Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

safeguarded them with great care, keeping the rural population in a state of mild contentment and fairly equalized poverty. And the example was largely copied by the barons in their respective fiefs. The result was a régime in which were combined and balanced with unusual skill both feudal and non‐ feudal elements of society, and centralizing and decentralizing tendencies and forces of government. The system was, of course, no longer purely feudal, either on the whole or in its parts, either in its warrior class or in its peasantry.


NOTES
1.
An imperfect discussion of those reforms will be found in my Early Institutional Life of Japan, Tokyo, 1903.
2.
From the middle of the fifteenth century at least, "cultivator"-shiki are often, on the face of documents, revocable grants, accompanied at times with specific dues and profits.

32
The Decline and Fall of English Feudalism

Helen M. Cam

The operation of the laws of inheritance and descent had brought about a vast accumulation of estates, the administration of which necessitated the organisation of a great household system consisting of a host of paid dependents. The more efficiently a magnate administered his franchise, or exploited the material resources of his domains, the greater were the potentialities of his personal influence. To this must be added the effects of the wars in Scotland and France, which led to the growth of the system whereby lords contracted to supply the government with troops which they themselves secured by indenture, a practice, as has been recently shown, at least as old as 1297. 1 John of Gaunt's Register for 1370 to 1373 contains numerous examples of these contracts by which knights and squires bound themselves for life to a great lord, at a retaining fee in time of peace, augmented in time of war, with wages by the day for the duration of the campaign and supplemented by a fixed share of the profits arising from prisoners' ransoms or loot. But the retainers of a fourteenth-century magnate were not all soldiers; they ranged from legal experts "feed of the lords council" to any humble neighbour who might be useful. The 600 liveried retainers of Thomas Lancaster in 1314 included knights, squires, clerks and grooms. The practice of clothing your

adherents in a livery or uniform has been traced by Mrs. Stenton as far back as 1218, when a certain north-country robber was reported as buying 100 marks' worth of cloth to clothe his following of fifteen men "as if he had been a baron or an earl." The Cambridge parliament of 1388 was the first to legislate on the subject; and by 1393 it had become necessary to forbid yeomen below the rank of squire to wear livery of company unless they were resident in their lord's household. 2 It is not necessary to-day to insist upon the psychological importance of uniform-wearing. The abuses that became associated with the practice are forcibly expressed in the oath taken by all the members of parliament in 1433 from the king downwards—"that no lord, by colour nor occasion of feoffment or of gift of movable goods shall take any other men's cause or quarrel in favour supportation or maintenance, as by word, by writing or by message to officer, judge, jury or party, by gift of his clothing or livery or taking into his service the party, nor conceive against any judge or officer indignation or displeasure for doing of his office in form of law." 3 Oaths and statutes were equally vain: the citizen who petitioned against the practice found himself forced to rely on it for self-protection and to "get lordship." Society was honeycombed by these new feudal contracts whereby a man in effect commended himself to a lord, and bound himself to love what he loved and loathe what he loathed.

The contrast between this new feudalism and the old lay firstly in the fact that from the legal point of view the contract between lord and man was no

____________________
From Helen M. Cam, "The Decline and Fall of English Feudalism," History, XXV (1940-1941), 224-233. This article was reprinted in Liberties and Communities issued by The Merlin Press in 1964. Reprinted by permission of the editor of History, the author, and The Merlin Press.

-245-

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