Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The European Middle Age Social Hierarchy

The Middle Ages
The boss of the my boss is my boss

Like today, in Middle Ages some people lived better then others. In fact, very few had a better life then the rest of them. It was all based on wealth (like today). But unlike today when basically everybody could get rich with proper attitude, tools and luck, in the Middle Ages one should have been born in a wealthy family. The access to power and money was limited to few people . The social hierarchy of the Middle Ages was very different then our contemporary hierarchy and was based on the amount of land someone owned.
Here is the simplified social tree:

The King
He was the head of the state, the boss of everybody else, he had the most power and was the richest of them all. His mom and dad were, usually, kings and queens too and the same was true about grandpa and grandma.
Some kings were better then others, and few of them made it to be Emperors, which is a bigger, fatter king, ruling over more then one nation.
The king was the boss of the barons, the lords and the peasants. Sometimes, some places, they were the boss of the bishops too.

The Bishops
These kind of people were chosen from within the church. They were once priests but got advanced to a administrative position. Looks like they are mainly remembered as tax collectors, which, like today, nobody likes them. They ruled over dioceses, and were the bosses of all the priests and monasteries within a diocese. They were very rich and often they grew powerful and very influential.

The Barons
Barons were people that received a tenure, or fief, from it’s boss, the King. At first they were knights and the King gave them a piece of land as a reward for their bravery in a battle. Then they ruled over that piece of land and get all the agricultural products and then sold them and made money. If one raised to the noble rank of baron then their children would be barons too.
Over the centuries, some barons grew so powerful that they didn’t want to work for the kings anymore and made their own state, to be their own bosses.

The Lords
The Lords were people who rented land from the barons (who were given land by the king). So barons were the lords’ bosses. A baron could be the boss of many lords.
The lords had the peasants working the land for them. They were not as rich as the barons and many of them lived a simple life but they had a better social status the the peasants. And they could advance to be a baron if they did good in battles and killed a lot of enemies.

The peasants
The peasants were the lower people in the European Middle Age Hierarchy. An they made up for majority of people. They lived a simple life and they worked hard for their bosses, who where the lords. In exchange for their hard work they usually got bread and beer. They did have a very small piece of land that the lord had given to them so they could have some other food besides bread and beer. The son of a peasant was peasant too and there was no chance that such son would, some day, advance to a lord position.

So, in between or within these social classes there were other position that were held by people chosen within that respective class. These positions were mainly administrative jobs with little or no influence over the whole system.

Historians have a name for this European Middle Age Hierarchy: it is cold Feudal System Or Feudalism, where a feud is a piece of land given to somebody in exchange for some sort of services. The Feudalism system of Middle Ages is though more complex and I may describe it is other articles.