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A system of economic and social organization found historically in several areas of the world including Japan, other parts of Asia, the Americas and many countries of eastern and western Europe. In western Europe, feudalism was at its height between about 1000 and 1500. The system was founded on a web of military obligations between powerful overlords and their vassals. Vassals, who were usually landlords of knightly rank, owed duties of military service in return for grants of land (fiefs) from the overlord. The land, and the military obligations, were usually passed from father to son. The usual economic foundation of the system was the feudal manor, an agricultural organization that included a central farm owned by the landlord and small land holdings for a class of bonded farm labourers (serfs). The serfs were required to work the central manorial farm and to provide the lord with produce and money payments in return for their own rights to land use. The system gradually declined as cities and towns grew, money became the basis for economic transactions and power became centralized in nation states under monarchies. Loss of rural population from plague also hastened the end of this system of economic organization, especially in England.

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