The political, economic and social system that predominated in Western Europe between the 10th and the 13th centuries is known as feudalism. When the Carolingian Empire desintegrated , the kings used armed men to to fight against the foreign invaders (Muslims, Vikings and Magyars) who attacked Europe in the 9th century. In exchange for their help, the kings gave them land.
Feudalism was a system in which a free person was dependent on another and became his vassal. The commitment between the vassal and the lord was sealed with an act of homage.
- The vassal swore loyalty to his lord, and swore to provide him troops for fighting and advice .
- The lord swore to protect his vassal and provide him with the resources he needed to make a living: a piece of land called fief.
Gradually, a pyramidal system was created under which free people were linked by vassalage to others of a higher social rank. For example a noble could be a vassal of a king and, at the same time, he could also be the lord of a noble of a lower rank. The bishops and the abbots also received fiefs. At the top of the feudal pyramid was the monarch. Although , he was a vassal to nobody, he lost some of the power to the feudal lords.
On the other hand, the feudal lords exercised their authority over the peasants who worked on the feudal state. So, dependent relationships were also created between the lower social classes and the nobles.