Feudalism - In Metamor Keep a large part of the government in much of the world is Feudal. But what is feudalism?
Dictionary.com defines it as follows: A system of obligations that bound lords and their subjects in Europe during much of the Middle Ages. In theory, the king owned all or most of the land and gave it to his leading nobles in return for their loyalty and military service. The nobles in turn held land that peasants, including serfs, were allowed to farm in return for the peasants' labor and a portion of their produce. Under feudalism, people were born with a permanent position in society.
Many modern people see the feudal government as simple King. Baron (usually corrupt and greedy), knight, peasant, villain. But like all things that is simplistic. For a long time many historians and sociologists thought something similar. Only recently has more depth been given to the study. The feudal system is turning out to be VERY intricate. A recent study of the records for one 12th century English village found 22 different social distinctions among its residents. Unfortunately the records simply list the titles for those ranks without actually stating why they were different.
The relationship between noble and peasant was complex. There were some strict rules governing the interaction between the two. The biggest was length of service. All those under a noble were liable to a specific length of service each year to that leader. This was usually 1 month (30 days) but many were liable for more service in an emergency. Also such people: peasants, tenants, villains (no I do NOT mean someone like Darth Vader) owed tithes to the nobleman. This could be a certain amount of wheat or grain or the like. The noble himself (it was a male dominated world) owed service (usually the same 30 days) and tithes to nobles above him.
At the best of times this provided a stable government and a reasonable amount of protection to the common people. BUT it was riff with possibilities for corruption, exploitation and cruelty. A greedy or cruel noble could steal and kill a commoner with no more legal trouble than changing their socks. History is full of cruel nobles brutalizing and killing the people under them. Most high ranking nobles did whatever they pleased to the people below them. This is why you hear about so many peasant revolutions in the later middle ages. Especially when the feudal system started to break down.
Worse it could (and ALWAYS did) lead to chaos since a king only had as much power as he could bully, bribe and steal from the nobles below him. Which was usually little. A strong willed king could bring peace to the land. A weak one could lead to chaos and open civil war. One reason for the Pope starting the First Crusade was as a distraction. To get the nobles and knights to stop fighting wars all over Europe and focus all that violence on something (He thought was) constructive.
And lets not discuss the troubles caused by Inbreeding when nobles decided to limit their gene pool to other nobles. The reason Hemophilia is nicknamed the Royals disease is due to the inbreeding of nobles which spread it almost ALL the Royal families of Europe.
One of the serious flaws in feudalism is population. It requires a large number of people at the bottom to support a small number of noble at the top. When the plague struck and killed up to half the population of Europe and Asia the feudal system was badly strained and started to come apart.
Still for all it's failings Feudalism brought some semblance of peace and civilization to a Dark ages Europe that had literally descended into chaos when the roman Empire collapsed. You can STILL elements of it present in modern European.