Myth of the Month 13: Feudalism (Episode #99)

Feudalism – it’s what they did in the Middle Ages! Nobles controlled the land and extracted labor from the serfs, and everyone from peasants to great lords was arranged in a big hierarchical pyramid leading up to the king. Or were they? We examine the ambiguities inherent in the idea of “feudalism,” and the reasons why it simply cannot hold up to examination against the historical record. Finally, we consider why the myth of feudalism developed and has persisted as a way of justifying the inequalities of our own era. Suggested Further reading: Carl Stephenson, “Mediaeval Feudalism”; Susan Reynolds, “Fiefs and Vassals”; Elizabeth Brown, “Tyranny of a Construct.” Music: “A Gut Yor,” written by David Meyerowitz and performed by Joseph Feldman, 1915, courtesy of Yiddish Penny Songs, My recent conversation on the queer Talmud podcast, “Xai, How Are You?” –

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