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Government Types in the Middle Ages?

NewJeffCT

Villager
Typically (yes, I know there are many exceptions) D&D is based upon Medieval times - especially Medieval Europe where feudalism reigned - layers of nobles from the King on down to Dukes, Barons and Earls.

My question is, what were some other forms of government at the time? I know China & Japan had emperors, if I am not mistaken - but, what was below the Emperor? Was it just another version of feudalism with Asian names for the lesses nobles?

Or, Islam in the Middle East and northern Africa - Sultans, Amirs, Khalifs, etc. But, what was below the Sultan?
 
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In Europe, you tended to have huge and varying amounts of nobility under the King or Emperor... here's a list of titles (in roughly hierarchical order, from highest to lowest... the actual prestige of each one depends on what country one is from)

Grand Prince
Prince
Grand Duke
Arch Duke
Duke
Count
Marquis
Viscount
Earl
Voivode
Baron

Thats off the top of my head, there was likely many many more...

In China, under the emperor's were usually the landed gentry... a rough nobility that was not as hereditary as in Europe. In China, the landed gentry tended to be Confuscian scholars, and one must pass the famous Confuscian examinations to become a scholar and take rank. It was possible for mere commoners, by miracles, to take the tests and pass, thus become part of the government bureaucracy, but it was exceedingly rare.

Japan had the Daimyos (barons) and under them the samurai, of course.
 

Dark Jezter

Villager
Actually, during feudal times in Japan, the Emperor had little real power. The Shogun was the guy who really ran the show. This didn't change until the 19th century when the modernization of Japan eliminated the Samurai class and the Emperor became the supreme ruler.
 
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Wombat

Villager
One of the big problems you can run into here is that some titles shift slightly (or majorly) in meaning from place to place. A "prince" in Russia means something quite different from a "prince" in England, for example. And I have read that the Muslims titles can become quite confusing that way, as some are military, some political, some religious, and some a combination of two (...or all three...) of these, but shift in time and place as to their precise meanings. Equally some titles appear in one place, but not another, such as the Earls of English history (more or less based on the older title Jarl, kind of equivalent to a Count, but some are as powerful as Dukes, a title that was little used in England until the later Middle Ages).

This is a decent site for explanations of European titles:

http://www.heraldica.org/topics/odegard/titlefaq.htm

Here is one on China (I have not really vetted it, only found it):

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Chinese-noble

And this one is very, very generic:

http://www.hostkingdom.net/glossary.html

Hope that give some help. :)
 

Agback

Villager
NewJeffCT said:
Typically (yes, I know there are many exceptions) D&D is based upon Medieval times - especially Medieval Europe where feudalism reigned - layers of nobles from the King on down to Dukes, Barons and Earls.
The structuredness and importance of this hierarchy are greatly exaggerated. It amounted in practice to a legl fiction, and most countries denied that even as a legal fiction it applied to them. The theoretical construct was mostly based on the legal fictions of the Burgundians.

Don't forget that most kings were originally elected (the French were still holding sham elections for their kings until the fourteenth century), and that some, such as the kings of Germany, remained elective in theory, or such as Poland in practice, throughout the period.

And don't overlook the importance of more-or-less aristocratic republics in many cities, especially in the north of Italy and the South of France (until the conquest by the Kingdom of France in the early 13th century).

Regards,


Agback
 

Dogbrain

Villager
Rather than focus on titles, I'll focus on institutions.

The "rulers" of our medieval cultures (I arbitrarily restrict it to Europe just because) were never really all that much in charge. They could rely upon their personal armies and that was it. Otherwise, they had to keep their vassals (powerful flunkies) happy. Vassalage was purely personal. If I had a vassal, and my vassal had a vassal, my vassal's vassal was not under my authority, and for me to insist upon such authority could be construed as "tyranny" and be considered grounds for "rightful" rebellion. In addition, cities might have a "charter" or some other agreement and be essentially self-ruling, so long as they paid their royal tax and/or supplied troops. In addition to the addition, nobility might also live in those cities, with their noble priviliges. In addition to the addition to the addition, within a city, a village, or lands of a noble, there could be locations or individuals who had special power, authority, or privilige, with no real logic behind the whole non-system. The concept of constitutional law didn't really exist in practice, no matter what lawyers of the day might like to claim.

