History Podcasts

The Feudal System (Commentary)

The Feudal System (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: The Feudal System

Q1: Explain why Earl Warenne (Source 4) produced an ancient sword when he was asked by the judges to show his warrant.

A1: Earl Warenne was making the point that his ancestor (William of Warenne) had obtained the family estates by taking part in the Norman invasion in 1066. He argued that his ancestors had "conquered their lands with the sword, and by the sword I will defend them."

Q2: Select a source from this unit where the author appears to support the feudal system. Also select an author who appears to be critical of this system. Explain your choices. Give reasons why these two writers had different opinions on this subject.

A2: In source 7 Bishop Fulbert of Normandy provides details of how the feudal system worked. It is clear from this extract that Bishop Fulbert expected the villein to always obey his lord. Bishop Fulbert owned a great deal of land and the feudal system gave him a high standard of living. Pope Gregory VII in source 6 appears to be critical of the power that the feudal system gave to kings. He wrote that the land had been won by "robbery, murder, in a word, by almost every crime in the devil" and this enabled them to "dominate over their equals". Pope Gregory appears to think that feudalism was an immoral system.

Q3: Compare the value of the sources in this unit in helping you to discover how long feudalism lasted in England.

A3: The dates of the sources in this unit indicate that feudalism was in operation in England between the 11th and 14th centuries. This is supported by Jean Froissart in source 8 who describes feudalism as a "custom" (custom means a "long-established practice").


Feudal system

A feudal system (also known as feudalism) is a type of social and political system in which landholders provide land to tenants in exchange for their loyalty and service.

Feudalism prevailed in the Middle Ages in Europe and Japan and generally involved a lord (the landowner) allowing vassals (tenants) to rent the land by providing services, especially military service. The parcel of land, called a fief, was typically worked by serfs, laborers who had very few rights and were bound to the land itself.

The term feudal system is often used in a much more general way in political rhetoric to indicate an outdated, exploitative system of government. This usage may or may not actually refer to relationships that don’t look anything like historical feudal systems.


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Toffler’s Third Wave theory is a revolutionary premise which includes globalization, or what some refer to as the New World Order . As this revolution occurs, many negative events will increasingly occur, he tells us, including upheavals, turbulence, overthrows, and widespread violence.

These are not random events but are all connected to this global revolution. And, these perils offer fascinating new potentials, we’re told. According to him, we won’t totally destroy ourselves. This global civilization will be a positive alternative to what we had. It won’t quite be a utopia. Instead it will be a realistic, attainable, practical utopia, or what he calls a practopia . In the end it will be a better world.

H.G. Wells too agreed with this group’s plan for global domination. He rationalized that because humankind is facing turbulent forces that will destroy it, fundamental changes in the world system must be made. Wells thought that this global system could abolish poverty, slavery, and despair. Professor Quigley also agreed with the group’s overall idea that a single world government would promote peace and prosperity.

On the surface, this appears to make sense. Few of us can argue with initiatives to advance the human race. After all, who doesn’t want improvement? Who doesn’t want peace? This movement is made possible using an ideology that associates the restructuring of the governmental systems of the various countries with ideas such as improvement, peace, technology , and evolution . These ideas can be expressed using the single term, advancement .

Globalism, mentions Toffler, is more than an ideology that serves the interests of a small group. Just as nationalism represented an entire nation, globalism represents the entire planet. It is an evolutionary necessity. It is a step toward “cosmic consciousness,” which, he says includes making radical changes to the US Constitution .

More specifically, the ideological message contained in this movement is that in order for a country to advance, its governing structure must be changed, its constitution must be altered, and it must be merged into a global government.

In the US, this means that the Constitution needs to be updated in order for our society to improve. The basic message is that it is old, outdated, and no longer necessary. This idea is not completely irrational at a glance because things do change. Technology improves. Our understanding of events sharpens. Therefore, things do need to be updated.

However, changes that remove crucial safety measures that guarantee basic human rights are not an improvement. As an example, the creators of the US Constitution had an understanding of a historical pattern of tyrants repressing populations. This document was created as a safety measure to prevent a destructive historical norm from happening. Some things, regardless of how old they are, should never be altered, particularly when they are guidelines which prevent tyranny.

These individuals recognized that whenever governmental power was consolidated, tyranny always resulted. So, the Constitution was designed to limit the power of the federal government by separating it into three branches. It was also designed to prevent the growth of the federal government.

The US Constitution cannot be properly understood without the Declaration of Independence . Abraham Lincoln said it was the principles through which the US Constitution should be interpreted. The Declaration states that governments are constructed to serve the people, and secure their unalienable rights, such as freedom and the pursuit of happiness. A government has only the power that people give it.

The basic reason for the American colonists’ decision to separate from Britain was that a series of intolerable acts were imposed by the British Crown against them. For years the Americans pursued peaceful resolutions with the crown but received retaliation instead of discussion. Each attempt by the early Americans to resolve the matters peacefully only brought more injury.

In addition to trying to resolve the matters they sought to inform the people of England of what was occurring, but they were mostly ignored. So they decided to leave a record of what happened so that future generations would know why they separated. The record is known as the Declaration of Independence . It described how the king of England engaged in a series of injurious acts to establish a tyranny over the states. They included:

  • Holding legislative meetings in far-off places in order to fatigue people into compliance.
  • Sending armed troops to live among the people and murder them.
  • Trade sanctions.
  • Forcing people to be brought to England to face false charges with no trial by jury.
  • Controlling and ravaging the coasts, and burning towns.
  • Sending large armies of mercenaries to commit murder, and other acts.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain” states the Declaration “is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States.” It continued, “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America … do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown.”

So, the US Constitution was created to prevent the government from violating a person’s rights contained in the Bill of Rights , and to limit the size of the government. It was basically a contract. The First Amendment allows people to peacefully hold the government accountable to it by petitioning it for its violations.

According to the Declaration , when a government becomes destructive and no longer serves them, when it violates the contract, it is the duty of the people to change it. If their petitions for redress are ignored, it is their duty to abolish it.

Therefore, the technique of linking the advancement of our civilization with the removal of a critical safety measure that guarantees basic human rights is a blatant act of deception. Those who are able to see this global movement in its true form (a fake democracy) are labeled resisters, nonstate actors, or nationalists, who are standing in the way of progress.

According to Brzezinski, as this process occurs, certain ideologies must be adopted by people in order for conflict to be avoided. To minimize the significance of the Constitution , Brzezinski mentioned: “There is no doubt that America emits a compelling and appealing message of liberty to the world. However, much of the message is procedure, with its emphasis on a constitutional process that guarantees human rights and freedom of choice.”

Brzezinski mentioned how a national constitutional convention was necessary in order examine the relevance of the existing contract. The convention would also develop methods to streamline (consolidate) the administrative structure of the US Government. Anytime a consolidation such as this occurs it results in tyranny.

“In the past,” explained Brzezinski, “the division of power has traditionally caused programs of inefficiency, poor coordination, and dispersal of authority, but today the new communications and computation techniques make possible both increased authority at the lower levels and almost instant national coordination.”

Once again, these recommendations are done under the guise of making things more efficient, making improvements, etc. In the context of the role of agencies of the federal government, the RAND Corporation advocated a similar consolidation process in 2003, stating, “divided authority could be a formula for bureaucratic gridlock and inaction, with many having the right to say ‘no,’ but no element strong enough to see a program proposal through to approval and successful execution.”

Toffler says the US Constitution was a magnificent achievement for the system of government that was in place at that time. However, it is now obsolete and must be radically changed. A whole new system of government must replace it.

He declared: “That piece of paper, with the Bill of Rights . is increasingly obsolete . and hence oppressive [and] dangerous to our welfare. It must be radically changed and a new system of government invented … capable of making intelligent, democratic decisions necessary for our survival in a new world.”

