Feudalism is a construct, an intellectual model which may or may not reflect the past reality it tries to describe. As modern constructs go it is quite an antique. As a historical model of medieval society it grew out of the work of antiquarian lawyers early in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It makes other constructs like ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘capitalism’ seem youthful bycomparison. Feudalism has had now well over two centuries to thrive and mutate in historical discourse and in the process it has become a remarkably ferocious intellectual hydra. Sometimes it is more interesting in itself than the mechanics of the society it has purported to describe in different ways at different times. Ironically, the way the term ‘feudalism’ has been used sometimes tells us a lot more about the perceptions of people in the periods that used it than it tells us about medieval society.