The "Emperor" of the "Holy" "Roman" "Empire" had no more authority than any other "king", although he theoretically had more prestige. However, the Emperor was not the King of the Germans, although he might be. Likewise, the Emperor might or might not be the King of Bohemia. The King of France couldn't directly rule any land within the Empire, except when he managed to finagle it. The Duke of Burgundy was often as powerful as any king.

And there were also Republics (Venice--votes only for rich merchants) and a more-or-less democratic Confederation (Switzerland) and various independent little doogies here and there.

And then there was the Pope who kept claiming theoretical supremacy over everybody but never got listened to unless it was convenient.

Now, when one moves east, things get to be different.
 

Dogbrain

Villager
Oh, and one thing that was considered very important was ownership of deodanths (things used in the crimes of manslaughter and murder) and the right of execution.
 

Dogbrain

Villager
Oh, oh, the Republic of Venice was theoretically a property of the Empire whose emperor was in Constantinople.
 

Agback

Villager
NewJeffCT said:
My question is, what were some other forms of government at the time? I know China & Japan had emperors, if I am not mistaken - but, what was below the Emperor?
China was not (usually) feudal. Usually it was essentially ruled by the Imperial bureacracy, through provincial governors and generals.

In Japan the Emperor (Mikado) was usually accorded divine respect but no real power. On a few occasions Emperors struggled to lay their hands on real power, and even actually got hold of part of the country. The ceremonial duties of the Mikado were so onerous that many mikados retired to become nominal Buddhist priests as soon as they were old enough to think of it. Some retired emperors, nominally regents of their young relatives on the throne, dabbled in politics.

The Japanese noble caste, the kuge, were similarly trammelled with duties and taboos, and their estates were 'protected' by buke, who kept nearly all the income. Buke lords also 'protected' most of the lands of religious institutions, just as the nobles did in Europe. They even pulled the same dodge as the nobles did in Europe, of 'giving' land to tax-exempt religious instutions but keeping the rule and income of it.

The country was actually run by a military dictator, the Shogun, or sometimes by a regent (not qualified by birth to be shogun). I forget the title of the regent, but I do recall that at one stage the shoguns were retiring to become nominal buddhisit priests to escape from the court protocol so that they could engage in a political contest with the regent and the retired emperors.

The Shogun was draw from the Minamoto family, which was of the buke military caste. The heads of other buke clans were the daimyo, equivalent to English peers or barons (in England, the category 'baron' included earls, lords, and some very powerful knights). Daimyo with very extensive lands would generally appoint relatives to manage them, not subinfeudinate them.

The lesser members of the buke military caste were samurai, more or less equivalent to European knights. Some owned land. Some were given estates to manage by their daimyo. Some (ji-zamurai, IIRC) were even so poor that they actually worked part of their own land. And at teh bottom of the heap were ronin, equivalent to European landless knights not in service.

Regards,


Agback
 
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Tonguez

Adventurer
Like Dogbrain said - come up with whatever system you like - it probably existed somewhere and some point in the 'Medieval period' (which is like what 500 years? 1000 - 1500AD could all be cosidered 'Medieval/Dark Age' in lay terms)

You have Plutocracies, Democracies, Monarchies, Oligarchies, Geritocracies, Theocracies and Anarchies - sometimes in the same place at the same time!
 

Ed Cha

Community Supporter
As mentioned, sometimes a duke can actually be more powerful than a king. There is no real hierarchy.

The first edition DMG had a good list of titles for the major cultures.
 

