Was feudalism & manorialism practiced outside of Medieval Europe?

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,357
T'Republic of Yorkshire
I doubt Japan (at least by the Edo period) was as rigid as you portray. Slavery was outlawed; perhaps even serfdom at some point.

To say there was no social mobility would probably be wrong.

Societies as rigid as you describe would not have had such large cities (such as....Edo); or been a prime candiate for modernisation. You seem to describe a society more akin to Russia then Japan. (though, I suppose, like Russia, Japan combined a lot of progressive and feudalist tendencies..) (so did high medieval Europe but Edo Japan was considerably in advance of a high medieval feudal society.)
The rigidity of society was codified in law. Hideyoshi's Edict on Changing Status fixed everyone's status in law. Of course, there were ways around it, such as by being adopted, which some rich merchants did to give themselves samurai status. But it was not a route that was avilable to the common man.

Except for certain religious sects and professions, people were not free to travel. There were checkpoints at the borders of domains through which you could not pass unless you had papers. In practise, that meant peasants were confined to the place where they lived and worked.

And during the Edo period, the country was closed under the sakoku policy. Society was so rigid that laws decreed what clothes people were allowed to wear and what foods they could eat. Edo was certainly a large, and comparatively well administered city, but it thrived because of the rigidity, not in spite of it. Japan, by the time of the Meiji restoration was indeed ripe for modernisation.
 
Nov 2013
724
Texas
The rigidity of society was codified in law. Hideyoshi's Edict on Changing Status fixed everyone's status in law. Of course, there were ways around it, such as by being adopted, which some rich merchants did to give themselves samurai status. But it was not a route that was avilable to the common man.

Except for certain religious sects and professions, people were not free to travel. There were checkpoints at the borders of domains through which you could not pass unless you had papers. In practise, that meant peasants were confined to the place where they lived and worked.

And during the Edo period, the country was closed under the sakoku policy. Society was so rigid that laws decreed what clothes people were allowed to wear and what foods they could eat. Edo was certainly a large, and comparatively well administered city, but it thrived because of the rigidity, not in spite of it. Japan, by the time of the Meiji restoration was indeed ripe for modernisation.
A society anywhere near as rigidly hierarchical as even the Indians would be a pushover (much like India by the Persian sack of Delhi in 1739) ; Samurai status could be gained and lost, or even bought; and travel has long been a Japanese hobby.

How does a city (besides Singapore? Possibly Moscow? ) thrive on rigidity? I'm not sure that's really the history of thriving cities; I doubt late medieval Paris or Milan thrived because they were necessasrily the most rigid places (Milan being a merchant republic and all.....)

Cities may have thrived in spite of rigidity (such as Fez in Almohad dynasty Morrocco despite the relative and supposed incompetence of that dynasty), but seldom because of it....

Edo Japan was also considerably more centralised than (most?) feudal societies; hence why no daimyo were as powerful as say, the House of Percy in medieval England.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,357
T'Republic of Yorkshire
A society anywhere near as rigidly hierarchical as even the Indians would be a pushover (much like India by the Persian sack of Delhi in 1739) ; Samurai status could be gained and lost, or even bought; and travel has long been a Japanese hobby.

How does a city (besides Singapore? Possibly Moscow? ) thrive on rigidity? I'm not sure that's really the history of thriving cities; I doubt late medieval Paris or Milan thrived because they were necessasrily the most rigid places (Milan being a merchant republic and all.....)

Cities may have thrived in spite of rigidity (such as Fez in Almohad dynasty Morrocco despite the relative and supposed incompetence of that dynasty), but seldom because of it....

Edo Japan was also considerably more centralised than (most?) feudal societies; hence why no daimyo were as powerful as say, the House of Percy in medieval England.
Samurai status could not be "bought". It could be gained by being adopted by a samurai, and rich merchants sometimes bribed samurai to do just that. That is not the same as buying the status.

Yes, samurai could travel but they required official permission and papers to do so.

A city as large and sprawling as Edo requires strict laws to keep a population tightly under control. Common people could not travel between the different gated districts of the city unless they had the required passes. There were laws on what professions could be carried out where, the sizes and construction of houses, controls over the distribution of entertainment material such as woodblock prints and laws that regulated all aspects of life. That made the administration of a city of hundreds of thousands possible.

