What Caused Feudalism?

Feudalism arose out of the need for protection in response to the marauding bands of Vikings, Germanic warriors and Saracens who roamed Europe from the 5th to 11th centuries. The collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, and the failure of rulers to retain central authority, allowed nobles to take greater control of local regions.

People lost the protections that were afforded to them under a central body, and many were forced to make deals with local rulers in the name of safety. Noblemen established greater autonomy in the areas of economic, political, judicial and social matters. Feudalism in the western sense included lords, vassals and fiefs. A lord granted land, also known as a fief, to a vassal in exchange for protecting that nobleman. This service could have been in a military or nonmilitary capacity.

Feudalism in Europe was the dominant political system from 900 to 1300, but feudalism took root in Roman and Germanic cultures. The Romans also granted land to a person in return for protection, and a person could be exempted from a king's power in certain feudal systems. Germanic tribes held a similar concept, but a person had to surrender land to a warrior to receive protection. Other places, such as Japan, Russia, India and China, underwent feudalism that was similar to the European system.