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7 At the bottom of the hierarchy, the vast majority of ordinary people owed labor, food, and everything else necessary to support their lord and his armed retainers. That lord in turn was the vassal of a greater lord, for whom he and his knights were bound to fight and to whom he owed various economic obligations. In theory, at the top of the hierarchy there Legacies of Conquest from Medieval Europe 43 should have been an emperor, heir to the caesars and Charlemagne. ” On every tier, lords sought opportunities to extort resources from those below them, in the form of taxes, fees, rents, and obligations that went by names such as aid, relief, bar, heriot, or corvee.

The French began building trading posts in what is now Manitoba only in 1731; Russians arrived in Alaska only in 1741; Spanish occupation of California began only in 1769. The vast majority of North American societies that encountered Europeans in the three centu- 36 Progenitors ries after 1492 were farmers, children of the agricultural revolutions that swept the continent beginning in the tenth century. The timing, scope, and character of North Americans’ agricultural revolutions set their diverse societies apart from the equally diverse peoples of Central America and the Caribbean.

Many later North American societies drew sharp boundaries to protect the everyday world of local kin and community from these dangerous attempts to access external power, and their medieval predecessors probably did so as well. Symbolically, if not in actuality, the domestic space of the agricultural town was identified with women and insulated from the external world associated with men; as later Iroquoian-speaking peoples of the Northeast would put it, the village was female and the forest was male.

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