To combat the Vikings and other invaders, many European rulers enlisted the aid of nobles under system known as feudalism. The nobles pledged their military assistance and their loyalty to the rulers in return for land and protection. The land a noble received was called a manor. Each manor was a self-sufficient estate, which included a manor house, pastures, fields, and a village. Most of those who lived in the manor were serfs, men and women bound to the land by their labor. Serfs were required to work their lords land in exchange for a share of the crops they grew and for protection from attack by outsiders. Feudal society operated under a rigid class system. At top of society was the noble class. Noblemen spent their days managing their estates, hunting, or engaging in battle. Men held most of the power, although some women obtained positions of influence by inheriting land from male relatives. Most noblewomen married in their early teens and generally had large families. They spent their days directing the servants in such duties as cooking, cleaning, spinning, weaving, brewing, and caring for livestock. Life for serfs was more difficult than it was for nobles. Most spent their days in unending physical labor. Both men and women worked in the fields, and women had to perform the household tasks as well. Although the lords received the serfs, many also required their workers to pay them fees, such as marriage or inheritance taxes. Some serfs were able to obtain freedom, but most remained tied to the land. They were considered property and their status was passed on to their children. Most serfs lived in small one-room cottages. Their diet consisted mainly of soup, bread, and ale, with some occasional meat. Life was difficult and short. Few serfs lived beyond age 40. Most of the people living in feudal Europe had no sense of national identity and little awareness of the outside world. In fact, few peo…

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