English Life in the Middle Ages

By L. F. Salzman | Go to book overview

IX
WARFARE

WAR in the Middle Ages was not an exceptional and disturbing occurrence, but part of the normal conditions of life. It was the profession of the upper classes, and the divisions of medieval society were based almost as much on the practice of war as on the possession of land. The combination of the two, the holding of land by military tenure, constituted the Feudal System, introduced into England by the Normans.

Under the Saxons every holder of land had to assist in keeping up the burhs or fortified townships, and every free man had to follow his lord to battle, but the obligation was a personal one and was not connected with the land; because one holder of an estate followed a particular noble it was not necessary that the next holder of that estate should attach himself to the same noble. The nobles, or thanes, also had to come fully armed to serve the king, and apparently to provide a certain number of armed soldiers; but although the possession of five hides of land was one of the qualifications for the rank of thane, such military service was not the condition on which the land was held. On the Continent there had grown up a system by which the emperors and kings granted large portions of their realms to nobles who in return took oaths of 'fealty', or faithfulness, and undertook to assist their royal master with a certain number of armed men in time of war. In order to secure the services of these armed men, the great nobles in turn granted portions of their lands to men who swore fealty to them and promised to fight for their lords when required. And as the land was given expressly on this condition of military service, it followed that even if the original grantee parted with it the new tenant would be bound to serve. The service demanded was that of a fully armed horseman, or knight, and the estate which had to provide one

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English Life in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 7
  • To Nancy 9
  • Preface 11
  • Contents 13
  • List of Illustrations 15
  • I - Introduction 21
  • II - Country Life 36
  • III - Town Life 63
  • IV - Home Life 88
  • V - The Church and Religion 109
  • VI - Education 134
  • VII - Literature 150
  • VIII - Art and Science 171
  • IX - Warfare 186
  • X - Law and Order 215
  • XI - Industry, Trade, and Finance 233
  • XII - Women 249
  • XIII - Wayfaring 266
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 285
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