Edo Japan WAS a pushover. Why do you think Matthew Perry forced open the country with just a few ships?
 
Jan 2012
442
South Midlands in Britain
It might be interesting to learn how the Frankish `Crusader' states in the Middle East, such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem organised their domestic affairs. Did the victorious `Crusaders' take over the existing institutions from their previous Muslim overlords who had acquired them in turn from the Byzantine Empire, or did they seek to establish a more familiar European-style feudal authority?

I understand that peripheral European territories conquered by the `Crusaders', such as the region we know as modern Greece were for a period subjected to a form of imported Frankish feudalism but I have no idea how far down the social scale that went. Given the relatively short life-span of these polities it is reasonable to doubt if any of these arrangements persisted.

I will confess to have always looked upon the period of the medieval Christian Crusades in the Middle East as the border too far for Frankish ambition. It was never going to work as the logistics were against it, but they didn't know that until they tried it.
 
Nov 2013
724
Texas
Samurai status could not be "bought". It could be gained by being adopted by a samurai, and rich merchants sometimes bribed samurai to do just that. That is not the same as buying the status.

Yes, samurai could travel but they required official permission and papers to do so.

A city as large and sprawling as Edo requires strict laws to keep a population tightly under control. Common people could not travel between the different gated districts of the city unless they had the required passes. There were laws on what professions could be carried out where, the sizes and construction of houses, controls over the distribution of entertainment material such as woodblock prints and laws that regulated all aspects of life. That made the administration of a city of hundreds of thousands possible.

Edo Japan WAS a pushover. Why do you think Matthew Perry forced open the country with just a few ships?
Edo Japan was a pushover in the sense that governments (particularly dictatorships) have a way of "expiring" after 2 centuries. Edo Japan was well over 2 centuries old, nor would Matthew Perry have been able to conquer any major cities or provinces the way Robert Clive did when he took over Bengal. But had Edo Japan been easy to conquer; than it would have been conquered; instead it responded to the western threat far more competently than most other societies did at the time.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,175
Sydney
"Did the victorious `Crusaders' take over the existing institutions from their previous Muslim overlords who had acquired them in turn from the Byzantine Empire, or did they seek to establish a more familiar European-style feudal authority? "
Steve Runciman in his three books on the Crusade stated that the Western land tenure was imposed on the local , this resulted in higher taxes and grievous work details to build all the castles
for trade it seems that the crusaders followed the Eastern usages with some innovations of their own
it has been claimed the Templars invented banking and the letter of credit , their financial reputation was peerless , even Muslim pilgrims and merchants used their services
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,760
Cornwall
"Did the victorious `Crusaders' take over the existing institutions from their previous Muslim overlords who had acquired them in turn from the Byzantine Empire, or did they seek to establish a more familiar European-style feudal authority? "
Steve Runciman in his three books on the Crusade stated that the Western land tenure was imposed on the local , this resulted in higher taxes and grievous work details to build all the castles
for trade it seems that the crusaders followed the Eastern usages with some innovations of their own
it has been claimed the Templars invented banking and the letter of credit , their financial reputation was peerless , even Muslim pilgrims and merchants used their services
They were heavily involved with trade too and I have read accounts of quite strong link to the Assassins, bearing in mind they both sort of moved in the same circles, in their own religious sphere!
 
Jan 2012
442
South Midlands in Britain
They were heavily involved with trade too and I have read accounts of quite strong link to the Assassins, bearing in mind they both sort of moved in the same circles, in their own religious sphere!
The Assassins in those days were Ismaeli Muslims. Their modern counterparts are very astute in business. I have worked with some and hold them in high regard.
 
Nov 2019
15
New Jersey, USA
Marxist economic historians believe in historical periodization that all history follows a similar pattern based on the economic system of societies. Ancient societies have a slave economy, replaced by feudal societies with an economy based on landlords and peasants, replaced by modern societies with an economy based on industrialization and capitalism. The final stage of history according to Karl Marx is communism. Not that I agree with this theory but it explains the categories westerners tend to use when describing all parts of history.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,967
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
The Assassins in those days were Ismaeli Muslims. Their modern counterparts are very astute in business. I have worked with some and hold them in high regard.
I presume that the modern counterparts you hold in high regard are modern counterparts of Ismaeli Muslims in general and t not to Assassins in particular. :)