Feudalism in Japan and Europe
In the present day, people live under the political system of a democracy. The principle is guided by the notion that each man, great or small, rich or poor, is afforded equality under the law of the land, and is given equal protection and as well as access under the law. But in olden times, much of the political system was guided by the concept that one man was to be of servitude to another, that another was above the other in the sense that the person was beholden to the other person. How did these systems differ from other feudal system in other parts of the world?
Feudalism in Europe: Values and political structure The early origins of the feudal system began after the downfall of the Roman Army to the German nomadic invaders in the 5th century AD. They dismantled the Army of Rome, one that was put under professional principles, and began to replace them with armed elements that were loyal to their chiefs, with the motivation of plunder and honor from the chiefs that they served. In place of regular supplies, these warriors fought and foraged for food as they went from place to place (Encarta, 2008).
The system of feudalism was derived in part from the traditions that evolved out of the Germanic tribes that invaded and led to the fall of the Roman Empire (Marilyn Hitchens & Heidi Roupp, 2001). Until the end of the 5th century Europe was part and parcel of the Roman Empire. But as structural defects began to show in the borders of the Roman Empire, other groups began to force the migration of peoples through the borders of Rome. Tribes such as the Germanic tribes of Goths, Ostrogoths and the Vandals began to force their way to the Roman state, with the latter falling to the marauders in 476 C. E.
(History Haven). After the downfall of the Greek and Roman Empires, the culture that dominated Europe was a mix of various beliefs, inclusive of Judeo-Christian doctrines, ideas and notions from the classics, and the pre-dominant Germanic erudition of the tribes in the region. The time period has also been defined as the Dark Ages, since the period was cluttered with incidents of war and the fall of learning throughout Europe. Also, other definitions can say that the era was the Age of Faith, since the Christian belief as a factor that bought together the various factions during that era (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001).
The tribes would choose their leaders, who would in turn lead the armies into war. To pay the warriors for going into battle, they would in turn be entitled to the plunder, as well as arms and supplies from the chief. As the system of feudalism gradually developed, the regulation of rewarding loyal vassals with land and spoils for service to the lords was more firmly established. The lords, or heads of the small political governmental structures, led these scattered political districts during this era (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001).
Feudalism can be defined as a contract between the king and the lords of the land (Kevin Knight, 2008). It can also be said the feudal system was defined by the granting of fiefs to the vassals of the king (Encarta, 2008). As the representative of the state, the king leased out the land of the country to the lords in the country (Knight, 2008). The lords in turn lent out the estates to individuals who paid their dues to the country not only be performing military service to the country, but also duties that would be placed upon them by the court of the king (Knight, 2008).
These fiefs were granted to the people in exchange for the rendering of military and other duties on the part of the grantee, or the vassal. However, the system of feudalism must not be intertwined with the practice of seignorialsm. Feudalism, as differentiated from the latter, is characterized by the presence of a military and political relationship between the lords. Seignorialism, on the other hand, is defined by the social, political and economic liaisons between the lords and the workers on their lands (Encarta, 2008).
Some of the lesser estate holders were forced to cede their lands to the more powerful landowners and seek to enter into vassal relations with the latter. These became a feature in that mobile armies of the Magyars, Vikings and Muslims began to enter the picture in Europe. With this development, many of the landowners began to equip their armies with cavalry, or horse mounted armed men. Charles Martel, one of the first rulers to acquire cavalry, used the cavalry of the lords to support his own army; in return he gave the landowners benefices (Encarta, 2008).
These would later in history be called fiefs. These were provided the vassals in return for the time of service of the soldiers in the lord’s armies. Apart from the military service that the knights provided, they were also tasked with the construction of civil works and the dispensation of justice within the fiefs (History Haven). Thus, it can be said that the feudal system largely practiced a decentralized type of government (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001). The fief is basically comprised of one or more manors, and in these manors can be found the villages of peasants.
It is here that the peasants practiced the main economic activity in the time, which was agriculture, as well as crafting the weapons of war used by the lords. The vassals in turn, would provide the vassals with a certain amount from the produce of the lands and the use of mills and other implements (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001). It cannot be said that the presence of war was the main catalyst in the creation of feudalism; instead, it was feudalism that created the incidents of war. The collapse of the Empire bore the fruit of many individual lords governing their lands without any central governing figure.
The practice of feudalism mainly served to unite the lords into one loose alliance, giving up only what was necessary to ensure the function of the confederation. As the unity of these lords continued to improve, the kings and other leaders would then utilize these methods to buttress their own kingdoms (Encarta, 2008). Japanese Feudalism The need for feudalism in Europe was to counter the invading forces creeping onto the European continent. Feudalism in Japan was necessary to control the internal strife that was prevalent in the country.
In the Heian period, the emperor sought to consolidate all authority under his power, while the Japanese nobility was demanding more freedom from the power of the emperor. This is different from the circumstances prevalent in the European model, where the lords were the one that flocked to the lords and the king for their protection (Encarta, 2008). In the end, the aristocracy won, leading to the advent of powerful families such as the Fujiwaras. The emperor did try to similarly dustrubute the state’s lands, as in the practice of the European kings (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001).
The commanders of the Japanese forces tasked to gain the northern islands were the first to be given the title sei-i-tai shogun, or shogun. Unlike in the era of feudalism in Europe, the arts and learning were advanced in the eras of Japanese feudalism (Encarta, 2008). It was characteristic in both systems of feudalism in Europe and in the Shogunate in Japan that the military elements in the society that held influence, collected taxes, and the primary economic activity revolved around agriculture.
The feudal lords in Japan kept armies of samurai warriors to keep the private lands, or shoen, from ever being taken by the emperor’s armies (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001). Like the vassals in Europe, the samurai were afforded certain percentages of the produce of the land, or shiki rights. Unlike the vassals of the European lords who were primarily motivated by the lands and other benefits they might receive, the samurai were completely loyal to their masters, as embodied in their code, the Bushido, or the Way of the Warrior.
Unlike the European knights, the samurai was educated in the fields of the arts. The predominant element in European feudalism is the contract between the lord and vassal; in Japan, it was the values that the group held that was the primary force in its practice (Hitchens & Roupp, 2001). References Hitchens, M. , Roupp, H. (2001). How to prepare for SAT II. New York: Barron’s Educational Series. Knight, K. (2008). Feudalism. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from http://www. newadvent. org/cathen/06058c. htm MSN Encarta. (2008). Feudalism.
Retrieved December 2, 2008, from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761568817_2/Feudalism. html MSN Encarta. (2008). Japan. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761566679_15/Japan. html MSN Encarta. (2008). Seignorialism. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from \ http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761572179/Seignorialism. html History Haven. (n. d. ). Developments in Europe (500-1450C. E. ). Retrieved December 2, 2008, from http://www. historyhaven. com/APWH/unit2/DEVELOPMENTS%20IN%20EUROPE. htmSample Essay of BuyEssay.org