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see feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also feud or fee), in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, a payment in land or in money or in kind made by a suzerain to his vassal (seeVASSALAGE). The hereditary tenure of a fief was conditional upon the vassal’s fulfillment of feudal service to his lord; this service was primarily military but could also entail service at court, such as participation in trials or in the management of a seigniory, or involve the payment of a sum fixed by custom. The vassals, in turn, usually gave part of their lands or income to their own vassals, a practice known as subinfeudation; eventually, a hierarchy was established on a single landholding, which could support a vertical series of feudal tenants.

The fief, whose precursor was the benefice, was the characteristic form of property of the ruling class in Western Europe from the 11th to 15th century, the period of developed feudalism. From this period, however, the system based on the fief began to decline. The fiefs were broken up through subinfeudation and, as commodity-money relations became prevalent, so did the use of money-fiefs, the right to some type of revenue, granted to a vassal instead of land with serfs. In addition, the feudal lords began relying on paid troops for military support. By the 15th or 16th centuries, the system of fiefs had become a legal fiction.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


In feudal England, the tenure of land or an estate subject to the feudal obligation of service and homage to the lord of the estate.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, feoff
(in feudal Europe) the property or fee granted to a vassal for his maintenance by his lord in return for service
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Five of the fiefs, Penrice, Port Eynon, Oxwich, Nicholaston and Penmaen plus the Lord's manor of Pennard, stood apart from the others in that documentary evidence suggests they were colonised by people from the south-west of England.
In this paper we start from the premise that senior Chinese managers, like their western counterparts, will occupy an information environment within their own firm characteristic of fiefs. Drawing on the work of Boisot and Child (1988), we shall build on the idea that in the Chinese enterprise, a much larger proportion of firm transactions tend to gravitate towards the fief region of the C-space than is the case in western or indeed in Japanese firms.
" From the new expressway to promoting Hindi literature, Akhilesh cannot look beyond his fief. While the proposed expressway from Lucknow to Agra will pass through Etawah, Mainpuri and Kannauj, the writers who will work for Hindi literature are also from the same area," Anil added.
Noble mines the papers to develop the world in which they lived, both social and domestic, with a wealth of detail about the members of the household, the people of the surrounding countryside, the interaction of the Stonors with officials and others in positions of power, the complex establishment and function of fiefs, and the impact over time on their lands and powers of the rulers of England.
Released to fight against the Saracens in Spain, he again wins favor and is eventually given the fiefs of Hainaut and Brabant.
Islamabad condamne depuis une decennie les tirs de drones americains dans les fiefs talibans du nord du pays, consideres comme une atteinte a sa [beaucoup moins que] souverainete [beaucoup plus grand que], meme si des documents rendus publics au cours des dernieres annees suggerent plutot une collaboration entre les deux pays pour certaines de ces frappes.
The military reforms Omura envisioned but did not live to see completed included the abolition of fiefs, the creation of a conscript army under central government control along with the parallel abolition of the samurai, and the establishment of arsenals, military schools, and weapons factories; these ideas formed the basis for Aritomo Yamagata's establishment of the new Imperial Army two years later.