That’s correct, Mr. Toffler just referred to the Bill of Rights as dangerous. According to Toffler, the primary enemies of this new civilization are those who are resisting globalization. These individuals and groups are believed to be an obstacle to human evolution. The basic struggle taking place during globalization is what Toffler refers to as the super struggle , which is between those who are holding on to certain ideologies (freedom) and those who are advancing the New World Order (neo-feudalism).

Wells similarly wrote that if constitutions and leaders of countries could be dealt with they would not be attacked. He specifically mentioned that it would be more difficult to merge America into this global system because its government was legally bound to a constitution. The primary enemies to this movement, he said, would be those who valued local independence. Wells mentioned that these individuals would be destroyed using scientific methods.

“The forces of nationalism,” announced the US Army War College in its April of 2002 article Information Operations and Asymmetric Warfare…Are We Ready? , are interfering with “world unification.” These current and future threats, they explained, will be identified and dealt with using electronic warfare (EW).

According to Dr. John B. Alexander, conspiracy theorists believe that the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, and Council on Foreign Relations are attempting to take away their individual freedom, and that these think tanks are controlling the development and use of NLW to create a docile society under their rule. He informs us that these beliefs are unfounded.

In his 1977 book, The Grand Chessboard , Brzezinski mentioned that when it is complete, this global empire would be based on the structure of earlier empires, which includes a hierarchy of vassals, tributaries, protectorates, and colonies.

A vassal is a term related to a system of feudalism that existed in Medieval Europe. A vassal was a feudal tenant under the protectorate of a feudal lord. Closely related terms include serf, peasant , and slave . In part 1A, The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition defines a serf as “a member of the lowest feudal class. ” and “a person in bondage or servitude” in part 3. It explains a vassal as a “slave” in part 2A.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition states in part 1A of its definition that a serf is: “A member of a servile feudal class bound to the land and subject to the will of its owner.”

The Oxford English Dictionary, Sixth Edition , describes a serf as “a person in a condition of servitude or modified slavery,” and defines it in part 1 as a “slave.” Under feudalism vassals were born into a permanent system of bondage. “To some degree,” Brzezinski elaborates, “[that] terminology is not altogether inappropriate.”

Professor Quigley sums up this consolidation process as: “Nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert.”

There is no question that individual members of the US Congress are serving their constituents. However, the evidence presented here, which will be expanded upon in the next volume, suggests that the US Congress as a whole has been completely subverted. Congress appears to be actively helping these wealthy interests establish their global dictatorship legally.

Congressmen are handled by agents of corporations called lobbyists . Corporations assign at least two lobbyists for each member of congress. The lobbyists provide these elected officials with documentation in order to persuade them to favor legislation which benefits the sponsoring organization, which may be a special interest group, corporation, or a foreign government.

There are also think tanks which provide policy reports to influence the views of congress. These lobbyists have access to vast amounts of funds and research results to support their views on any piece of legislation.

The pharmaceutical industry has the largest number of lobbyists in Washington, with two for every member of congress. In many cases these corporate agents are actually writing the laws and regulations which US citizens must follow.

In the late 1960s there were less than 70 lobbyists in Washington. By the mid 1980s there were about 8 thousand, some representing foreign governments. Now there are over 30 thousand, outnumbering congressmen, senators, and their staffs 2 to 1.

The influence lobbyists have on congress far exceeds that of the individual citizen. From 1998 to 2004 these corporate agents spent over $12 billion lobbying congress. In 2004 alone, corporations and national organizations spent about 5.5 million per day lobbying congress and other federal agencies.

Congressmen are influenced in a number of ways, including campaign contributions and legal bribes in the form of gifts. Millions of lobbying money is spent taking these elected officials on vacations, sporting events, shopping sprees, tours, etc. Some of these take place under the guise of “fact finding” ventures.

“Representatives in the House and Senate,” explained Lou Dobbs in his book, War On The Middle Class , “look upon those ‘gifts’ not as bribes to do the bidding of their corporate . masters, but rather as perks appropriate to their lofty positions of power.”

Corporations also influence congress by using their lobbyists to contribute to the political campaigns of these politicians to help them get reelected. Some of this is done through political action committees (PACs). PACs are organizations created or promoted by elected officials, and serve as support organizations for fund raising, media ads, and publicizing certain views of a particular issue. Although lobbyists have restrictions on how much money they can give to members of congress, PACs allows them to circumvent these restrictions.

The money that these elected officials receive via PACs is given under the condition that they will continue to pass laws that are favorable to the sponsoring interests. Although this activity is supposed to be monitored, the House Ethics Committee is ineffective. Because members of Congress are influenced by corporations, it is relatively simple for them to be used to further these corporate objectives. The following initiatives by Congress serve this global political agenda:

  • The proposal of a thought-based law known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), introduced by Representative Jane Harman on April 19 of 2007, passed in the House 404 to 6 on October 23 2007.
  • As part of an effort to limit free speech on the internet, the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, led by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, released the May 8, 2008 report Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat , which mentions that extremists are using the internet to recruit followers into a global terrorist movement.
  • On April 24, 1996 the Omnibus Counter-Terrorism Bill of 1995 (S. 390/H.R. 896), that was introduced after the public had been traumatized by the Oklahoma City Bombing, became law under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which was signed by President Clinton. It authorized an increase in the targeting of American citizens. Tremendous support was given to the bill in Senate and House which voted in favor of it 98 and 293, respectively.
  • Congress passed the USA Patriot Act with an overwhelming majority of 98 votes in the Senate and 357 in the House. This ended the Bill of Rights. Although the original bill which they approved was switched in the early morning hours with a different one, they still voted for it. Regardless, in summer of 2005 Congress again voted in favor (251 in the house and 89 in the senate) not only to extend the act, but to broaden its scope and make most of it permanent. This time they were completely aware of its blatant constitutional violations.
  • The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibited both the National Guard and regular military from working with local or federal police to target the US population, was abolished by the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of October 17, 2007. It also allows for militarized police roundups of protesters, “potential terrorists” and “undesirables.” It allows the president to put US troops in any city for to suppress public disorder. The Act was passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate and 396 in the House.
  • The Military Commission Act of 2006, which basically abolishes habeas corpus, was passed by congress with an approval of 65 in the Senate and 250 in the House. All that is necessary for any US citizen to be secretly imprisoned indefinitely with no trial is for the president to declare them an enemy combatant.

Congressmen are also profiting from the Global War on Terror. 151 of them received a total of at least $15 million in personal income between 2004 and 2006 from defense contractors, through dividends, capital gains, royalties, and interest.

In the early 1990s the US Congress started to become increasingly receptive to nonlethal weapons for domestic use due to the lobbying efforts of the US Global Strategy Council. They worked with the DOD to test and field these weapons through the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996, due to an expansion in military operations other than war.

They continue to support the development of directed-energy weapons with their defense budget authorizations. Congress has funded these new weapons. They are aware that they exist and that some of them are classified. They also know that they’re being used on civilians.

Warnings by Historical Figures

According to Professor Quigley, this group has been able to hide itself quite successfully. The public has not been aware of its impact on world affairs because it is not closely integrated, but instead appears as a series of overlapping inner-core groups that are concealed by formal front organizations, which themselves have no obvious political significance.

As we’ve discovered, these formal front organizations include the Bilderberg group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and other think tanks, as well as intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations, and the various tax-exempt foundations.

These organizations have interlocking memberships. They exist to further the ambitions of the wealthy elite who wish to control the planet. For decades, presidents, congressmen, authors, committees, and highly-decorated military officers have encountered this network in one form or another and were able to perceive its true intention of enslaving people. They have issued us warnings.

Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald wrote in November of 1975: “Money alone is not enough to quench the thirst and lusts of the super-rich. Instead, many of them use their vast wealth, and the influence such riches give them, to achieve even more power.”

He continued: “Power of a magnitude never dreamed of by the tyrants and despots of earlier ages. Power on a worldwide scale. Power over people, not just products.” He warned that the most important issue of our time is the effort by these wealthy elite to create a global government which would combine capitalism and communism. He said that their intentions were incredibly evil.

