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Difference Between Aristocracy and Feudalism

Aristocracy vs Feudalism

Aristocracy and feudalism are both forms of government. “Aristocracy” referred to a form of government where the best citizen or the most-deserving citizen ruled, and “feudalism” referred to a form of government where a reciprocal system worked in which the warrior nobility protected the vassals in return for their services.

“Aristocracy” originated in Ancient Greece. It was a rule in which the most qualified or the best citizen was conceived to be the ruler. It was different from a monarchy where the ruler was given the right to rule due to birth into a royal family. Ancient Greeks were not very fond of the monarchy system and thus had introduced this system where some famous and most-deserving people formed a council and ruled. The democracy, however, fell and the aristocracy remained. Later, the aristocracy was considered as a rule by only the aristocratic families or a privileged class.

In Rome, the aristocracy and the consul ruled together, but after the death of Julius Caesar, again the rule went into the hands of a privileged few who became very wealthy and affluent. In modern times, an aristocracy is considered not ruled by the best but ruled by the wealthy or a plutocracy.

Francois-Louis Ganshof Feudalism
Feudalism has been described in two different versions, one by Francois-Louis Ganshof and the other by Marc Bloch. According to Francois-Louis Ganshof, feudalism was an asset of military and legal obligation among the nobility of warriors which included primarily three major concepts: lords, people who could be broadly described as nobles who held lands; vassals, people who were granted the land by the lords, and finally the fiefs, the land which had been given by the lords to be possessed by the vassals in return for some service provided to the lords. In return, the lords provided military protection and other reciprocal obligations. The relationship between the three main keys formed the feudal society. This type of society flourished in Europe between the 9th to 15th centuries.

Marc Bloch Feudalism
Marc Bloch expanded the definition of “feudalism.” He included not only the lords and the vassals in the system but also proposed to include the peasantry which was bound by manorialism. He suggested that not only lords were a part of the feudalism but the whole society was bound by it from top to bottom.

The term “feudal society” or “feudalism” was coined in the 17th century. In the 1970s, Elizabeth A. R. Brown published a book called “The Tyranny of a Construct” which made scholars conclude that feudalism was not a proper term and should be removed from educational and scholarly curricula.


An aristocracy is a form of government in which the most qualified or the best citizen was conceived to be the ruler. Later, the concept changed to aristocratic families being the ones with wealth and were only a privileged few that ruled. Feudalism was described as a social system in which the lords, vassals, and fiefs were the key components of the society, and their reciprocal obligatory relationship was the basis of the feudal society.


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