This article deals with the controversy concerning the debate of feudal tenure. There are two contrasting theories on the subject, these are: Round’s theory of feudal revolution and Freeman’s theory of continuity across the Thin Red Line of 1066. By 1066 all land was owned by the king and possessed by the upper class through the act of enfeoffments. Around this time feudal tenure became complicated due to subinfeudation and the circulation of money. Subinfeudation was the process of creating a fief from a fief. Following the Norman Conquest, most land held by laymen in 1066 was redistributed by the Conqueror.
He granted large numbers of estates; These were known as his “tenants-in-chiefs. ” In return they were expected to provide military service. The tenants-in-chief would grant their own followers some of the manors they had received from the Crown, in return for service which was probably often of a military nature. This process was known as subinfeudation. The tenant of a subinfeudated manor might subinfeudate land to a subtenant. This would create a further step on the hereditary ladder, which could be extended downwards almost indefinitely. The circulation of money also makes things more complicated.
After the Normans conquered, feudal tenure became the most efficient way of recruiting troops (mercenaries) as opposed to vassals. Lords found it much easier to just pay soldiers for their services instead of housing them and their entire families. Round took up one side of what could be termed the “Great Debate” over the significance in English history of the Norman Conquest. Round’s theory of feudal revolution reached its popularity beginning in the 1890’s through the 1940’s. He contends that the institution of feudalism was brought over in 1066, better known as the “Feudal Revolution.
” He states that the military requirement of the Anglo-Norman tenant in chief was not established by the evaluation of his holding. It was determined relative and expressed in the surroundings of the constabularia. This means ten knights the standard number of the Norman feudal host. Round states that military service was not consequent or evolved from the Anglo Saxons, but subjectively fixed by the King. Evidence supporting feudal revolution says that the select fyrd and post conquest feudal quota to be essentially different.
One was a national system administered by a regular recruitment processes based on the hyde. The Norman arrangement was founded on an individual, randomly generated quota system built upon private contracts. With these two opposing systems, the evolution from one method to another seems impossible. Freeman’s theory of continuity affirms that the service debita was long in use prior to the Conquest and progressively evolved. It started with the irregular settlement of quarrels, and developed into something representing a consistent standard.
This started with ecclesiastical fiefs and evolved into the general review of 1166. This paradigm was not associated with Norman procedure but a vast traditional convention. Supporters of Freeman think highly of the Anglo-Saxons; They esteem them to be highly civilized and cultured. On the other hand they saw the Normans chronologically behind the Anglos with little to teach and no new concepts of the social order or combat. In defense to his theory, fixed quotas are noticeably missing from in enfeoffment charters from Dukes of Normandy before the Conquest.
These quotas might have been in their developmental stages on Norman estates circa 1066, but they seem to be much less complete than those forced by William the Conquer on the estates of post conquest England. Warren Hollister takes a middle of the road stance to the controversy which is often called the “Moderate School. ” He feels that the legitimacy of each argument is dependant on how well the hypothesis fits into the evidence. There is widespread agreement among historians that servicia debita was the doing of William the Conquer.
Also agreed upon is that there was institutional change in the Anglo Saxon past, and the similarity between the military institutes of Norman and Saxon England. He alludes to Douglas’s theory saying that, “The Norman impact upon English was to be drastically modified by English transition the direction of the Norman King” (Hollister 119). This is where Douglas accentuates William the Conqueror’s use of mercenaries and the five-hyde fyrd. He believes this is the direction where most historians are siding with, which points to Rounds’ Theory.