A medieval miniature showing the small walled city of Feurs on the river Loire in France. The drawbridges and the wide moat
surrounding the walls made it possible to turn the city into an impregnable fortress during wartime.
A System of Lords and Serfs
By the time Charles the Bald died in 877, what remained of Charlemagne's system was chaos. The united Christian empire of which he had dreamed had degenerated into a multitude of autonomous and usually hereditary domains. Rather than unified by a common culture, the society had become a seething mass of vying kings and counts, priests, popes, and plunderers. The political, economic, and social system called feudalism, already evolving, emerged out of the chaos.
The precise origin of the word feudalism is unclear. It appears to derive from the