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Social

Institutions

Institutions are groups of people working together to provide for society's basics needs.

Institutions are categorized into five basic groups. They are:

Governmental

The institutions that make up this category exist to maintain order and security in a society. Examples of these types of institutions would include the various courts, the government at every level, the police, and the army.

The importance of governmental institutions in history is shown in the following historical passage.

During the period in western Europe, known as the " Dark Ages," people lived on estates, known as manors or fiefs. The lords of the manors controlled all of the land and ruled the manors. The common people were allowed to live on the manors' land by the lords. The lords had their own courts from which they administered their own form of justice. They collected their own taxes, and some of the more powerful lords minted their own coins. The importance of a lord depended on the size of his land holding.

When the Vikings started to invade western Europe in the 9th century, the lords had to protect themselves from these outside invaders. A system of protection emerged to combat these invaders. This system became known as feudalism. Large landowners gave land to other lords in return for loyalty and help in protecting the land. Individuals that received land were known as vassals or lessor nobles. These vassals in turn gave land to knights in return for fighting the invaders. The people who ruled the lands became known as the noble class and those that served the nobility on the land were known as peasants or serfs.

Religious

The institutions that make up this category exist to explain the meaning of existence and reinforce moral values. Examples of these types of institutions include organized religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, as well as less organized religious sects.

The importance of religious institutions in history is shown in the following historical passage.

During the Middle Ages, all Christians in western Europe belonged to same church. The Church was the sole unifying factor for this area of independent kingdoms, fiefdoms, and towns. In fact, the whole of western Europe was considered to be "Christendom," an area ruled by the Church. The Pope in Rome was considered God's representative, therefore his wishes were obeyed. His commands were carried out through bishops and local parish priests. By 1500, the Church was 1500 years old and the oldest and best established institution in the Western world. With age and growth, it had become so rich and powerful that it was feared by monarchs and commoners alike.

Educational

The institutions that make up this category exist to train the young and instill in them the norms and values of the society. Examples of these types of institutions would include public and private schools, universities, and religious schools.

The importance of educational institutions in history is shown in the following historical passage.

Education during the Middle Ages in Europe was centered around the Church. Most of the common people, the nobility, and the local clergy were illiterate. The need to read and write had fallen to the wayside as trade was abandoned after the fall of Rome. Knowledge was usually local and carried on through an oral tradition. Because the priests and bishops were literate in order to read and interpret the Bible, they became the educators and preservers of the culture. Monks carefully copied the Bible and other works of literature concerning the Church. Church schools grew up around the parishes and monasteries. Since education was in the hands of the Church, the chance to learn was free. However, many parents during this time needed their children as workers or failed to realize the importance of education. Most did not let their children take advantage of the schooling the Church offered.

Economic

The institutions that make up this category exist to provide food, shelter, and determine how much and who gets these necessities. Examples of these types of institutions would include local and national banks, agricultural bureaucracies, trade organizations, and stock markets.

The importance of economic institutions in history is shown in the following historical passage.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, western Europe fell into what has been termed the "Dark Ages." It was cut off from the rich trade with the Byzantine Empire and Muslim world. Society was broken into small estates held by landowners who had taken the land from the Romans. These landowners were known as lords and the area that they controlled came to be known as the manor. These estates were usually around 1000 acres in size. The people of the Dark Ages lived on the lord's manor. There was little trade and no money. The manor depended on agriculture to provide food and local craftsmen to provide the other necessities, therefore, it was basically self- sufficient. The people of the manor did not own any property and existed to serve the lord. In return the lord gave them work, a place to stay, and food to eat.

Family

The institutions that make up this category exist to raise new generations to replace the old. An example of this type of institution is the family system that we are familiar with, the nuclear family, which consists of mother, father, and children. Another example would the extended family, which includes the mother, father, children, and other family members such as grandmother, grandfather, etc. Family systems vary amongst cultures.

The function of the family as an institution in history is shown in the following historical passage.

During the "Dark Ages" in the 8th century of European history, people lived in small estates known as manors or fiefs. These manors were ruled over by a noble class headed by the lord. The majority of people on the manor live there at the lord's pleasure and were known as peasants or serfs. Most serfs lived as families in thatched cottages that were close to one another and shared a common green or lawn. Heat came from a fireplace in the center of the cottage and fire was a constant danger. On the coldest days, families kept themselves and their livestock warm by bring their animals into the cottages.

Women and men worked equally as hard on the manor. Families were large in order to have more help completing their duties on the manor. The first duty of the housewife was to feed, clothe, and raise the children. Like the men, however, they also did the heavy work in the field, where they planted and harvested grain, sheared sheep, and looked after livestock. Children were expected to work from an early age. The more children, the more help the family had to survive in those difficult times.