Ap Euro, Class System
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The statement “In the society of the High Middle Ages, function determined social classification.” does not adequately describe the reality of society at the time. The social division into those who work, those who fight, and those who pray presents a view that is far too static of a world with considerable social mobility. Also this widespread image of High Middle Age society does not include a class for “those who trade” or townspeople. These three basic social divisions of peasants, monks, and knights did provide insight into the mind of the medieval world.
Those who work, more commonly referred to as the peasant class made up more than 90% of the population and was economically the most productive group. Peasants were giving the task of supporting lords, clergy, and townspeople on top of themselves through their agricultural endeavors. Despite High Middle Age dependency on the peasant class few historical records had any mention of the peasants lest it be one of contempt or in terms of owed services or obligations. A common misconception is that all peasants were to be grouped in a single social class. There were, however, many levels of peasants, from slaves to free and very rich farmers.
Those who fight, the nobles, although they were minuscule
in comparison to the mass of the peasantry, strongly influenced all aspects of medieval culture: politics, economics, religion, education, and art. For this reason, twelfth century European society can be seen as an aristocratic one. Nobility continued to hold real political and social power in Europe up until the nineteenth century despite political scientific and industrial revolutions. Members of the nobility enjoyed a special legal status in which they were free personally and in their possessions. Nobles possessed immunity from almost all outside authorities along with being limited only by military obligations to a king, duke, or prince. Knights were to be brave, anxious to win praise, courteous, generous, gracious, and above all to be loyal to his lord. Loyalty was the foundation of aristocratic society, this why the greatest crime was treachery to ones lord. All knights were not free however, the ministerials were part of the servile class yet served as knights. Some of these servile knights even