Why Feudalism Declined

A quick look at the history of feudalism shows that it was in decline for a long time before it finally ended. While many different events led to the end of this political and socio economic system, three were most important: Serfdom declined, warfare changed, and trade grew.


  • Serfdom. Serfs were peasants who were tied to the land. They had to work for their lord on that land, and they could not leave without his permission. This was an important aspect of feudalism because it prevented people from leaving their families behind when they moved away.
  • Feudal Lords. The feudal lord was responsible for protecting his people and ensuring that there was order within his land, which meant that he usually had a standing army or militia at his disposal to ensure this happened. The knight class became increasingly important in this role as time went on and warfare became more widespread between lords vying for power over others’ lands.* Knights were also responsible for protecting travelers passing through their territory so they could collect tolls if needed (which sometimes included food items such as grain).
See also  How Feudalism Worked


The decline of feudalism is closely tied to the rise of modern warfare. In order for a nation to be strong, it needed an effective military. Feudalism was based on land ownership and control, so any changes relating to the ownership or control of land would affect the system. With new technology and systems developed regarding warfare, feudalism began to decline because it became ineffective at protecting resources from hostile forces or fighting off invading armies.[1]

In addition to military prowess being important for a strong kingdom during this time period, so too was having powerful allies. If your kingdom had many allies and other kingdoms feared you enough that they did not want to attack you directly but rather go through another route then that would leave your realm as one with less risk than others.[2]


Trade was another important factor in the decline of feudalism. Trade provided an opportunity for serfs to earn money outside of their lord’s lands, allowing them to avoid some of the restrictions that came with serfdom. It also allowed for new technology and ideas from other countries to be introduced into Europe, which helped spur economic growth.

See also  Why Feudalism Ended

The decline of feudalism is best explained as a combination of three things: the decline of serfdom, the development of new warfare technology and systems, and the growth of trade.

The most important factor that contributed to the decline of feudalism was the development of new warfare technology and systems. The feudal system, which relied heavily on serfs, could not compete with newer methods of waging war.

Serfs were not free to move or work; they were bound to their lord’s land and had no choice but to work the land if they were unable to find other employment elsewhere. Serfs also had no freedom over their marriage, as marriages were arranged by lords for monetary reasons. Serfdom also meant that serfs could not own property nor defend themselves against attacks from other lords or bandits who attacked their homes at night, ransacking everything inside so that there would be nothing left for them upon returning home in the morning (this is why people still have guard dogs today).

See also  How Feudalism Started in Europe


When it comes to the decline of feudalism, there’s no one right answer. There were many different factors at play here, and some historians may argue that one played a bigger role than another. But what we can say is that they likely all had an impact on the decline in some way or another. Whether it was the economic realities facing serfs, the need for new warfare systems in order to keep up with neighboring countries, or the trade routes that created a business boom and economic growth, feudalism was slowly but surely phased out—and we still live with its legacy today!

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