In the early 1980s resolutions calling for an investigation into the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations were drafted by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Congressman McDonald, who would have led the investigation, introduced the resolutions into the House of Representatives, but nothing happened. In 1983 Congressman McDonald died during a curious incident involving a Russian missile which blew up the commercial airliner he was on, killing all 269 passengers.

Officials that participated in multiple congressional investigations going back to 1912 stated that a wealthy cabal existed which posed a serious danger to the public, and was capable of using invisible force to carry out anything it deemed necessary.

A global government was its ultimate goal, according to these investigators, who could not complete their studies because the attacks against them were incredible. Presidents such as Jackson, Jefferson, Garfield, and Lincoln were aware that these wealthy elites were relentlessly trying to overthrow the republic. They issued warnings to the people. Garfield and Lincoln were assassinated and Jackson was almost murdered.

In his farewell speech on January 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned that a combined force consisting of the military and corporations existed. He referred to it as the military-industrial complex . It was capable of influencing every city, state, and office of government.

He announced: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. … We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Even Professor Quigley, who approved of this group’s goal, stated: “No country that values its safety should allow . a small number of men to wield such power in administration and politics.” He described the idea that this small group was controlling the publication of documents relating to its activities, monopolizing the writing and teaching of history, and shaping public opinion as, terrifying .

In New York City on April 27, 1961, President John F. Kennedy warned of a common danger that was threatening our society in every sphere of human activity. He said that a ruthless mechanism was operating covertly from behind the scenes to establish control of the entire planet. And that although no war had been declared, no greater threat to our society had ever existed.

These enemies to freedom, said Kennedy, use infiltration and subversion. They rely on covert methods of expanding their control. This group accumulated vast material and human resources, including military, diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and political, which it was using to covertly expand around the globe. He referred to it as a massive conspiracy which he intended to expose. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. . Today no war has been declared—and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion.

Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger” then I can only say that the danger has never been clearer and its presence has never been more immanent.

For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence—on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice.

It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, and no secret is revealed.


Brief Notes on the causes for the Decline of Feudalism

The feudalism which flourished between eleventh and thirteenth centuries began to decline towards the close of the thirteenth century in France and Italy. However, in other parts of Europe it continued to thrive for some time and ultimately disappeared only by 1500 A.D. The main factors which contributed to the decline of feudalism were as follows:

Firstly, feudalism contained in itself the seeds of its destruction. As Henry Martin has observed, “Feudalism concealed in its bosom the weapons with which it would be itself one day smitten”. In course of time when the feudal lords began to assert themselves too much, the kings who headed the feudal hierarchy, thought of bringing them under control. In this task they received full support from the newly emerged middle classes and freemen who were not under the control of the lords.

The middle classes consisting of traders and businessmen provided the king with money with which they began to maintain independent armies. With the help of these armies they were able to bring the turbulent nobles under control. The discovery of gun-powder and weapons like cannons also greatly helped the kings to reduce the lords to .subjection and reduced their dependence on them.

Secondly, the liberation of the serfs due to enormous growth in trade and commence also greatly contributed to. The decline of feudalism. With the growth of trade and commerce a number of new cities and towns grew which provided new opportunities for work. The serfs got an opportunity to free themselves of the feudal lords by taking up work in the new towns. It may be observed that according to the existing feudal laws, a serf could become a freeman if he stayed away from the manor for more than one year.

Thirdly, the Crusades or the Holy wars also greatly contributed to the decline of the feudal system. As a result of these wars the Europeans learnt the use of gun-powder from the Muslims. The discovery of gun­powder greatly undermined the importance of the feudal castles. As a result it was no more possible for the feudal lords to take shelter in these castles and defy the authority of the king.

The Crusades also contributed to the decline of feudalism in another way. During the Crusade a large number of feudal lords lost their lives which gave a series set back to the feudal system. Some of the feudal lords who returned alive from the Crusades were forced to sell charter of liberties to towns which they once controlled. As a result a larger number of self attained freedom.

The Crusades contributed to the decline of feudalism in another way too. They opened up trade between Europe and cities of Constantinople and Alexandria. As a result, commerce and industry in Europe received a fillip and a number of important cities developed. The merchants and artisans residing in these cities wished to free themselves from the control of feudal over-lords.

Therefore, they either purchased freedom or ob­tained it by force. They secured the right of self-government and freedom from feudal dues and taxes. After freeing themselves from the control of the nobles, the cities began to maintain their own armed militia and con­structed high turreted walls to protect themselves. Thus they succeeded in fully freeing themselves from the control of the feudal lords.

Fourthly, the scarcity of labour force in Europe as a result of Black Death (which took a heavy toll of life in Europe) enhanced the bargaining powers of the serfs and rendered feudal system weak.


Catching Peasant Labour: From State Taxation to Feudal Revenue

What defines the new feudal order is the capture of revenue. It is the systemic element: it was an extraordinary coercion by the lord, who was only interested in collecting. The gentleman was at the margin of the whole productive process, but he intervened directly dictating how this process should be. Peasant production was no longer a free option.

The feudal order introduced far-reaching innovations in the way of living and working of the peasantry. With the feudalization of society, the lords privatized the communal areas, used freely by the peasants before. From that moment on, to be able to use the communal areas, it had to pay fees to the feudal lords. This led to a change in the farmers’ diet. The moment there was more production, more hunger was passed.

Revenue, central element of the new medieval society

The feudal lord, through the annuity, ordered the quantity and type of production that the peasants had to produce. The farmers were being imposed production guidelines that implied increasing the area of cultivation. More had to be produced. How could this be done? One way could have been through intensification of cultivation to increase productivity, but this never happened in the Middle Ages. The only thing that could be done was to increase the extension of the crops.

Therefore, the only real alternative to produce more was through the conquest of new areas for the cultivation. The conquests to the outside were largely this consequence. As to cultivate more land, there were tax exemptions and incentives for farmers.

The peasants also did not have the freedom to cultivate any crop. Basically, only the cultivation of cereals, vines and olives was allowed. A new agrarian space was created as a result of feudal revenue. This is a phenomenon that comes from within the system. And this had an impact on the diet of the European peasantry, which lost quality, quantity and diversity.

The axis of the peasant diet was bread. And as a consequence of this great dependence on a single product, when there were crises in wheat harvests, they resulted in authentic famines. Through the revenue, the peasant was forced to produce an amount greater than necessary for their survival and also was not authorized to cultivate any product, but rather specific products.

There were three basic mechanisms used to extend the cultivation areas:

  • Clearing, which became very popular especially in the 10th and 11th centuries. There were rotations of large areas, in sacrifice of the forest
  • The terracing of agricultural land on steep slopes: the slopes of the mountains were used to build dry stone margins and walls as you went up the mountain and in narrower and worse land for cultivation
  • The drying up of lagoons and wetlands.

During the medieval period, time-consuming and complex work was carried out.

Feudal technical system

  • Heavy Plough: it is a plough that unlike the Roman one, that scraped the ground, has incorporated a lateral shovel that throws the ground in a side and in addition it removes and oxygenates the ground while working. It also incorporates a fence, it is like a punch and allows to deepen the earth. The most normal thing is that the fence is made of iron. There was a fee to sharpen the grill. These ploughs were found especially in the Atlantic area, where there are thicker terrains, they were much larger ploughs and sometimes they even had to incorporate wheels. These are called carruca (large plough)
  • Systems of coupling of the animals: it improves the traction system
    • The rigid necklace: leather necklace, the animal made force by the chest, more and more mules and horses are used, since they were much faster than the ox
    • Also, horseshoe coupling: makes the hoof of the animal wear much less. The horseshoe makes the animal’s life much longer.

    The use of oats to feed livestock was also widespread.

    • The generalization of triennial rotation: it consists of dividing a field into 3 parts, one year cereal was cultivated in winter, spring and then fallow (rest) and the following year the roles are exchanged.

