247© 2011 The DBQ ProjectThis page may be reproduced for classroom useBackground EssaySamurai & Knights Mini-QSamurai and Knights:Were the Similarities Greater Than the Differences?You live in a country with a weak government and an even weaker army. During your ancestors' time, an emperor ruled and kept the country together. Now, however, the central government has lost power, and dangers lurk beyond every moat and castle wall. Warlords fight each other to see who can control the most territory. War riors from other lands threaten to invade and destroy your way of life. How can men, women, and children in your region protectthemselves?About one thousand years ago, people in two societies halfway around the world from each other faced this problem. InEurope, the mighty western Roman Empire had fallenin the late 400s, leaving a continentdivided among weak kingdoms.A new western European empire arose briefly but it, too, soon fell apart. On the other side of the globe, Japanese emperors and the imperial court was challenged by the rise of clans. Like Europe, Japan found itself in pieces.To keep order in the land,both regions developed a system that historians call feudalism. Lords acquired large estates of land. They granted some of their lands to lesser nobles who promised to fight for the lords when conflicts arose. In tum, these nobles trained warriors who, in exchange for farmland or food and lodging, swore to be loyal to the nobles and to defend them. The warriors of Europe were called knights. The warriors of Japan were called samurai. At the base of the feudal system in both Japan and Europe were peasants who farmed the land and provided food for the classes above them.