Lecture 35: Different Views of Feudalism

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    Dr. J,

    in the “Resources” section for Lecture 35, you wrote that Ganshof’s book Feudalism “is probably still the best introduction to the subject.” According to Wikipedia, Ganshof’s view of Feudalism has been criticized by Susan Reynolds and Marc Bloch. Can you explain what the main criticisms were, and do you have an opinion as to their merits?

    Jason Jewell

    David, I think I have a summary of Reynolds’s and Bloch’s views in one of the books at my office. I had intended to look for it yesterday, and it slipped my mind. I’ll try to track it down Monday.


    Thanks for your efforts!

    Jason Jewell

    As the Wikipedia article indicates, Bloch’s definition of feudalism is broader than Ganshof’s and includes many social relationships, such as among family members, in addition to formal ties of vassalage among members of the nobility. According to Brian Tierney, Ganshof’s definition is still the more generally accepted one among professional historians.

    I don’t have access to Susan Reynolds’s writing here; her Wikipedia page says she thinks “direct ownership of land was more prevalent in the early Middle Ages than has been thought, and the decline of central authority has been exaggerated.” I think you’d have to be a specialist to evaluate this claim because it involves interpreting nuances in manuscript documents from the period.

    I hope this helps!


    Thanks for the explanation. Quite an interesting topic!

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