    The inventions of this period are more of diffusion than of invention. In less time more work was done. They are not but great improvements of yield of the production, the productivity did not increase. It will be the same, but we will have worked faster. More and more windmills and water mills are used to generate movement.

    The space gained in the field will gradually lose fertility, producing smaller harvests. This meant that they continually had to look for new fronts of colonization.

    Products harvested

    In the Mediterranean basin the most frequent crops were cereals and vines (olive trees, oil production). The lords were interested in promoting and encouraging certain crops, as in this way they sold the product in the cities. When a lord made an establishment (contract) with a peasant, what contained the contract was: who was the lord of the land, who received the land, the usufruct, who worked it, where the land was, sometimes it is said which was the surface and often put conditions such as: condition of planting vines, olive trees ….

    Through what lordly mechanisms could they control peasant production?

    That would be three great mechanisms:

    • Institutional system: To control and administer peasant production through administrators. In Catalonia, for example, they were the so-called batlles (the bailiffs, administrators of goods and income of the lords). Each lord had a batlle, in each lordship the batlle controlled that when making divisions of the harvest, this one was made of the form that had been agreed. The batlle received a percentage of the rent that corresponded to the gentleman
    • Through instruments such as: flour mills, ovens, oil mills (oil, grape), presses, these instruments were actually expensive, or they belonged to the whole community or to the lord. Therefore, the lord monopolized the production. It was an element of control that forced the peasants to go and grind in the stately mill, paying taxes. There will be persecution of the artisan mills
    • Concentrate the peasant population. The more dispersed it was, the more difficult it was to control, therefore, it was tried to have the population in the same space.

    The lords had some instruments that the farmers had to use obligatorily and that served to control the production: the seigneurial monopolies (exclusive of the property) as they were the mills, the use of the water, etc. The lords had some instruments that the farmers had to use obligatorily and that served to control the production: the stately monopolies (exclusive of the property) as they were the mills, the use of the water, etc. Moreover, the lords established how water partitions were to be made (water partition regime). They had the monopoly of the permissions for the construction of mills, and they forced the servants to use these instruments.

    The peasantry collective was very heterogeneous. There were even peasants who had captured a lot of land. Thanks to the “cabreos,” land terrier, it was possible to know which lands the farmers had.

    All articles of the course: Medieval History in Europe

    Recommended bibliography:

    • Anderson , Perry. Passages From Antiquity to Feudalism. Verso Books (New Left Books), 1974.
    • Arce , Javier. Bárbaros y Romanos en Hispania (400-507 A.D.). Marcial Pons, 2005.
    • Brown , Peter. The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150–750. W. W. Norton & Company, 1971.
    • Cameron , Averil. The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, AD 395-600. Routledge, 1993.
    • Jones , A. H. M.. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey. Oxford University Press, 1964.
    • Thompson , Edward Arthur. The Goths in Spain. Oxford University Press, 1969.

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    Sec. 11. Feudalism And The Feudal Tenures

    Feudalism was a military system whereby all land was held from the sovereign, mediately or immediately, who parcelled it out in return for fealty and service.

    Whatever may have been the origin of feudalism, it was established in Europe by the tribes that swept over Europe at the decline of the Roman empire. It was firmly established on the continent by 800 and in England under William the Norman.

    23. See Blackstone's Commentaries, Cooley's Ed. Bk. II, ch. IV. Pomeroy, Municipal Law, ch. 2.

    By the feudal system the absolute ownership was in one person, a lord, or "landlord," while the use was in another known as the tenant, to whom the possession, or, as it was called, the "seisin" was given.

    In England the ultimate owner was the king. But in course of time the tenant further parcelled out the land in the same way to his vassals, and these in turn, again, so that the actual occupiers and users of the soil might be many times removed from the king in whom the true ownership theoretically existed.

    The system was in its origin and early development entirely military. The lord allotted the lands in return for fealty and service.

    These allotments were known as "feoda, feuds, fiefs or fees." The holder of the feud was said to be enfeoffed.

    The manner of enfeofment was as follows: First, the vassal established his homage to the lord. This was a ceremony in which the vassal entered into submission to his lord and became his "man," saying apt words to that end. After homage came an oath of fealty. Then came the transfer of the land.

    This was done by conferring the present possession either by actual yielding of possession or by symbol. By the first method the land was given over before witnesses, the tenant going upon the land and publicly taking possession. By the second method a twig, piece of sod, or other symbol taken from the land was handed over in view of witnesses. No method of conveying land to take effect in the future was known, From this practice, it came to be said that in the conveyance of the fee by deed of feofment there must be livery of seisin.

    The service which the vassal was to furnish was originally of military character and the system was purely military and arose out of military needs. The vassal was under obligation to furnish military aid as his lord might call upon him. If a vassal of the crown were called upon he could bring in a large array of his retainers to whom he in turn had granted lands.

    Blackstone says that fiefs were at first granted at the lord's will, but others doubt this, and assert they were granted for life subject to fealty. In course of time they became inheritable.

    At first the lord could not transfer his right of allegiance nor the tenant his land. But after a time the tenant was permitted to alien the land. Rules of descent came to be established and it became the law that the descendants of the tenant were to be his successors in the possession and ownership of the fee, but in order to keep this inheritance from division, the eldest son was the particular descendant in whom the right vested. Thus arose the rule of primogeniture.

    The incidents or consequences of the feudal estate were as follows:

    (1) Escheats. If the vassal died leaving no heir, his estate would return to the lord, who owned it also, by disloyalty the estate escheated.

    (2) Aids. Aids were payments of money made to the lord for certain purposes to ransom his person to pay the expense of the knighting of the eldest son to raise a marriage portion for the lord's daughter. These payments were probably voluntary at first, but came later to be demanded as of right, and new causes of aids were invented until they became a source of great burden. Magna Charta provided that no aids should be demanded except for the three purposes mentioned.

    (3) Reliefs. A relief was a sum of money to be paid by the heir upon coming of age and taking the inheritance. It was at first an arbitrary sum and grew to be so burdensome that a law was passed to fix the amount payable.

    (4) Primer Seisin. This was a sum payable to the king by the crown's vassals equal to the first year's profits when the heir came into possession it was in addition to the relief.

    (5) Fines upon Alienation. A fine payable by the vassal to his lord upon the conveyance of the fee.

    (6) Wardship. Where the tenant died before the heir was of age, the lord had the right to be guardian of the heir and take the profits of the fee until he arrived of age. This was a very onerous incident.

    (7) Marriage. A lord who had a female ward (the tenant having died before the heir was of age), could dispose of her in marriage. If she would not accept the proffered husband she was liable to a heavy fine. This power was supposed to be based on the right of the lord to have no one except his friends and supporters marry the female occupiers of the fee.

    These burdens became so great as not to be borne. By statute in the time of Charles II they were utterly abolished.

    The relation which the tenant had to his lord was governed by the tenure or kind of holding by which the tenant held the land. Tenures were very numerous, but were principally of three general kinds:

    (1) The Military Tenure, whose incidents we have just mentioned, the services to be granted being of a military nature. This is the true or proper feudal tenure.

    (2) Tenures in Free Socage to which by statute all tenures were ultimately reduced. The services to be rendered were not those of war, yet such as were not regarded as base in nature, as, to pay a sum as rent. These are not pure feudal tenures, but are a natural development with the growth of society. These tenures had all the burdens as those above mentioned except of wardship and marriage.

    (3) Tenures in Villenage or Base Tenures. Tenures in villenage were tenures calling for what were then regarded as base services, that is, menial duties. These tenants lived in villages near the lord's castle, and were called villeins. There were two sorts of tenures in villenage, those in pure villenage in which the tenant must give all services called for, and villenage in socage, in which the amount of the services he could be called upon to do was limited.

