What Caused the Decline of Feudalism?

The decline of feudalism was brought about by its own success. The system allowed for a new era of wealth and prosperity within Europe. However, this progress allowed people held back by the system to achieve a better standard of living.

During the feudalism era, serfs were at the mercy and will of their feudal lords. However in western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, many serfs were able to start growing their own personal wealth by engaging in trade. At the same time, many lords were beginning to have money issues and, therefore, needed to rent out their lands to tenant farmers. Serfs who had raised enough personal capital began to rent the land and, in effect, buy their freedom from serfdom.

As monarchical power in England and France increased, the power of the nobility decreased, which further led to the erosion of feudalism. In 1660, feudalism was outlawed in England. By the start of the French Revolution in 1789, feudalism ceased to exist in France. The lords in these countries who once ruled over serfs became the aristocracy. In Germany, the feudal system was replaced by small royal states until the 19th century and the unification of Prussia.