Why Feudalism Declined in Europe

The decline of Feudalism was a complex process, one that didn’t happen overnight but continued for hundreds of years. The theory of feudalism describes the mutual obligations between lord and vassal in exchange for land ownership. In reality, these relationships were not so idealistic and would often be rife with tension between the classes. This tension would eventually lead to the collapse of feudalism in Europe. While there are many historical events that led to the decline of feudalism, they can be organized into five main themes: class warfare, the rise of the merchant class, famine and disease, failure of Feudalism, and The Wars

Class warfare

It is thought that the rise of the merchant class was a major factor in feudalism’s decline. Most merchants were members of the middle class, who bought and sold goods rather than producing them; they also made loans. The merchant class provided an alternative source of wealth and power to that enjoyed by noblemen, which weakened their hold on society.

Wars between nobles caused suffering for commoners and disrupted trade routes, making life more difficult for everyone. The Black Death killed millions of people at its peak in Europe from 1348 to 1351; it spread quickly because public health standards were low and people had little knowledge about how diseases spread. In addition, there were food shortages due to poor harvests caused by bad weather or war damage; many nobles had been forced off their land when it was taken over by peasants who didn’t have enough income to pay taxes or rents after being paid in kind (with grain instead of money).

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Rise of the merchant class

The growth of the merchant class and their growing power was a direct result of greater trade between countries. As trade increased and merchants became more wealthy, they increasingly challenged the nobility.

The rise of the merchant class also had a significant effect on how people viewed themselves. The development of national identity (as opposed to regional or local identities) was largely due to merchants’ desire for peace and stability within their own country. In addition, this new sense of individualism allowed them to develop a sense of community with others who shared similar interests and values, such as family members in other towns or cities within a nation’s borders.

The Wars

Feudalism declined because of the wars. There were three major wars that led to its decline: the French-English war, the church-state war, and the noble-peasant war.

  • The first was between France and England. An English king named Edward III claimed some of France’s territory as his own (the border between these territories is known as the Channel). When he invaded France in 1337, they fought back; they eventually defeated him at a battle called Crecy in 1346, but then lost another battle at Poitiers in 1356—which meant that both kings were captured by their enemies! This loss was so devastating to them that it left them without a leader for many years afterward until someone else became king again (Richard II). They never recovered from this defeat until 1453 when Henry VI took over leadership once again after winning back all their land from those pesky French people who kept invading our country.”
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Food shortage

Another factor that contributed to the decline of feudalism in Europe was food shortage. During this time, many people were not getting enough food to survive. This was because there weren’t enough resources available to support everyone. If there wasn’t enough food being produced and distributed, then it is likely that some people would go hungry or even starve to death.

Failure of Feudalism

One of the main reasons feudalism was a failure was because it required a large amount of land to be owned by the lord and worked by his peasants. This meant that there had to be enough agricultural land for everyone, but as more people moved into cities and towns during this time, there was not enough food being produced for them all.

In order for feudalism to function properly, the king had to grant his vassals land from his own lands so that they could give some back to their peasants in return for working on their behalf. However, this practice led to many problems:

  • The king’s permission wasn’t always given freely; sometimes he would demand payment or other favors in exchange for permission
  • Vassals would often pay their dues with food or other goods instead of actual money which made accounting difficult
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The end of feudalism did not happen overnight but was a complex and lengthy process.

The end of feudalism did not happen overnight but was a complex and lengthy process. Feudalism is a complex system, so the decline of feudalism was also complicated. It was not just a political system, it was not just a military system, it was not just a social system and it was not just an economic system.

The decline of feudalism started with war and destruction; people were tired of fighting each other for no reason other than greed or revenge. They wanted something more stable in their lives so they could focus on things that mattered to them like family and friends rather than worrying about who would attack next from across the border with their army full of mercenaries hired out by nobles who wanted land or money from their neighbors’ crops so they could get rich quick by selling them back as food at inflated prices!


The end of feudalism marked the beginning of a new era in European history. The rise of cities and the middle class led to more trade, the discovery of new lands, and ultimately the Renaissance. Feudalism had served its purpose, but it was time for something new. The centuries that followed saw many changes in Europe: from exploration to reformation and beyond.

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