    This was the system of feudalism so far as we may notice it here. It made great distinctions between real and personal property which are preserved to some extent to-day. It made personal property subject to seizure for the ancestor's debts, but not real property. This is not wholly true to-day, but the personal property of a deceased person is first subject to the ancestor's debts, before the land can be taken. This is a remnant of the feudal system. So doubtless is the rule that passes the real estate direct to the heir but puts the title to personal property in the executor or administrator.


    Commentary: COVID-19 Lockdowns Have Created a New Feudalism

    On February 28, the idea of locking down and smashing economies and human rights the world over was unthinkable to most of us but lustily imagined by intellectuals hoping to conduct a new social/political experiment. On that day, New York Times reporter Donald McNeil released a shocking article: To Take On the Coronavirus, Go Medieval on It.

    He was serious. Most all governments – with few exceptions like Sweden and the Dakotas in the US – did exactly that. The result has been shocking. I’ve previously called it the new totalitarianism.

    Another way to look at this, however, is that the lockdowns have created a new feudalism. The workers/peasants toil in the field, struggling for their own survival, unable to escape their plight, while privileged lords and ladies live off the labors of others and issue proclamations from the estate on the hill above it all.

    Consider a restaurant at which I dined one week ago in New York City. The mask mandate is in full force except that diners can take them off once seated. The staff cannot. The wait staff of restaurants wear plastic gloves too. Here you have diners enjoying themselves with food and drink and laughter, many of whom work at home and have faced relatively less economic deprivation, which I assume given how much this class of diners is throwing around on evening revelry.

    Meanwhile, you have this wait staff and the kitchen staff too with their faces covered, their voices muffled, and forced into what seems to be a subservient role. They appear like a different caste. Society has decided to relegate them to the ranks of the unclean. The lockdowns have turned a dignified equality that once existed between the staff and customers, all cooperating together to live better lives, and turned it into a theater for feudalistic absurdism.

    The symbolism of this troubles me so much that my own dining experiences have been changed from a time of socializing into a vision of tragedy that breaks my heart. Think for a moment about the main victims of lockdowns: working classes, the poor, people who travel for a living, those working in arts and hospitality, children locked out of schools, people who can’t just convert their office jobs into living-room jobs. They were never asked their opinions on policies that destroyed their lives and degraded their choice of profession.

    The main victims do not typically have Twitter accounts. They do not write academic articles. They do not write articles for newspapers. They aren’t talking heads on TV. And they sure as heck aren’t economically protected with a tax-funded job in a public health department in a state bureaucracy. They are out there getting food to the groceries, delivering things to your front door, hopping around in restaurants to make sure you get your food. They are in the factories, the warehouses, the fields, the meat-packing plants, and also in the hospitals and hotels. They are voiceless and not only because their masks impede their ability to communicate they have been robbed of any voice in public affairs even though their lives are on the line.

    Lockdowns have done nothing to drive the virus away. This virus will become like all others of its kind in history: it will become endemic (predictably manageable) as our immune systems adapt to it, via naturally acquired immunity in absence of a vaccine that may never arrive or will only be partially effective just like the flu vaccine. Which is to say: we will reach herd immunity one way or another.

    Ask yourself who is bearing the burden of achieving this. It’s not the blue checkmarks on Twitter, the co-authors of articles in the Lancet, and certainly not the journalists at the New York Times.

    The burden of herd immunity is being born by those who are out and about in the world, even as the keyboarded professional class sits home and waits. Under the influence of Professor Sunetra Gupta, I would call that absolutely immoral. Feudal. A new caste system concocted by intellectuals who have chosen their own short-term interests over the interests of everyone else.

    The FAQ at the Great Barrington Declaration explains that “the strategies to date have managed to ‘successfully’ shift infection risk from the professional class to the working class.”

    Think about the implications of that. The politicians and intellectuals who put this new feudalism in place tossed out all normal concerns over freedom, justice, equality, democracy, and universal dignity in favor of the creation of a strict caste system. So much for Locke, Jefferson, Acton, and Rawls. The medical technocracy cared only about conducting an unprecedented experiment in managing the social order as if it consisted entirely of lab rats.

    It was already happening when the lockdowns began. This group does essential work while that group does nonessential work. This medical procedure is elective and thus delayed while that one can go ahead. This industry can continue on as normal while this one must shut down until we can say otherwise. There is nothing about this system that is consistent with any modern sense of how we want to live.

    We went full medieval indeed, ending arts, sports, museums, travel, access to normal medical services, and even putting an end to dentistry for a few months. The poor have suffered so much. Medieval indeed.

    In light of all this, I’ve come to have the highest respect for Sunetra’s Gupta’s cry to completely rethink the way we handle social theory in the presence of pathogens. She posits what she called the Social Contract for Infectious Diseases. She explains that it is not a document but rather endogenous and evolutionary in light of what we’ve learned about pathogens over the centuries. We agree to live with them and among them even as we work to build civilization, recognizing freedom and the rights of everyone.

    Why did we previously insist on terms like human rights and freedoms? Because we believed they are inalienable that is, that they cannot be taken away regardless of the excuse. We baked these ideas into our laws, constitutions, institutions, and into our civic codes found in pledges, songs, and traditions. The social contract we practice with regard to the threat of infectious diseases is that we manage them intelligently while never trampling on the dignity of the human person. The payoff is that our immune systems get stronger, enabling all of us to enjoy longer and healthier lives – not just some of us, not just the legally privileged, not just those with access to platforms to speak but rather every single member of the human community.

    We made that deal many centuries ago. We’ve practiced it well for hundreds of years, which is why we’ve never before experienced draconian and near-universal lockdowns of essential social functioning.

    This year we broke the deal. We shattered and smashed the social contract.

    It’s not surprising at all that a “medieval approach” to disease would also result in the deletion of so many modern advances in social/political understanding and consensus. It was reckless to the point of being evil. It has created a new feudalism of haves and have nots, essentials and unessentials, us and them, the served and the servers, the rulers and the ruled – all defined in the edicts passed by panicked dictators at all levels acting on the advice of bloodless intellectuals who couldn’t resist a chance to rule the world by force.

    One final note: bless those who call this out and refuse to go along.

    Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and nine books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown.
    Photo “Lockdown” by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York CC BY 2.0.


    Anakbayan USA, a national organization of Filipino youth and students dedicated to advancing democratic rights, sends this response:

    In the viral Atlantic article, “My Family’s Slave,” author Alex Tizon tells his account of Eudocia Tomas Pulido, who was to Tizon’s family both “Lola” and slave. Behind the heart-wrenching storytelling is a reality we must face: the oppressive class structures and culture that brought forth Eudocia’s enslavement and trafficking, and the need to change them in order to address the root of modern day slavery within the Filipino community.

    The use of underpaid and overworked katulong, utusan, and kasambahay—the kind of servitude Eudocia was forced to perform—is common practice among many Filipino families. It is an unjust practice that stems from a violent history of colonization and exploitation of the Filipino people. In the Philippines, thousands of Filipinos are brought to the cities, suburbs, and wealthy households in the countryside as domestic help. These domestic helpers are very often young women who must face exploitative conditions. No matter their destination, they are undoubtedly a product of the massive landlessness and joblessness brought about by feudalism in the Philippines.

    Feudalism is primarily an agriculture-based economic system where most farmers or peasants don’t own land and are forced to work for a landlord who profits off excessive land rent rates, exorbitant loan interest rates, and very low crop prices, among others. Over decades, this setup has become dominant across the Philippines. In effect, it has left 9 out of 10 farmers landless today and has forced peasants and families to sell their labor to landlords, in urban areas, and abroad.

    Equally important to this economic system is the backward haciendero, or feudal, culture needed to maintain it. Oppressive religious practices combined with the lack of access to quality education produces a culture in which people internalize unquestioning obedience and utang na loob (debt of gratitude). It produces a society where exploitation is downplayed as a temporary state worth bearing to prevent any collective resistance and thoroughgoing change. In a feudal society, bahala na (come what may) becomes a guiding principle, just as Eudocia was forced to internalize.

