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Question 1:

Describe two features of early feudal society in France.


Feudalism was a socio-economic system existing in France, England and Italy during the 9th and 15th centuries. Two features of the early feudal society in France are as follows:

1. Agricultural production was based on the relation between lords and peasants. The lords owned huge lands and the peasants had to cultivate their own lands as well as those of the lords.

2. The lords provided military protection to the peasants for the services rendered by them. The lords also extended judicial control over the peasants and the settlements.

Thus, feudalism was responsible for establishing a hierarchy in the society; it had its repercussions on the social, economic and political aspects of life of the medieval European men.

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Question 2:

How did long term changes in population levels affect economy and society in Europe?


Europe witnessed a huge rise in its population during the medieval period. There was an estimated rise of around 30 million people from the 10th century to the 13th century. This rise in the population had several economic and social effects.

Economic Effects

1) Establishment of towns: With the advancement of agricultural technologies, the production of food increased. Peasants, thus, felt the need of a place where they could sell their surplus and buy tools and clothes in return. Periodic fairs and small marketing centres started to spring up here and there. Surrounding these centres, other infrastructure developments took place, which, in turn, led to the growth of towns.

2) Organisation of trading activities: Guilds or associations of traders were formed in towns to take care of the quality of goods exchanged in the markets and their prices.

3) Trade routes: With the increased production of food, the search for fresh markets started and so several new trade routes developed. An important example is the route followed by Scandinavian merchants from the North Sea to southern lands.

Social Effects

1) Air of relief for the serfs: Often, serfs fled from the estates and took shelter in the towns. If a lord could not track his serf within a year, then the serf would become a free man.

2) Paid work: In towns, the labour was always offered in exchange of a payment. Tax instead of service was paid by the residents of the town to the land owner.  This allowed the serfs and their families to enjoy freedom from the exploitation of the lords.

3) Rise of the fourth order: As the towns grew, a need was felt for skilled labourers like bankers and lawyers. This class did not engage in manual labour and so could not be grouped in the third order of peasants and other craftsmen. Historians believe this was the rise of the fourth order in the European societies.

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Question 3:

Why did knights become a distinct group, and when did they decline?


The feudal structure of France imposed a dual role on the peasants. They provided services to the lords and also rendered military service at times of battles. However, from the 9th century, a need emerged for more skilled soldiers, as localised wars became more frequent. Thus, specially trained armed warriors or knights emerged as an important component of the societal setup. The knights had complete loyalty to the lords and they provided total support in the wars. In return for their services, the knights were guaranteed huge areas of lands or fiefs.

The practice of knighthood declined from the 12th century when technological advancement brought in new kinds of weapons like arbalest and crossbows. These weapons could be used by any foot soldier and could kill any highly trained knight in one shot. The final blow to this system was the use of gunpowder in battles. Knighthood could not stand before the changed pattern of the medieval warfare; therefore, the class of knights declined.

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Question 4:

What was the function of medieval monasteries?


Monasteries were Christian institutions of the medieval Europe where devout Christians lead a life of isolation dedicated to the worship of God. These monasteries were located far from the areas of human habitation. The two famous monasteries were St. Benedict in Italy and Cluny in Burgundy. The functions performed by these monasteries are as follows:

1) Preaching: Monks and nuns moved from one place to another to spread the words of Christianity among the people.

2) Charity: Monasteries served the sick and arranged food for the hungry people. The monasteries served as inns for the travellers. They could halt at these monasteries and then continue their journey.

3) Learning centres: Monasteries provided education to the community children and those who wanted to become monks.

4) Cultural Enrichment:
(i) Most monks and nuns were educated and learned, so they spent their time copying books and masterpieces like the works of Cicero and Virgil.
(ii) Monks were also the chroniclers; they noted down all important events of their times.
(iii) Monasteries served as important centres of art. Monks and nuns served God as His creative artists. One brilliant example is Abbess Hildegard who developed the practice of community singing in churches.

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Question 5:

Imagine and describe a day in the life of a craftsman in a medieval French town.


Adrian is a painter from the south-western French city of Renne. After serving the lords for a long period, Adrian finally found a new job in the cathedral being constructed at Angers. He started his journey early morning for Angers. He seemed to be really happy, as he hoped that this work would help him end his life of exploitation by the lords.

Adrian was spellbound to see the enormous structure of the cathedral being built and the huge number of labourers working. Mr. Elodie, the head craftsman, explained the job to Adrian. He basically had to paint the church windows. In the evening, after a day’s hard work, Adrian received a gold coin as his wage.

Adrian is also a member of a guild. Every day, after his work is over, Adrian attends the guild’s meetings. Here, problems faced by the people of his profession are discussed. Adrian also gets the exposure of the job scenario in the town.

Every day, at night, Adrian returns to the cathedral where all workers live in temporary settlements.

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Question 6:

Compare the conditions of life for a French serf and a Roman slave.


The conditions of life for a French serf and a Roman slave are discussed below:

Who were the slaves and serfs?

• A serf was a tenant farmer who was entitled to work on his hereditary plot of land under the whim of his lord. In lieu of the ownership of the land, a serf had to offer personal services to the lord. This involved working in the fields owned solely by the lord.

• A slave was a bonded labourer of the ruler. He was bought from the market by the ruler to work on the fields and provide the services demanded. Unlike a serf, a slave did not own any land.


• The origin of slavery can be traced back to the frequent wars fought by the Roman Empire against the Western European countries. From all these nations, millions of people were brought to Rome to be sold in the market as slaves.

• Serfdom is a construct of the feudal system in Europe. This modified form of slavery originated in the medieval Europe.

Social status

• Both the slaves and the serfs had an extreme low status in the society. The word of the master was the law and neither of them could raise a voice against the master. Legal rights did not exist for either of them.

• Marriages entered into by the slaves were not recognised. A serf could marry only if he pays a fee to the master.

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