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Fief depiction in book of hours: June, in Brevarium Grimani, fol. 7v (Flemish), ca. 1510, source: Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, Italy

The fief (alternatively, fee, feoff, fiefdom), under the system of medieval European feudalism, often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by a lord, generally to a vassal (who holds seisin), in return for a form of allegiance (usually given by homage and fealty), originally to give him the means to fulfill his military duties when called upon. However, anything of value could be held in fief, such as an office, a right of exploitation (e.g., hunting, fishing) or any other type of revenue, rather than the land it comes from.

Originally, vassalage did not imply the giving or receiving of landholdings (which were granted only as a reward for loyalty), but by the eighth century the giving of a landholding was becoming standard. The granting of a landholding to a vassal did not relinquish the lord's property rights, but only the use of the lands and their income; the granting lord retained ultimate ownership of the fief and could, technically, recover the lands in case of disloyalty or death.[1] By the middle of the tenth century, fiefs had largely become hereditary.[2] Eventually, great feudal lords sought also to seize governmental and legal authority (the collection of taxes, the right of high justice, etc.) in their lands, and some passed these rights to their own vassals.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Cantor, 198-9.
  2. ^ a b Cantor, 200.


  • Norman F. Cantor. The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. ISBN 0-06-092553-1

Simple English

In feudalism, a fiefdom (also called a fief, feud, feoff, or fee) was a piece of land that a lord gave a vassal in exchange for loyalty and protection from enemies. Unlike a manor, a fief was undeveloped (It had no buildings or crops on it). Vassals would build upon this land to create their own housing.

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