    Domestic feudalism also plays a role in the forced migration of millions of Filipinos every year. Along with imperialist interests from countries like the U.S., feudalism helps to maintain an economic structure in the Philippines that is export-oriented and import-dependent. On one hand, agricultural products like sugar and coconuts produced on feudal haciendas (with one of the largest haciendas in the Philippines located in the same province Eudocia hails from), as well as other natural resources like minerals, are exported to other countries. On the other hand, finished consumer goods—like electronics, clothes, and cars—are largely imported and sold to the Philippines at high rates rather than made domestically. This is due to unequal trade agreements with imperialist countries that seek to dump excess products on foreign markets to earn profit. In essence, Filipino peasant farmers who work long days to produce goods that feed and supply the rest of the world face the harsh contradiction of being unable to provide for their own families.

    The result? Lack of domestic industry and widespread landlessness—conditions that have pushed Filipinos into poverty, and subsequently out of the country to find work. Facilitated by Philippine laws and institutions, and dictated by foreign demands, Philippine migration has supplied the world with at least 12 million Filipinos, four million of whom are in the U.S., with one of those families being the Tizons. Beyond the reality that Filipinos are forced to migrate abroad due to lack of economic opportunity at home, many are actually trafficked and forced to work in different countries. Indeed, Eudocia is one of hundreds of Filipinos who are trafficked into the U.S. every year as teachers, bakery workers, shipyard workers, and more.

    Tizon’s confession opened the eyes of many to an unjust social practice occurring in the Philippines and abroad. It is a practice stemming from feudalism, imperialism, and a government in place that facilitates this exploitation and oppression of its people. This does not exonerate the Tizon family’s abuse and exploitation of Eudocia. But in seeking justice for Eudocia, we should seek justice as well for the millions of Filipinos pushed into poverty and out of the country by feudal landlessness, joblessness, and the lack of opportunities. We invite those seeking to channel their justified rage, sadness, and desire to act to meet with or join a local chapter of Anakbayan-USA or other BAYAN USA organizations near you. Only through collective action and organizing can we ensure that no other person must live their life as someone else’s servant.

    In addition to the readers who related to the abuses that Eudocia “Lola” Pulido experienced, some readers saw parallels between Alex Tizon’s story and domestic violence they’d witnessed within their own families. Mara writes:

    I am a white, American-born woman many years younger than Alex and thus my experiences are very different from his, yet I relate to his story in a way that I have not seen addressed: I grew up in an abusive household and live every day with the guilt of not doing more to rectify my parents’ transgressions.

    It must be acknowledged that exposing a child to domestic violence is a form of abuse with lifelong effects Alex witnessed Lola’s mistreatment as a constant presence in his youth, and clearly struggled with that legacy for the rest of his life. Although he did not recognize himself as such in “My Family’s Slave,” he too deserves our sympathy as victim. A child has no choice but to comply with their parents’ abusive behavior—must comply in order to survive. That normalization of and forced complicity with violence creates a sense of self-doubt and helplessness which does not magically vanish in adulthood. The criticisms of Alex’s decisions have not acknowledged this crucial dynamic, and it’s not something easily understood unless one has lived it.

    Bruce gives a wrenching account of what he and his mother lived through:

    Like Alex, I grew up with domestic violence. It began even before I could even remember. My mother told me that one time, my dad had her on the ground, and was standing over her, whipping her with his belt. My twin brother and I were cowering in a corner crying, and when my dad left, I crawled over to her and caressed her face. I hadn’t learnt to talk yet.

    I remember waking up one night to sounds of my father yelling and my mother whimpering. My brother was too scared to go outside of our bedroom. I did and saw my father on top of my mother, pulling out her hair and ripping her nightgown. I yelled out at my dad, asking him what was going on. When he turned around, he warned me not to come closer or he might do something he would regret. I was probably in fourth grade at the time. He would bring knives out and say he may have to kill our entire family in order to somehow “protect” us, and often he would tell my brother and I to yell at my mother, so that he wouldn’t have to. He was conditioning me to abuse my mother, and I meekly complied because of the fear I had of him.

    One time when I was about 17, my father made my mother kneel in front of him, and when he slapped her across the face, I pushed him away and yelled at him to never touch her again. I was physically stronger than my father at that point, but still paralyzed by the ingrained fear I had of him until he physically hurt her. It was the first time I physically and verbally confronted him.

    As an immigrant and a minority in Australia, I was accustomed to hiding things from my white peers about my family. From the food we ate, to the customs we observed and did not observe, and to the language we spoke. This sort of home life was almost another natural secret I had to observe to fit in. This is not an excuse for my cowardice, but perhaps a contributing factor as to why I didn’t fight back. Hiding things, including my volatile home life, was normal to me.

    With this personal background, I did not see Alex’s essay as an apology for slaveowners, but a sincere effort to recount the most profoundly affecting piece of his life as it was. To me, Alex’s story is of a poor minority child and his mother, and a powerlessness when seeing his mother beaten and humiliated from his earliest consciousness. Sarah Jeong’s commentary alluded to this well, and I believe Alex saw Lola as his mother, and loved her as such. Alex’s later understanding of his biological mother was not an apology for her behavior, but understanding the complexity of human beings. I’ve also come to understand my father not just as the monster that I knew, but as someone who came from abuse and homelessness. Nobody exists in a vacuum.

    Today I am a 30-year-old man, a medical scientist, and a combat engineer in the Australian Army Reserve. I am still coming to terms with how my childhood affected and continues to affect my brother and I. It’s easy to be quick to judge others, but takes much contemplation to be able to walk in their shoes. In the military, it is compulsory for us to watch videos every year on domestic violence, and many of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms cannot understand how victims of domestic violence can allow themselves to be so. I hope that my story can perhaps put into context Alex’s experience when trying to understanding this multi-generational tragedy.

    I am glad Alex was able to tell Lola’s story before he passed.

    Rest in peace, Eudocia Tomas Pulido.

    As numerous readers have written, one of the most moving aspects of “My Family’s Slave” is that Alex Tizon was able to honor Eudocia Tomas Pulido, whom he knew as Lola, by telling her story—while one of the tragedies is that Pulido was never able to tell it herself. My colleague Vann writes:

    Tizon doesn’t know her desires, fears, attachments, or even very much about her own story. He attempts to learn these things, but doesn’t get very far, and we never learn whether the failure is due simply to Pulido’s reticence or to the fact that years of servitude had minimized her story even in her own mind.

    After reading Alex’s essay and some of the criticism on social media, this reader wrote to us with the subject line, “On Eudocia, from someone who went through it”:

    For half my childhood, I was indentured. I was born in Canada, went to school in this country, and it still happened to me. I’m incredibly thankful that I got to grow out of it, but trauma hurts the most in its resonance.

    Listening to those claiming to seek justice for Eudocia has felt like a scab opening over and over again. Please, do not take actions on behalf of indentured and enslaved people without consulting them. Do not seek reparations for us without asking. Those in the disability rights movement say, “Nothing about us, without us.” I think this mindset applies to those of us who have gone through forced servitude. We don’t want what you think is best for ourselves.

    For my own situation, finding peace and healing after escaping took precedent over any vengeance or confrontation. I would have hated to become a hashtag.

    Several other readers also wrote in to say that Eudocia’s experiences reminded them of their own—including Juliet, whose mother came from Tarlac, the same province in the Philippines where Eudocia was born:

    I may have accidentally found this article for a reason. I myself was a slave given to live with family members I didn’t even know. I had to wake up in a hard cold cement area under the stairway. Like a cold dog, I’d be woken up with harsh words and a kick on the rib cage jolting my teenage body. Sad to find out Lola didn’t get an education. I persevered to go to school at night when I was done with all my housework.

    I ran away when things got worse and taught myself in a lot of ways to survive. But I don’t feel completely free. It becomes a codependency—it’s hard to explain, but it’s there, a learned trait. Part of life as a slave is interweaving survival and seeking freedom. You never know what freedom is because you have become immune.

