This paper is concerned with the problem of whether feudalism and manorialism helped make post-Carolingian western Europe a more stable and peaceful place than it otherwise would have been.
The following paper develops the argument that feudalism was not a constructive response to instability, but rather an oppressive and highly unstable system which developed opportunistically at a time of great instability. This paper contends that feudalism was the climate of insecurity created by the dramatic Viking invasions of the ninth century that allowed imperial officials and local leaders to convert themselves into petty rulers of small castellanies.
“ In the long run, feudalism probably contributed greatly to the overall amount of instability and violence in early medieval Europe. Emerging from within a society which was admittedly already extremely violent, it gave aggressive lords the opportunity to seize land and labor, institutionalizing a new mode of domination over the peasantry, manorialism. To the degree that peasants passively accepted the manorial system, rural society would have acquired a more stable character. However, because feudalism fostered a culture of violence between lords which was only finally overcome with the reconsolidation of royal power in the early modern centuries, European society probably became less stable than ever until feudalism was gone. In the meantime, the only institution which functioned as a force for stability was the Church.”