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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ In terms of the dominant concepts of the age, feudalism appeared as the natural order of things.
▪ It took several centuries for feudalism to be formed.
▪ Nevertheless, feudalism was something else as well.
▪ None the less, they are worth considering, because they help us to understand both the origin and the artificiality of feudalism.
▪ The burgesses constituted a growing challenge to the social relations of feudalism.
▪ This is crucial because Marx was to go on to argue that capitalism grew out of one such combination in feudalism.
▪ This was one more bit of debris from the capitalist system, from feudalism, from the Dark Ages.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Feudalism \Feu"dal*ism\ (f[=u]"dal*[i^]z'm), n. [Cf. F. f['e]odalisme.] The feudal system; a system by which the holding of estates in land is made dependent upon an obligation to render military service to the king or feudal superior; feudal principles and usages.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

a coinage of historians, attested from 1773; see feudal + -ism. Feudal system attested from 1736.


n. A social system based on personal ownership of resources and personal fealty between a suzerain (lord) and a vassal (subject). Defining characteristics are direct ownership of resources, personal loyalty, and a hierarchical social structure reinforced by religion.


n. the social system that developed in Europe in the 8th C; vassals were protected by lords who they had to serve in war [syn: feudal system]


Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.

Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

A broader definition of feudalism, as described by Marc Bloch (1939), includes not only the obligations of the warrior nobility but those of all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry bound by manorialism; this is sometimes referred to as a "feudal society". Since the publication of Elizabeth A. R. Brown's "The Tyranny of a Construct" (1974) and Susan Reynolds's Fiefs and Vassals (1994), there has been ongoing inconclusive discussion among medieval historians as to whether feudalism is a useful construct for understanding medieval society.

Usage examples of "feudalism".

But with feudalism and the welding of the nation, tribal democracies passed away, leaving, however, in many places a valuable tradition of local self-government.

An attempt to destroy feudalism occasioned the revolt against the Egyptians in 1840, and drove Mehemet Ali from the country which had cost him so much blood and treasure.

The peril in which feudalism was placed revived their ancient sentiments.

With the growth of a common language and of common ideals, and with the improvement of the methods of communication, the desire of the people for unity became stronger and stronger, until it finally overcame the centrifugal forces of feudalism and of particularism.

Hitherto, for some centuries, the trend had been away from feudalism to absolute monarchy.

The north, as the stronghold of both feudalism and Catholicism, led the reaction.

The decay of feudalism and of ecclesiastical privilege took the form of a changed and not of an abolished position for peer and priest.

When Henry VIII put the confiscated lands of abbey and noble into the hands of scions of the people, Harrington thought that he had destroyed the ancient balance of power in the constitution, and, while leveling feudalism and the church, had raised up unto the throne an even more dangerous enemy.

In an age of constant warfare, feudalism protected all classes better than if they had stood apart, and it often enabled the King to raise a powerful and well-armed force in the easiest and quickest manner.

Society had outgrown the outward forms of feudalism, which like every system had its drawbacks, but it would seem as though it could never wholly outgrow the feudal principle.

During his reign, the Habeas Corpus Act was passed and feudalism was practically abolished.

I have ranked feudalism under the head of barbarism, rejected every species of political aristocracy, and represented the English constitution as essentially antagonistic to the American, not as its type.

It was the basis, and almost exclusive basis, in the Middle Ages, under feudalism, and is so still in most states.

Austria is hard at work in the Roman direction, and finds her chief obstacle to success in Hungary, with the Magyars whose feudalism retains almost the full vigor of the Middle Ages.

Even in the United States, a revolution undertaken in favor of the barbaric system has resulted in the destruction of what remained of that system--in sweeping away the last relics of disintegrating feudalism, and in the complete establishment of the Graeco-Roman system, with important improvements, in the New World.