    This essay has brought me to tears as it reminded me of my childhood.

    I was brought to the city by my grandparents to study at a Catholic school back in the Philippines. That was in 1980. My parents were left in the province, as they had their jobs there.

    My grandparents and my mother’s brothers and sisters would ask us to do errands, household chores, and wash their laundry while our cousins just sat down in the living room playing or chatting. When I was in elementary, I used to clean my aunt’s house during the weekends to be able to read my cousin’s fairy tale books in her library. This I did secretly.

    There was no snack when we went to school, as my grandmother would constantly complain of having no money while we eat our meals. We were also prevented from eating anything from the fridge. Our parents were sending money, but it seems that it was not enough for them.

    Finally, J. shares the long and painful story of her own escape:

    I was brought to America from Korea when I was 6, and raised by my dad and a woman who I thought was my mother. I found out when I was 11 that she was my stepmother and that my real mother was the lady I was taught to believe was my temporary babysitter.

    From age 6 to 14, I was a butt of every type of abuse this woman could throw at me. Words can not describe the cunning cruelty of this woman, who learned the most peculiar punishments from heaven knows where and decided they were appropriate to dole it out on me to get back at my dad for messing around behind her back. She used me as bait, calling my father to come home and “rescue” his daughter telling him that I would be punished until he raced back home from his mistress’s place. I was responsible for pleasing her by keeping a clean house, massaging her back and shoulders for hours after she finished work, and taking care of the dog she loved so dearly, all the while making sure to bring home straight As from school.

    Everyone knew I was abused. Everyone saw it, pitied me, but no one did anything. Once I went to school with a giant, visible bruise and when the teacher asked what happened, I nonchalantly said that my mom hit me with the Barbie as punishment. Social services was called and my stepmom was hauled away to jail, but not before I came home and she beat everything out of me while my father stood by idly as he always did. My friends all knew, their parents knew, but no one did anything. They thought it wasn’t their business.

    My dad did one thing that was in my favor—he sent me away every summer to his sister, who lived a very comfortable life in Canada with her husband and son. She taught me things about homemaking, took me on trips, gave me attention, and was a mother figure to me. And when I was 16, he sent me away to her for good. He said it was just for a year, but it wound up being much, much longer than that.

    My second “Lola” story began there. I was now her burden, and my father did not give her any support to take care of me. She had lost her husband suddenly to a brain aneurysm three years prior and she was alone with a son in his teenage years and trying to manage a donut store that was failing against its fierce big-brand competitors.

    From 16 to 17 when I graduated high school, I worked every day after school and weekend, sometimes into the wee hours of the night and morning because it was a 24-hour joint. And when I tried to leave to move back to NYC, she begged me to stay—after all, who was there for me all these years?

    We all moved to another part of Toronto and we opened up a bagel store. For two years, I worked from crack of dawn until close, with no days off—96 hours a week while she golfed and dealt with her depression and anger issues. Never was a given a single dollar for work—never one penny. When push came to shove, I told her I needed to go to college. She agreed to let me go under two conditions—that my mother (whom I’d reconnected with) pay for it and that I continue to work for her, for free.

    For four more years, I busted my ass morning and night. I took Civil Engineering and was offered paid internships—which she made me turn down, because who would run the store for her? I was broke, trapped and broken.

    I understand Lola—she could have run away, she could have revolted, but in her way, she loved her owners. And she was scared to make waves. It was up to her to keep the peace in the family, her responsibility and burden to keep things going.

    During my last semester, my aunt and my entire family moved to NYC and left me to fend for myself without a penny. I quickly found a job as a cashier in downtown Toronto restaurant and got my first pay in years. It was an amazing feeling. Within weeks, I got a promotion and within a year, I was a manager making excellent money.

    That was 10 years ago. Today, I run two departments in a tech company. I travel the world, meet all kinds of people, and coordinate donations and volunteer activities with several charitable organizations that my steering committee and I select every quarter.

    My “Lola” story is one with a happy ending. I am loved, I am strong, I am able to empathize with others, and I am able to give. Tragic events don’t have to remain that way. Cowardly people don’t have to remain that way either. And we all have the power to rise above.

    Thanks for listening to my story.

    If you would like to share a similar experience, please email us at [email protected] Update from another reader, who was born in Korea:

    When I was 12, my mom passed away suddenly and my brother and I were sent to my father’s sister’s family in Dallas. She and her husband were and are a well-respected deacon family running a dry cleaners. They demanded green card fees and money from my family for the trouble of taking care of us.

    I was woken up every morning at 5:30 to make breakfast for everyone while my aunt and her husband went to morning prayers and to work. My brother and I were never given lunch money, so we would have to bring something from home while our cousins of similar ages were paid for. We had to walk to and from school under hot Texas sun, while our cousins were picked up. They bad-mouthed us to our family back in Korea, as if we were partying and failing school while we were doing great. They made us write sobbing letters to home so the family would feel sorry for us and send more money, while we had to work at the dry cleaners on the weekend and during summer. I cleaned my aunt’s closets full of clothes and name-brand bags. I cleaned their bathrooms and made meals. I felt sorry for my brother, who is two years younger than me, so I would save up small coins I got from working at the store and gave it to him so he could buy something sweet at the school cafeteria. I was only 12, so I didn’t know how else to protect him. When my older cousin gave me an old shirt of hers, my aunt slapped me asking me if I had lost my mind. I prayed to God to take my life away in my sleep or wake me up from this horrible dream.

    This continued until eventually money ran out and they sent us back with our expired passports. Even though they claimed that they paid for lawyers to get us green cards, there wasn’t such a thing. I begged my aunt to at least keep my younger brother so he could study in the U.S.—I would send money from working at a factory or something when I went back to Korea. They sent us back anyway because we were useless now.

    I did well for myself. I had a good career. But I will never forgive and forget the life I went through and the trauma I had to get over because of them.

    Eudocia "Lola" Tomas Pulido in 1976 Courtesy of Alex Tizon and His Family

    In response to Alex Tizon’s essay “My Family’s Slave,” Richard Buck writes:

    I am stunned by Alex’s story. Alex sat at a desk right beside mine for six months when we were both reporters at The Seattle Times. He was immensely talented and well-liked as well as respected.

    When I learned his story would be on the cover of the magazine I was proud. Now, my feelings are mixed.

    On the one hand, Alex was a dogged reporter, a talented writer, a friendly colleague. He certainly did a good job writing this story. I am sorry for the loss of a good journalist who was my co-worker.

    But on the other hand, I’m embarrassed (I wonder: Why does any of this rub off on me?) that he did not do much more, much sooner to improve her life. Knowing what he did, why did he allow his mother to continue to “own” this woman? And why did he want The Seattle Times to publish an obituary after Lola’s death that failed to recognize the most significant fact of her life?

    Several other readers also pointed out that obituary, in which Alex had described Lola to a reporter as a devoted grandmother figure who devoted her life to “cooking, cleaning and caring for three generations [and] asked for nothing in return.” The newspaper’s response to The Atlantic’s story is here.

    Of the hundreds of emails we’ve received in response to Alex’s essay, nearly all express being moved by the story. Katrina Langford calls it a masterpiece: “I can only imagine how difficult this journey was to make as a writer.” Frank Daniels calls it “an amazing article, by an amazing and compassionate man.” Ruby Moon calls it a love letter: “It touched me to the point that it made me cry.” Many describe intense emotional reactions: tears, shaking hands, sweaty palms, and an inability to stop reading. They write about reading and weeping at work, in class, or in the middle of the night, as if Lola and Alex had entered their lives. From Magdalena Chudzinska:

    I’ve just read the article “My Family’s Slave” by Alex Tizon. I cannot thank him, but I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to read such a beautiful story. I’ve been reading it for three days, during my little pauses at work. Couldn’t have finished it at one blow, because was always starting to cry and my team was asking me if everything was fine. I’m puzzled and cracked inside after this story … but that’s good.

