RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LAND AND POWER IN FEUDAL ENGLAND AND RISE OF CAPITALISM




Examine the relationship between land and power in feudal England. To what extent did the exchanges in this relationship create conditions for the rise of capitalist transformation in English society?


For Marx what defined feudalism was the power of the rulling class (the aristocracy) in control of arable land leading to a class society based upon exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under selfdom and principally by means of labour, produce and money rents. Karl Marx thus defined feudalism primaly by its economic characteristics.[1]
          Capitalism is an economic system based on private owneship of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital acumulation, wage labour, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets. In capitalist market economy, decision making and investments are determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.[2]
          In England Feudalism depended on land and without land feudalism could not exist. This is because basically feudalism depended on land and land constituted the principle livelihood. Hence a system of feudalism based on land based on land and services and here there exested two dominant classes which included the class of feudal lords and the class of tenants or serfs on the other hand. The feudal lords owned land and the tennants rendered service to the feudal lords. The producer were exploited through rent in kind and rent in labour. Therefore land and services kid down the foundation for feudal relations in England whereby there emerged a closer relationship between land and power in the feudal England.
          The relationship between land and power in Feudal England existed on the way in which land was owned in the feudal societies and how power and obligations were distributed in the feudal societies in such a way that land and power were directly connected. This relationship can be explained in the following ways;
          The land was owned by the king and this land was reffered as ‘crown land’. Under this aspect in England the king had the power to control the land and ensure the domination of larger portions of land while other people the peasants or tenants were not able to own large portions of land. In England the king granted land to the aristocracy, lords and semilords, and these aristocracy had the right to own land and control land for different uses. During this period the king had power, and their power and wealth depended much on land while other people especially the serf had no land. Therefore under this system the kings in England divided the land into three types as follows;
          Manorial land was the land which was owned and controlled by the landlords. The manorial land was the land that provided power to the landlords and hence the landlords owned large proportions of land and thus became powerfull over their subbordinates, the tennants. Manorial land was the foundation of the principle of rural economy that originated in the Roman villa system of the ‘late Roman Empire’.[3] And was practiced in medieval western parts of central Europe it was slowly replaced by money. Manolism was characterized by the vesting of legal and economic power in a lord of manor supported economically from his own direct land holding in a manor. Later on the manorism slowly declined leading to the rise of open field system. It could maintain a warrior but could equally well maintained a capitalist landlord.
          Monastic land. In feudal England the church has both political power and spiritual power where by the religious leaders dominated the land and become as a part and parcel of economic structure in Europe, example, Christianity. The religious leaders extracted income from the land as a source of tinth. The churches had the power also to control labour to the land which they owned. As in the local churches people would work on monastic land for free to show their love of God. While it’s easy to see medieval monasties as performing some form of corn with regard of paying on the superstitions and belifs of the peasants, this is too simplistic to be valid.[4]
          Common land in feudal England there was a type of landownership where by the land was commonly owned by people within a community. This was called a ‘Common land’. It was also reffered to public land. Peasant had free access to land for public activities, such as fishing, hunting, collecting firewood and supplemental crop production. A major reforms was started in 1965 with the national register of common land which recorded the land ownership and the right of any commons and two others significant acts were followed. Owners of the land in general have all the rights of exclusive ownership to use the land as they wish. However for common land the owners rights are restricted and other people known as commoners have certain rights over the land. A number of commoners still exercise rights for example there are 500 practicing commoners in the New Forest.[5]
          The relationship between land and power in feudal England was a dynamic relationship. Therefore the dynamic state of relations in feudal England led to the changes in the relationship between land and power which laid the foundation for the rise of capitalist transformation in English society. These changes and the extent they contributed to the rise of capitalis transformation are explained as follows;
          The Black Death and its effects. During the earlier medieval centuries the most marked characteristics of the society was its stability. Institutions continued with this stability but slight changes during a long period. With the middle of the fourteeth century changes became more prominent. Some of the most conspicious of these gather around a series of attacks of epidemic disease during the later half of the century. From autumn of 1348 to the spring of 1350 a wave of pestilence was spreading over England from the southwest northward and eastward, progressively attacking every part of the country. The disease was new to Europe affecting the large portion of the population, the infection character of the disease was quite remarkable. Hence the violent epidemic attacks of the bubonic plague led to the shortage of labour under feudal system. The remainig number of tennants was few, thus the feudal lords had to hire the tennants to works on their land otherwise their production was to stop. This led to the emergence of wage labour which laid the foundation for the rise of capitalist transformation in English society.[6]
