The plague eventually put an end to serfdom in Western Europe. The Sunday system was already in trouble, but the Black Death ensured its fall in much of Western and Central Europe around 1500. Depopulation and the exodus of people from the village to the cities have led to an acute shortage of agricultural workers. In England, more than 1300 villages were abandoned between 1350 and 1500. In the time of Charlemagne (ruled 768-814), the link developed slowly between vassalage and the granting of land, the most important form of wealth at the time. Among contemporary social developments were agricultural « land rule » and social and legal structures, which were called – but only since the eighteenth century – « feudalism ». These developments have been at different rates in the different regions. In merovingian times (5. Century to 752), monarchs rewarded only the greatest and most trustworthy vassals with countries.

Even with the most extreme decentralization of all the remnants of central power, in tenth-century France, the majority of vassals did not yet have solid land. [6] The concept of a vassal state uses the concept of personal vassalage to theorize formal hegemonic relations between states, including those that use non-personal forms of domination. Among the imperial states to which this terminology has been applied are, for example: Ancient Rome, the Mongol Empire, Imperial China and the British Empire. An example of an oath of allegiance (in German Lehneid, Dutch): « I promise in my faith that I will be faithful to the Lord in the future, that I will never harm him and that I will pay full homage to all men of good faith and without deception. » In exchange for the word of the oath of allegiance, the vassals received a fief (land). Here too, the country was the base of power during the feudal period. The fiefdoms ranged from the size of a small village to something as large as an entire province. The main task of the vassal was to exercise justice in his fiefdom. The vassal or lower lord was also responsible for levying taxes in the name of his lord.

The remnants of feudalism are found in contemporary land law. For example, a lease is entered into between a lessor and a tenant whose business relationship reflects that of a gentleman and a vassal. Public property taxes on landowners resemble the services demanded by a vassal, and like former feudal lords, Länder governments can take possession of land when a landowner dies without a will or heir. Before a lord could grant land (a fief) to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This is what happened in a formal and symbolic ceremony called the ceremony of praise, which consisted of two parts of tribute and oath of fidelity.