Feudalism was introduced to Britain by the Normans after the battle of 1066. King William claimed all the land for himself and proceeded to rent out percentages of it to the nobles. The nobles, in turn, rented out land to knights in return for their promise of allegiance. The commoners then worked the land and paid rent to the knights in return for their protection. I asked which class each child would have liked to belong to. The King was voted the most desirable class to be in!
I did a practical demonstration of how feudalism worked using Play Mobil figures and chocolate. This was so worth doing. I had thought the children understood feudalism but I this exercise showed they had missed the finer points of it. I set our rather grubby table as shown below. Really you could use any proportions so long as there is only one king, more knights than nobles and more peasants than knights.
Accordingly each peasant had to pay 6 out of their 10 chocolates (60%) to their knights in return for their protection. Each peasant ended up with only 40 % of the original equal share in the harvest:
Each knight could keep his 10 chocolates (100%) but out of the 6 given to him by each peasant, he had to pay 5 to the noble to show his allegiance (called a payment of fidelity) . Each knight, therefore, ended up with his 10 chocolates plus one each from the peasants he protected. In our illustration each knight had 2 peasants to protect and so ended up with 2 extra candies resulting in a total of 12 chocolates. This, in effect, was 120% of the original equal share of the harvest.
The nobles, although collecting the payment from the knights, were effectively being paid by the peasants at 5 chocolates each. Here our knights are paid by 2 peasants and each noble is paid by 3 knights (in other words 6 peasants) thereby receiving 30 chocolates in addition to the 10 from the harvest. From this 30 he needed to pay the king 6 chocolates from each knight who had paid his allegiance (a total of 18 chocolates). The nobles ended up with 22 chocolates, 220% of their original share of the harvest:
Afterwards the chocolates were shared out….democratically of course!!
It is always a joy to see our children using what they have learnt, but Gary and I had to giggle when T11 approached us yesterday with an idea. He had, in his infinite wisdom, decided to set up a feudal system in our garden. Each child has a patch of land about 3m by 2m which we have already given them. T11 had other plans however. He began to explain some elaborate scam, whereby he would rent out the three patches to his sisters and give us a cut of his proceeds!! He he, gotta love that boy!
The final activity I had planned is called the Four Alls and is from this book:
The Four Alls is a poem explaining the roles of each class in the feudal system. I had the children write out the poem and stick in appropriate pictures to make a lovely note page:
Next we began to make a diorama. The running shop near to us had saved us lots of boxes:
We made one into a castle by cutting turrets into its lid:
Now we were ready to decorate.