Politics in Minutes (2016)

Feudalism

Although a number of more or less democratic republics were established in the ancient world, they were the exception rather than the rule. Even the Roman Republic, modelled on the Greek republics it succeeded, eventually handed power to a single dictator – Julius Caesar, the first of a line of Roman emperors. Christianity was slowly adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, spreading the influence of the Roman church, both spiritual and political. In medieval Europe, the Church, with the Pope at its head, exerted considerable political power.

The predominant social order was a hierarchical system of property ownership and duty known as feudalism. At the head of the state was an absolute monarch, owner and ruler of all the land. The monarch granted some of the land to a class of nobles, who in return provided him with fighting forces; the nobles granted some of their land to vassals in return for an oath of loyalty, and it was ultimately worked by a class of serfs.

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