Crisis of Feudalism
Military Defeats

Crisis of Feudalism : Popular Revolts

Agricultural society was very traditional. The feudal services the peasants had to render were fixed. With the monetarization of economy, a number of services were translated into payments.
With many feudal services defined in fixed payments, trouble began. First, the middle ages experienced an inflation, of a low level, but it continually built up. Often, rulers tried to solve economic difficulties by reducing the silver content of coins; over longer periods of time, money lost value.
To match the decreasing value of the coins and of rising costs, new feudal services respectively payments had to be introduced. Such new services, however, often met stubborn resistance. In many such instances, peasants appealed to the king to restore the 'good old order'.

Agricultural society, in addition, suffered from misharvests, the villagers sometimes suffered from epidemics and from warfare, directly or indirectly.
In the aftermath of the BUBONIC PLAGUE, peasant revolts broke out in France - the JACQUERIE (1358) and in England - WAT TYLER'S REVOLT (1381), revolts which went beyond the attempt to reestablish the good old order, but which in essence questioned the structure of feudal society.

The revolts were motivated by a number of factors, the peasants taking up arms because of a combination of desperation and the revolutionary spirit to change society. However, their leaders had no concept how to defeat the nobles, and both revolts were easily suppressed. The mere existence of these revolts, however, indicates that feudal control of the countryside was not safe, and that any attempt to raise the tenants' payments was risky.

Jean Froissart on the Jacquerie, 1358, from the Medieval Sourcebook
Illustrations on the Jacquerie from the Bibliotheque Nationale

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 29th 2001


Impressum · Datenschutz