          Commutation of service was another change in the feudal system in England. One of these changes, already in progress long before the outbreak of the revolt, has already been reffered to. A silent transformation was going on inside of the manorial life in the form of a gradual substitution of money payments by the villain tenants for the old labour for two, three or four days a week and at special times during the year. This was often described as ‘selling to the tenants their services’. They bought their exemption from furnishing actual work by paying the value of it in money to the official representing the lord to the manor. Commutation is noticeable as early as the thirteeth centuary and not every unusual in the first half of the fourteeth. After the pestilence, however there was a very rapid substitution of money payment for labour payments. The process continued through the reminder of the fourteeth century and the early fifteeth, and by middle of that century the enforcement of regular labour services had become almost unknown. The boon-works continued to be claimed after the week work had disappeared, since labour was not easy to obtain at the specially busy seasons for the year and the required few days. Services at ploughing or mowing or harvesting were correspondingly valuable. But even those were extremely unusual after the middle of the fifteeth century. Thus the commutation of service was also to a greater extent to a characteristics of feudal England during the period. Money was made a major means of exhange marking the transition from feudalism to capitalism in England.[7]
          Another change was abandoment of Demesne farming in Feudal England. A still more important change than commutation of services was in progress during the fourteeth and fifteeth centuries. This was the gradual withdrawal of the lords of manors from the cultivation of the demesne farms. From very early times it had been customary for lords of the manors to grant out small portions of land or of the previously uncultivated land to tenants at a money rent. The great demesne farm, however had still kept up as the centre of the agricultural system of the vill. But now, even this was on many manors rented out to tenants, a typical instance of this change is where demesne land of the manor of Wilburton in Cambridgeshire, consisting of 246 acres of arable land and 42 acres of meadow, was rented in 1426 to one of the villain tenants of the manor for a sum of £8 a year. This marks the beginning of commercialization of agriculture which contributed to the rise of capitalist transformation in England.
          The decay of serfdom, it is in the changes that occurred durring the feudal England tha marks the key to the dissapearence of serfdom in England. Men had been freed from villainage in individual cases by various means. Manumission of serfs had occurred from time through all the medieval countries. It was astomary in such cases either to give a former character granting freedom to the man himself and to his descendants, to have entered on the manor court roll the fact of his obtaining his enfrachisement. Occasionally men were manumitted in order that they might be ordained as clergymen. In the period following the pestilence of the fourteeth century the difficulty in recruiting the ranks of priesthood made the practice more frequent. The charter of manumission issued by the king to the insurgents of 1381 would have granted freedom on a large scale had they not been disowned and subsequently withdrawn. The decay of the serfdom to a larger extent marked the beginning of the capitalist transformation in England. The new system, capitalism was on its way to get roots in England as a result of decline in serfdom.[8]
To sum up, the changes in relationship between land and power in feudal England, were the reasons which create conditions for the rise of capitalist transformation which came with both positive and negative effects. The world witnessedd the platform that held feudalism in place failed to pass the test of time. The mechanisms put in place weren't stable enough to fend off the concept of capitalism, what came to be termed as economic freedom. The renaissance in Europe also took its toll on feudalism, as the people embraced art, technologies and change, which marked an end of the medieval times and transition into the modern world.
References
Philip Daileader (2001). Feudalism The High Middle Age. Williamsburg: The Teaching Company.
Zimbalists, Sherman and Brown, Andrew, Haward. J & Stuart. (1988). Comparing Economic Systems; A political Economic Approach: San Diego: Harcort College Publishers.
Masnyon, L.A. (1965). Feudal Society. Vol II P. 442
Jones, A. (1972). The Rise and Fall of Manorial System; Critical Comment: The Journal of Economic History 324, PP 938 -944.
De Moor, Martina: Shaw-Taylor, Leigh; Warde Paul eds. (2002), The Management of Common Land in North West Europe. Turnhout: Brepols.
Cheyney. (1916). An Introduction to the Industrial and Social History of England. London: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.




[1] Philip Daileader (2001). Feudalism The High Middle Age. Williamsburg: The Teaching Company.
[2] Zimbalists, Sherman and Brown, Andrew, Haward. J & Stuart. (1988). Comparing Economic Systems; A political Economic Approach: San Diego: Harcort College Publishers.
[3] Masnyon, L.A. (1965). Feudal Society. Vol II P. 442
[4] Jones, A. (1972). The Rise and Fall of Manorial System; Critical Comment: The Journal of Economic History 324, PP 938 -944.
[5] De Moor, Martina: Shaw-Taylor, Leigh; Warde Paul eds. (2002), The Management of Common Land in North West Europe.
[6] Cheyney. (1916). An Introduction to the Industrial and Social History of England. London: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
[7] Ibid Pp 108-109
[8] Ibid P111
Share: