System of feudalism

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Name ______________________________________

TOPIC From Feudalism to Absolutism

Directions Read the short passages below, and answer the questions that follow.


This system of relationships between weak kings, rich lords, knights, and poor serfs was called… FEUDALISM! During the time of feudalism, monarchs in Western Europe were not very powerful. Lords held most of the power because the people needed them. Knights needed the lords to give them land, and serfs needed the lords to provide protection.

  1. _____ Feudalism can best be described as

    1. a religion of the Middle Ages.

    2. a system of relationships.

    3. military training.

    4. a method of agriculture.

  1. The ________________________ were the most powerful people in the feudal system because __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Life on the manor was hard for the serfs. Lords demanded that serfs work a lot. The farming work was hard enough, but some dry periods in Western Europe made agriculture extra difficult. Serfs were eager for a new life and new opportunities away from the feudal system.

One new opportunity came in 1095 CE. The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Urban II, was angry that Muslim armies had taken control of the Holy Land (the city of Jerusalem in Israel). The Pope called all Christians to fight against the Muslims and take the city back. He promised that God would forgive the sins of all the Christian soldiers if they fought against Islam. These wars were called the Crusades. Many lords, knights, and serfs left the manors and travelled to the Middle East to fight against the Muslims.

  1. _____ The word “eager” in the first paragraph most likely means

    1. angry and depressed

    2. happy and active

    3. religious and prayerful

    4. ready and hopeful

  1. Who was Pope Urban II? _____________________________________________________________

  1. _____ Crusaders were

    1. Christian soldiers

    2. Muslim armies

    3. people who lived in the Holy Land.

    4. parts of the Middle East.

  1. Many serfs went to fight in the Crusades because they wanted to leave the ________________________ and start a new life. Many others went to fight because they wanted God to ______________________ _________________________________________________________________________________.


While on Crusade in the Middle East, serfs collected valuable goods – things from Asia they had never seen. They carried these goods back to Western Europe after they finished their military service.

Instead of going back to the feudal manors, many serfs moved into cities and started trading. (The Viking invasions had stopped, so the trade roads were safe again.) These new merchants became wealthy and successful from the trading. They were not as rich as the feudal lords, but they had more money than the feudal serfs. The merchants became known as the Middle Class, which was getting bigger and bigger.

  1. Instead of going back to the manors, many serfs became ____________________ and moved to cities.

  1. What did trade do to the Middle Class? ___________________________________________________


Lords lost a lot of power after the Crusades because many of their vassals and serfs did not return to the manors. The system of feudalism was ending, and kings saw a chance to reclaim power from the lords. Monarchs throughout Western Europe began to pay more attention to the growing Middle Class in the cities. They started to respect the needs of the people. As a result, people closer to the monarchy. People showed more loyalty to kings than to lords.

  1. Kings became more popular in their countries because they ___________________________________



Powerful monarchs took control in countries like France, England, Spain, and Russia. French monarchs used their large armies to gain new lands for France. Victories in war increased the power of the king.

King Henry II in England took control of the court system. Before Henry, feudal lords all had their own courts. Manors all had different laws. Henry II created a Common Law system: Everyone in England had to follow the same laws. He got rid of the feudal courts. Royal courts were able to enforce the laws of the kings, which made them more powerful.
In Spain, new monarchs unified their countries by driving out non-Christians. The Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella drove out all the Moors (Muslims in Spain) during an event called the Reconquista. They also set up a system called the Inquisition. During the Inquisition, all non-Christians (Jews and Muslims) were arrested and either killed or expelled from the country. Having a Christian country helped the Christian king and queen become more popular.
Russian monarchs also unified their country. Ivan III, for instance, freed Russia from the control of the Mongols. The Mongols were invaders from East Asia. They had taken control of Russia until Ivan drove them away. He became known as Ivan the Great.
Ivan’s grandson, Ivan IV, increased his power with cruelty and violence. He used a secret police force to kill anyone that disagreed with him. He became known as Ivan the Terrible.
All of these “New Monarchs” were doing things to increase their own power. Many new monarchs were becoming more strict. A famous book called The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, told kings to make the people afraid, not happy. Machiavelli said that rulers will keep power as long as the people are afraid of them.

  1. _____ Henry II

  1. _____ Ferdinand and Isabella

  1. _____ Reconquista and Inquisition

  1. _____ Ivan the Great

  1. _____ Ivan the Terrible

  1. _____ Niccolo Machiavelli

  1. Movements to remove non-Christians out of Spain

  1. English king who created a Common Law system

  1. Author of The Prince

  1. “Catholic Monarchs” of Spain

  1. Ruler used a secret police to control Russian nobles

  1. Ruler who freed Russia from Mongol control


During the 1500s-1700s, monarchs became so powerful that some began to call themselves Absolute Monarchs. Absolute monarchs claimed they had total control over everything! They did not have to obey any rules or ask citizens to approve their decisions. They believed their power came from God, and they did whatever they wanted.

Peter the Great was an absolute monarch in Russia. He ruled very strictly. He took control of everything: the army, Russian businesses, and the nobles. Peter is most famous for modernizing the Russian army. This means he updated the army with new weapons and new training programs. His modern army became just as strong as the armies of Western Europe. Peter is also famous for building a beautiful city called St. Petersburg. He spent lots of money to do so, which upset many Russians. Peter also upset many small business owners by taking control of Russian businesses. But no one hated Peter more than the nobles. Peter forces all the wealthy nobles to shave their beards. Their beards were symbols of their respect and high status in society. By forcing the nobles to shave, Peter decreased their power.
The best example of an absolute monarch was Louis XIV (14th) of France. Louis wanted everyone to know how important he was, so he called himself the “Sun King.” He believed he was the center of everything. He believed he had authority to do whatever he wanted. He spent lots of money to build his personal palace at Versailles in Paris. He also lead France into many very expensive wars – just to gain new territory. He did all of this on his own. Louis never asked for the advice or approval of the people. As Peter did in Russia, Louis kept tight control over his nobles. He even forced many of them to live at Versailles.

  1. _____ Absolute monarchs controlled

    1. the government

    2. religion

    3. the economy

    4. everything

  1. _____ Peter the Great did NOT

    1. modernize the Russian army

    2. control the Russian nobles

    3. build a great palace at Versaille in Paris

    4. control Russian businesses

  1. Why did Louis XIV of France call himself the Sun King? ______________________________________


  1. How did Louis XIV control the nobles? __________________________________________________


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