Perez, Eloy

         Understanding the political, social, and economic systems of feudalism and emerging mercantilism in 15th Century Europe.

Sociology picture

     Before the end of the century, peasants contained a small sense of economic independence because of how they ran their homes and communities. These communities of 15th century peasants lived on lots of land, owned by the King, ranging anywhere from ten to thirty acres on which they would paid a set rate of rent to the crown. This payment to the crown was paid to a loyal Lord who has been entrusted by the King and given land for this tenant farming purpose. This Lord and others like him would govern a small set of communities, and in return for staying on his land, the peasants supplied the lord with various crops or handy work on top of paying rent as well as selling crops and carious goods to other members of the community. These gifts of service entitled them to simple rights and such as animal grazing and in effect, the peasants felt this sense of economic independence, this is the system of feudalism.

This political, social, and economic system, bound every individual person to another by mutual ties of service and loyalty. This structures goal was to maintain these hierarchal relationships for as many years as possible ensuring those who were at the bottom stayed there with little to no opportunity to ever make a higher name for themselves or their families. At the very top of the 15th century food chain was the King, he who claimed ownership to all the land. Next came the Lords, those loyal to the crown who were given a division of the Kings land meant to lease out to the peasants in order to collect as a governing landlord. The less powerful, military trained men come next, the knights of the King, who are granted acres of land in return for protecting the King. Lastly, the peasants of the King, these people were forced to pay rent, their harvests, and sell to others to maintain a day to day life of simple economic and social rights.

By the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the feudal structure began to alter, especially in England. The later years of the 15th century leading up to latter century instead brought about a structure of mercantilism, with consequences dramatic on both ends of the spectrum. Peasants no longer had control to a piece of land and were often evicted to provide for their homeless families as “free wage” laborers. Major improvement was enclosure, turning land that had been used for farming, into privately owned and fenced land used for growing the commercial industry. The belief that the nation was at the top as the foundation, in which a new consumer society would play a major role in establishing the social position of the individual, became the economic structure. Social, economic, and political lives of every man were altered by the end of feudalism and the origin of mercantilism.