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A History of the Philippines by David P. Barrows

And feudalism was already declining


Disadvantages

of Feudalism.--The great curse of this system was that the feudal lords possessed the power to make war upon one another, and so continuous were their jealousies and quarrelings that the land was never free from armed bands, who laid waste an opponent's country, killing the miserable serfs who tilled the soil, and destroying their homes and cattle.

There was little joy in life and no popular learning. If a man did not enjoy warfare, but one other life was open to him, and that was in the Church. War and religion were the pursuits of life, and it is no wonder that many of the noblest and best turned their backs upon a life that promised only fighting and bloodshed and, renouncing the world, became monks. Monasticism developed in Europe under such conditions as these, and so strong were the religious feelings of the age that at one time a third of the land of France was owned by the religious orders.

The Town.--The two typical institutions of the early Middle Age were the feudal castle, with its high stone walls and gloomy towers, with its fierce bands of warriors armed in mail and fighting on horseback with lance and sword, and the monastery, which represented inn, hospital, and school. Gradually, however, a third structure appeared. This was the town. And it is to these mediaeval cities, with their busy trading life, their free citizenship, and their useful occupations, that the modern world owes much of its

liberty and its intellectual light.

The Renaissance.--Changes in Political Affairs.--By 1400, however, the Middle Age had nearly passed and a new life had appeared, a new epoch was in progress, which is called the Renaissance, which means "rebirth." In political affairs the spirit of nationality had arisen, and feudalism was already declining. Men began to feel attachment to country, to king, and to fellow-citizens; and the national states, as we now know them, each with its naturally bounded territory, its common language, and its approximately common race, were appearing.

France and England were, of these states, the two most advanced politically just previous to the fifteenth century. At this distant time they were still engaged in a struggle which lasted quite a century and is known as the Hundred Years' War. In the end, England was forced to give up all her claims to territory on the continent, and the power of France was correspondingly increased. In France the monarchy (king and court) was becoming the supreme power in the land. The feudal nobles lost what power they had, while the common people gained nothing. In England, however, the foundations for a representative government had been laid. The powers of legislation and government were divided between the English king and a Parliament. The Parliament was first called in 1265 and consisted of two parts,--the Lords, representing the nobility; and the Commons, composed of persons chosen by the common people.

Germany was divided into a number of small principalities,--Saxony, Bavaria, Franconia, Bohemia, Austria, the Rhine principalities, and many others,--which united in a great assembly, or Diet, the head of which was some prince, chosen to be emperor.


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