The circumstances that led to the rise of feudalism in various cultures is the principle and importance of land ownership and the concept of production through agriculture and the agrarian society which are core economic elements of all of the feudal societies. The rise of feudalism in Japan, India, and Europe was predicated on the rise of the importance of the agrarian society in conjunction with the importance of land ownership as a means for production, but with differences that can be seen through cultural belief systems from each region where feudalism has appeared.
The nature of European feudalism can be traced back to the assertion of personalization within the governance of the Germanic tribes. This evolved into meaningful relationships through which protection and loyalty became the basis of how networks of land were protected. As well, the transition from the Roman slave structure to the serf paradigm would seem to have occurred during the 3rd century A.D., but this transition was not clear cut nor easily defined from when the lower class went from being owned to the concept of a free serf class that was a tenant on the lands. The interpersonal relationship of one land owner to the authority above was mimicked on down the line until even the serf was in a relationship with his or her lord so that they were beholden to them for the protection that was provided. Private patronage had been the nature of the ancient modes of governance, but because of the high costs of patronage the development of the feudal estate system allowed for independence from the Roman Empire. 3 This relational style of governance was abused, of course, with corruption coming through coercion and taxation so that the peasants were kept poor and the landowners kept control over them. The complexity of European feudal society was a system of lords and vassals that served in the absence of any sense of a strong central authority through which to find governance. Although the system was similar to the way in which the Roman Empire had been broken up with different levels of authority, the main difference was in the lack of a powerful and overpowering centralized government that was costly and remote from the furthest reaching places under Roman rule.4 The fragmentation of the government was supplanted by local controlling authorities, often knights that were mercenaries or thugs, who would control a region for their own benefit and for the benefit of any aristocratic figure to whom they were loyal. Allegiance was the reigning power as a vassal would give loyalty to a lord. Serfs provided labor for the manors with the knights providing security and safety for the operation of society. Private armies were the way in which that security was put into place. Where a lowered level of corruption was present, the knights provided for the development of law and policing, acting as functional extensions of their lord’s wishes on how the land should be run. Where there was corruption, however, the people suffered and their profits were little, leaving them with little food and sustenance. By the mid-7th century serfs were a recognized class, coming from the slavery and free peasants in the land who were recognized for their labor and contribution to the system. Because of the problem of a class of people that were primarily oppressed in often impoverished circumstances, depending on the estate, there was always the