Social Changes in the High Middle Ages
Feudalism became the predominant social system in most parts of Europe and Asia by the end of the 11th century. The land as the source of survival and wealth came in the possession of feudal landowners or lords. They gave their land as a fiefs to the vassals who in return provided military service. At the same time the few remaining free peasants became serfs, lost their land and personal freedom.
The High Middle Ages saw the weakening of the central royal authority and the rise of power of the local feudal lords who could count on their loyal vassal and eventually became absolutely independent rulers on their territory. However, administrative changes in the 11th and 12th centuries forced the monarchs to be more active in control of their territories which increased the royal incomes and military power and eventually strengthened the monarchical authority.
Military power and wealth enabled the monarchs to extent their power but they could enlarge their wealth and power only on the expense of other lords and monarchs. The land was inheritable and for that reason it was a lot easier to extent the territory and power through the “bed” than with “the sword”. Very popular method to gain new properties was also to ensure oneself the inheritance of the heirless lords and of the lords who did not fulfill their legal obligations. Later option was more reliable in long term but often required use of force to implement one’s rights.