknowledging another as his liege *
Villein A villein, otherwise known as ''cottar Cotter, cottier, cottar, or is the German or Scots term for a peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Midd ...
, a
serf Serfdom was the status of many peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmhand, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fee ...
, or low-born worker under feudalism


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* Cantor, Norman, ''The Civilization of the Middle Ages'' 1993. * Rouche, Michel, "Private life conquers state and society," in ''A History of Private Life'' vol I, Paul Veyne, editor, Harvard University Press 1987 .


External links

* {{Authority control Feudalism Medieval titles