religious, social, economic, and legal elements of town life that made the city so difficult for feudal and manorial society to contain. As town life grew, the towns citizens became resentful of the control feudal society held over them. Cities grew, trade grew, and people began working for themselves, rather than someone else. The people no longer wished to pay their lord part of their wages or earnings, and they began forming their own town councils and guilds, removing control from the manorial society. As a result, manorial society became archaic and declined, while the towns grew and prospered. Religion grew, building increased, and the first companies came into existence as the towns grew and feudalism declined. Feudalism served a purpose, but it had outlived its usefulness and towns developed and society changed.
Early medieval life revolved around the manor and a feudal society who served the lord of the manor. It was an agrarian society, made up of classes of people, from peasants all the way up to lords and kings. The peasants did not own their own property, they worked at the will of their lord and master, and it was a difficult and demanding existence. As the middle ages continued, life began to change. Cities and towns grew larger, and people began to engage in trade and commerce. Trade with other countries began to flourish during this time, and people who had access to the trade goods began acting as traveling salesman, traveling from village to village with desirable goods. A Web site notes, “As the demand for goods increased — particularly for the gems, silks, and other luxuries from Genoa and Venice, the ports of Italy that traded with the East — the peddlers became more familiar with complex issues of trade, commerce, accounting, and contracts” (Editors). As trade increased and the towns grew, feudal life grew less attractive. Economically, the peasants could better themselves in a town. They could become merchants, or they could learn a trade, and no longer be dependent on a feudal lord for their existence.
The trades flourished during this time, giving peasants options they had never had before. Feudalism dimmed in comparison, another reason for its decline and eventual disappearance.
As the towns grew in importance, the people began to resent the power manorial lords held over them. The Web site continues, “Arrangements were made for the townspeople to pay a fixed annual sum to the lord or king and gain independence for their town as a borough with the power to govern itself. The marketplace became the focus of many towns” (Editors). The marketplace remained the focus of many towns throughout medieval times, and they helped the towns grow and prosper. As the towns grew and more people began to work for themselves, the manors found it increasingly difficult to control their subjects. With their newfound freedom, people no longer depended on the manor for survival, and no longer had the desire to work long, backbreaking hours for someone elses gain. Feudal society began to collapse as the cities grew; there was simply no reason for it to continue.
As the towns grew, the people began to look for ways to govern themselves and protect themselves from what had occurred in feudal society. They began to form rudimentary city governments. Even more important, they formed artist, craftsmen, and merchant guilds that were much like early labor unions. The guilds protected and supported their members, and they became extremely powerful in society. Another writer notes, “However, in most true cities the city court, the portmanmoot, began taking over the jurisdiction of the merchant guild from the late twelfth century, although the guild remained more powerful than even the government in the smaller towns” (Nicholas 237). The guilds actually formed the backbone of early government in many cities and towns, because of their power. The Web site continues, “As the guilds grew rich and powerful, they.