“Feudalism is a test through which every nation must pass, if it aspires to become a well organized body at all.”
– Katsuro Hara, An Introduction to the History of Japan
Today, feudalism is mainly taught and thought of in connection with Medieval Europe. However, Feudalism didn’t just appear with the rise of Charlemagne, but instead it had already been around since 1100 BC, China. Throughout history, feudalism has appeared nearly everywhere, including all over Europe, Japan, India, China, the Ottoman Empire, the Saracen Empire and even in Mesoamerica and South America prior to the arrival of the European colonists. This essay will be comparing the feudalism that defined the Holy Roman Empire from the 8th century all the way to its collapse in 1806, to the feudalism that shaped Japan’s history since the 13th century. It will cover an introduction to the ideology of feudalism, the beginnings of feudalism in both countries, their vassal structures, the relationship between the main religious and the military leaders and the end of feudalism in both countries. Although Tokyo, former Edo, seat of the shogun since the 17th century, and current capital of Japan, and Frankfurt, former ‘capital’ of the Holy Roman Empire, are almost 9500km apart and the periods in which feudalism appeared in either place varied drastically, the societal structure developed in both places took a quiet similar shape.
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Paul Hendrik Schmidt-Engelbertz