    These responses point to the resonance of Alex’s personal narrative: His perspective makes the story of Lola all the more vivid, because of—not in spite of—its flaws and his guilt.

    However, Rob Byron, another reader, points out the limits of that point of view:

    Jeffrey Goldberg hedges in his editor’s note by saying Alex Tizon’s piece is “the sort of journalism The Atlantic has practiced since its inception.” Respectfully, I would ask Mr. Goldberg to prove it. It’s straight memoir, soup to nuts, and the editorial decision to print it without any further reporting to prop it up seems dubious. Readers are left with too many questions: Was the point to raise awareness about the plight of unpaid or underpaid domestic workers in the U.S.? Was it to exorcise family guilt?

    A friend of mine who’s a respected editor and colleague had this to say: “Hopefully some talented journalist will pick up the thread and report from [Lola’s] hometown about the slave system still in place there or dig deeper into slavery in the U.S. I’d like to see that journalism.”

    So would I.

    We’ll be publishing several articles to follow Alex’s essay, situating his story in a broader cultural and economic context. The first, by Ai-jen Poo, discusses the persistence of modern-day slavery in the U.S. We’ll also be publishing the personal stories of readers like Claudia, who experienced conditions similar to those Lola did. If you would like to share your story, please email [email protected] let us know where you’re writing from, and whether you’d like to remain anonymous.

    Jonathon Bernard also criticizes the editor’s note:

    At the least, Alex Tizon aided and abetted slaveowners, and The Atlantic links to an uncritical memorial to him before telling the story of the slave. The note should acknowledge the author’s role in his own story as much as his skill in writing about it and how “thrilled” The Atlantic was to run it.

    But Kimberly McAllister writes:

    I just saw the memo detailing the backlash to the story. I wrote in earlier praising the piece, and I just want to add that I didn’t get the sense at all that he was condoning what his family had done. He was horrified by his family’s treatment of Lola. To expect a young Alex to turn them in or criticize him for enabling their behavior is to lay the blame at the wrong person’s feet. It also foolishly ignores how complicated family relationships are. Just an additional thought.

    Rarely are the narrators of the world’s most necessary or impactful stories blameless. I cannot help but agree that Tizon’s complacence over the years—especially as he grew older—amounts to an offense. Nevertheless, I do not agree that self-righteous indignation constitutes the appropriate response to this story or to Tizon’s actions. I doubt that many people would be brave enough to cut ties with their family (or at the very least, to seriously shake the foundations of their family relationships), even for such a good reason as the liberation of a slave.

    Indifference to injustice also comes at a heavy cost, one that Tizon no doubt paid and continued to pay after Lola died. But I sympathize with him even while I lament his failures and those of his family. His story cannot compensate Lola’s suffering, but it reminds readers of the dangers of looking the other way.

    Dana Marterella was upset by the article: “To make a disturbing story even worse, the ‘caring surrogate mother/servant’ trope is a highly problematic and tired cliché.” But a Filipina reader, Jewel Jumangit, explains the broader cultural context of that relationship:

    An important note to this is that kasambahay or katulong culture is a socially accepted norm in the Philippines that dates way back. Now, our maids and yayas (nannies) who classify as kasambahay or katulong are protected by laws to make sure they are paid the minimum wage and are given benefits by the families they work for. Our kasambahays and katulongs become a part of our family, just like Lola was a member of the Tizon family despite being a slave.

    I was raised with the help of yayas from the moment I was born, up until I left for college. When I go back home, they are still there waiting for me. I’ve had a number of yayas over the years, all of whom I have loved for the care they gave me, and not once has it crossed my mind to ask myself if my family treated them right until this article.

    I know for a fact that my family has always paid them enough, gave them their own private room, did not deprive them of food or leisure, and covered their medical needs when needed. Yet that still does not erase the fact that there is something inherently problematic with this kasambahay culture that is laden with social inequality.

    Another Filipina reader says the article “opened up conversations”:

    I was so moved by the essay, but a bit put out by the instant condemnation it has gathered, especially by Western readers. While the abuse (and the Tizon family’s seems to be an extreme case) can in no way be forgiven or tolerated, taking in helpers is a deeply rooted practice in Philippine society. Poverty is rampant it’s what leads Lola and countless others to submit themselves to serving richer people who live in the cities. Each relationship is different, with some looking like Lola’s and the Tizons’ and others a proper employer-employee relationship with employee benefits. I wouldn’t be as quick to call the modern-day helpers “slaves,” but it is definitely dehumanizing, even in the best relationships.

    A lot of the culture comes into play. For example, there’s the concept of utang na loob, this sense of gratitude people expect their helpers to have, for even taking them in and giving them a job when so many others don’t have that. Our kasambahays raised us, but we’re always taught that we’re above them and that we will achieve better things than them. It’s drilled into our heads and something that even our kasambahays subscribe to. In Alex Tizon’s home, I bet it was difficult for Lola to even sit on that couch. She had been conditioned to think that it was simply not her place.

    Poverty does this to people. And it’s common. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s accepted.

    It is so easy to call “My Family’s Slave” a simple slaveowners’ story. But these characters, told from Mr. Tizon’s POV only, are definitely multidimensional. A lot of people have made bad moral decisions throughout their lifetime, and while I’m definitely not excusing Mr. Tizon’s, I read the regret into it. The conversations he has opened are his legacy, and I’m thankful and hopeful. I hope our kasambahay laws will be improved and that we create a friendlier, more humanizing environment for the people who raised us and continue to raise our families.

    I think that the responses to this essay give credence to the author’s ability to tell a story, and it was a lovely (almost poetic) ending [to his life] to publish this essay. All the hate, awe, and marvel at his account of Lola is a testament to just how many have been touched by his piece.

    With sadness, I know that the noise for eradicating modern slavery will die down, and people will forget as they always do. At best, I hope that there will be some progress for this cause.

    But I believe that the real power of this story is giving a face and name to humanity’s propensity for sacrifice, forgiveness, and love despite deplorable conditions. The tragedy of people like Lola—whom people pity and admire at the same time—or any other great human being without a voice is that their stories are never known. For me, this was Tizon’s gift and redemption.


    Community Reviews

    See also his son, David V. Herlihy, for works on the history of cycling.

    David Herlihy (May 8, 1930 – February 15, 1991) was an American historian who wrote on medieval and renaissance life. He was married to historian Patricia Herlihy. Particular topics of his included domestic life, especially the roles of women, and the changing structure of the family. He studied for his bachelors at the Univer See also his son, David V. Herlihy, for works on the history of cycling.

    David Herlihy (May 8, 1930 – February 15, 1991) was an American historian who wrote on medieval and renaissance life. He was married to historian Patricia Herlihy. Particular topics of his included domestic life, especially the roles of women, and the changing structure of the family. He studied for his bachelors at the University of San Francisco, received a doctoral degree from Yale University and taught at Bryn Mawr College, Wisconsin, Harvard and Brown.

    His study of the Florentine and Pistoiese Catasto of 1427 is one of the first statistical surveys to use computers to analyze large amounts of data. The resulting book examines statistical patterns in tax-collecting surveys to find indications of social trends.

    The University of San Francisco history department named their annual award for the best student-written history paper the David Herlihy Prize, and Brown University has established a David Herlihy University Professorship. . more


    Feudalism in France

    In its origin, the feudal grant of land had been seen in terms of a personal bond between lord and vassal, but with time and the transformation of fiefs into hereditary holdings, the nature of the system came to be seen as a form of “politics of land.” The 11th century in France saw what has been called by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and a “fragmentation of powers” that was unlike the development of feudalism in England, Italy, or Germany in the same period or later. In France, counties and duchies began to break down into smaller holdings as castellans and lesser seigneurs took control of local lands, and (as comital families had done before them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a wide range of prerogatives and rights of the state—most importantly the highly profitable rights of justice, but also travel dues, market dues, fees for using woodlands, obligations to use the lord’s mill, etc. Power in this period became more personal and decentralized.

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