Agback

Villager
Wombat said:
Earls of English history (more or less based on the older title Jarl, kind of equivalent to a Count, but some are as powerful as Dukes, a title that was little used in England until the later Middle Ages).
That's right. Before the Norman Conquest the English earls were basically the equivalent of French ducs: successors of the rulers of formerly independent states that had been conquered and absorbed by the kingdom. The Anglo-Saxon chronicles translate William's French title 'duc' as 'earl'. But when William introduced feudalism to England about 1070 (after defeating Hereward's rebellion) he reduced the status of earls to the equivalent of French comtes: delegates of the king. And increased their number enormously. The French title 'vicomte', which in Nothern France designated a sort of administrative deputy of the comte (count), was used in Norman-French administrative records to represent the English title 'sheriff' (an administrative deputy of the King governing a shire). Meanwhile in the South of France, where they didn't have primogeniture, the title 'vicomte' was used by people who inherited part of one of the old Carolingian or Burgundian counties, or who siezed the sort of authority of a count (comte) without a royal delegation of power.

The title 'duke' got introduced into England only at the end of the mediaeval period, as a cheap gift from the King to a favourite. It gave the king's friend or relative precedence over the other earls, but no actual authority. No English duke ever had an earl as vassal, though some French ducs did have comtes as vassals.

'Marquess' was introduced later still, and following the theory that a mark-graf was a graf (count) with a borderland county and special powers, it was slotted in between dukes and earls. This despite the fact that at least one French comte (the comte de Toulouse) had had marquises (the marquises of Septimania and Gothia) as vassals.

In England in the greater part of the mediaeval period, 'lord' (represented in Norman-French records as 'messire') was a courtesy title, with no hard-and-fast rule as to whether a person was or was not entitled to it. The king's sons (before the creation of the Principality of Wales as an appanage) were always called 'lord' as were earls, bishops, abbots, and anyone who held the post of castellan of a castle (or owned one!). But a landed might be called 'lord' if the person addressing him wanted to be flattering, obsequieous, or extra-polite, but it was not an affront to address him merely as 'sir', like a landless knight or a parish priest.

Anyone with his own troops was a baron, including everyone from landed knights with multiple fees to great magnates with multiple earldoms.

Regards,


Agback
 

Agback

Villager
Emperor Valerian said:
In Europe, you tended to have huge and varying amounts of nobility under the King or Emperor... here's a list of titles (in roughly hierarchical order, from highest to lowest... the actual prestige of each one depends on what country one is from)

Grand Prince
Prince
Grand Duke
Arch Duke
Duke
Count
Marquis
Viscount
Earl
Voivode
Baron

Thats off the top of my head, there was likely many many more...
Umm.

"Grand Prince" is a translation of a Russian title.

"Grand Duke" is a different translation of the same title.

"Archduke" is an Austrian title.

Marquis is a French title, with no English equivalent in the mediaeval period (it was introduced to England during the renaissance.

"Earl" is the English equivalent of 'duke" (before about 1070) or "count" (after about 1070). It is definitely not subordinate to 'viscount'.

"Viscount" (vicomte) is a French title with no equivalent in England or Germany until after mediaeval times.

"Voivode" was the title of the ruler of Transylvania, sometimes a vassal of the King of Hungerary, sometimes of the Ottoman Emperor, and sometimes sovereign. Listing this title below 'viscount' is bizarre.

Regards,


Agback
 

CCamfield

Villager
Even in an area with a feudal overlord, the towns and cities might have a mayor or council who could wield considerable power. I was just reading a book about a 5-year-long peasant revolt in medieval Flanders (called A Plague of Insurrection - very good, by the way), which was ruled by a Count.

There was obviously quite a lot of politicking going on in the cities, with traditional "patricians", other rich folk wanting in on the council and opportunities for privileged positions, etc. Some of the cities joined the revolt and for a time at least contributed their fairly well-trained militia forces. I remember a pre-revolt incident in which one city actually sent its troops to do something (I forget what) to counter a privilege given to another city by the Count which would have given them a control over river trade to the first city.
 

jester47

Villager
This may be neither here nor there, but I find it funny where the name for Germany comes from in thier own language. Deuchland, I found actually means Duke-land. An if you look at the history of Germany, there are massive ammounts of duchies. So in essence it was the land of the dukes...

Aaron.
 

Dogbrain

Villager
Agback said:
[TEAL'C]Indeed[/TEAL'C]

To elaborate on your elaborations:

"Grand Prince" is a translation of a Russian title.

"Grand Duke" is a different translation of the same title.
And an interesting conclusion can be drawn from this.

"Archduke" is an Austrian title.
It's stranger than that. "Archduke" was invented by one of the Austrian Hapsburg Emperors to describe his "personal" title. It had no precedent and there was only one Archduke, ever, the Archduke of Austria. However, Austria was not an Archduchy. Likewise, the "King of the Germans" was not the "King of Germany". By custom, treaty, law, or some silly thing like that, it was not "possible" to have a King of Germany. This was a problem in the 18th century for Brandenburg-Prussia. Technically, there could be no King of Brandenburg or of Prussia. Thus, when Brandenburg-Prussia got to be big and nasty enough to force some sort of "regal" recognition from other countries, the Hohenzollern ruler was internationally acknowledged as "King IN Prussia"--I kid you not.

"Earl" is the English equivalent of 'duke" (before about 1070) or "count" (after about 1070). It is definitely not subordinate to 'viscount'.
And the specific title has a very checkered history. Originally, it was associated with a great honking piece of land. Then the Earldoms disappeared. By the time of the late Renaissance, "Earl" was a personal title handed out to monarchical favorites.
 

Dogbrain

Villager
jester47 said:
This may be neither here nor there, but I find it funny where the name for Germany comes from in thier own language. Deuchland, I found actually means Duke-land.
No, it does not. It means "land of the Deutsch", and the "Deutsch" were all the German people, not just "Dukes". "Deutsch" is related to "Dutch", obviously.

Both "Dutch" and "Deutsch" come from the Proto-Indo-European root *teutaa (aa="long" a), meaning "tribe". This root is also the origin of "total" and "tutti" (as in "tutti frutti").

The word "duke", on the other hand, comes from the Latin duc-, meaning "leader", from the Proto-Indo-European *deuk-, meaning "to lead". This root is also the origin of "tug", "tow", and "taut". ("Educate" also comes from this root, in combination with the root *egh-, meaning "out".)
 
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Spatula

Villager
jester47 said:
This may be neither here nor there, but I find it funny where the name for Germany comes from in thier own language. Deuchland, I found actually means Duke-land. An if you look at the history of Germany, there are massive ammounts of duchies. So in essence it was the land of the dukes...
It's Deutschland, and Deutsch simply means German. Duetschland = land of the germans. The german word for duke is Herzog.

EDIT: dang! beaten by a dogbrain!
 
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Turjan

Villager
A very popular explanation for "Deutsch-land" is "Land of the Teutons", where Teutons are a Germanic tribe, so this is similar to what dogbrain said.

The Middle Ages are a very long period. During this time, titles and their meaning changed. Around the years 900 to 1000, there were only a few noble titles in use in Germany. The kingdom consisted of 7 very powerful duchies ("Herzogtümer"), and the dukes were the leaders of their respective Germanic tribes. Usually, one of those dukes became king. There were also quite a lot of earls ("Grafen"), who were the representatives of the king in smaller administrative units (counties - "Grafschaften"). A special and more powerful earl was a leader of a newly added border province, the marquess ("Markgraf"), because there was no duke above him and he had more military responsibility.

Going on 200 years, the powerful tribal duchies had been divided up by the kings. One exceptionally insidious move on part of the kings was giving vast parts of the country to archbishops, bishops and abbots for rule. As those clerical rulers had no children, this allowed the king to place persons of his own liking as rulers of those lands. This system was kept up until 1809.

Initially, this strenghtened the position of the king. although the pope gained influence, too. With the rule of Frederic II. (1196-1250), this changed drastically. He was not interested in the German part of his empire and preferred to stay in Sicily for nearly his whole life. From this time on, most of the hundreds of territories in the empire were de facto independent.
 
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kenjib

Villager
The Hanseatic League presents a very interesting political body, being a very powerful alliance of semi-independent city-states. It's an interesting reflection how the system of allegiance was so ambiguous in those times. Larger cities were often distinct exceptions to feudal structure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League

By the way, were Kings and High Kings kind of like the Celtic way of saying Kings and Dukes/Earls?
 

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