A holding is a mechanical representation of a political organization in a province or domain. The (surplus) wealth and influence of the holding is measured in mechanical terms by either gold bars, regency points, or both.
Each province contains the capacity to support holdings. There are four standard types of holdings:
The number of holding establishments of a single type that a province can support cannot exceed the numerical rating of the province. Thus, a province (4) can accommodate up to four establishments of law holdings. (Note that magical sources are calculated differently.)
Holdings reflect the organizations that participate in a single domain. To some extent, holdings reflect the share of activity that occurs in the province. A temple (2) has more influence in a province than a temple (1) in the same province. It could have more followers justifying its greater influence and wealth - or it could reflect a different followers with similar numbers of followers to the first holding but where the followers are individually more influential and wealthy, or simply more fervent/generous than in the first holding.

[top]Control or Possession?

Holdings can be taken to reflect political control over resources and people, rather than direct ownership of those resources and people - i.e. a guild holding might be a guild to which all smiths, masons, etc belong, but would not itself own the foundries, mines, tools, etc or directly employ the smiths, apprentices, laborers, etc. This view encourages holdings to shift rapidly between players, explains how they can be increased in power swiftly for low cost, for contest actions between domains to be seen relatively neutrally if they relate to minor holdings, etc. On the downside losing a holding to another domain could simply represent a successful lawsuit, the suborning of an ambitious lieutenant and so on - some players, particularly those with law and temple regents, may find the lack of any apparent loyalty unsatisfying and unrealistic - why after-all would a smart regent not seek to purge internal dissent, promote loyal lieutenants and generally stamp their image across their domain, winning personal loyalty from top to bottom?
An alternate view is that the holding directly represents the assets and people in the domain. This position generally leads to a more aggressive view of contest and rule actions, and higher costs for ruling and creating holdings to reflect that the underlying assets of a domain are not simply shifting allegiance, but are being created and destroyed by domain actions.
Both viewpoints have consequential impacts on role-playing - the ruler who is happy to see two guilds trying to undercut the other in the marketplace, rival faiths spread charity to attract the poor etc, (typical growth and contest actions in the control approach) may vehemently object to street warfare between the rivals with warehouses burned and foremen knifed in the dark (a possible interpretation of a contest action in the possession approach). A regent who has a domain level contested in the ownership approach (particularly for a province regent) may claim vengeance for their slaughtered followers, demand substantial reparations, etc and be considered entirely reasonable for doing so (indeed the player might feel compelled to do so from a role-playing perspective) - such a reaction under the control approach would likely be seen as excessive by other regents.

[top]Unified or Conglomeration?

Holdings can be taken to be unified groups or as conglomerations of disparate groups allied for convenience or protection.
Unified groups could be a temple where all the priests and lay worshipers follow a single god, a guild with one primary activity (all miners, all fishers), a legal system where the regent's word flashes from high to low at whim and every office owes loyalty directly to the regent, etc.
A disparate group could indicate a variety of nobles, each with their own power-base, a variety of small guilds who work together to present a unified face to the outside world, a series of churches dedicated to multiple gods each of which accept the political primacy of a core faith, etc.
The role-playing difference can be significant whether or not the difference is represented in game mechanics. A conglomeration can expect rapid shifts in loyalty as sub-domains depart/join the main domain, contain a wide variety of people, etc. A unified organization is on the other hand is inherently more uniform and stable. From a meta-game perspective the conglomeration approach encourages a rule-set which allows rapid growth, internal dissent and schisms, powerful vassals, etc, the latter approach is however far more 'natural' to many players who may see internal dissent as treason, heresy, etc or prefer a rule-set where contests, growth, etc are far slower and harder to come by.
Alternate rule systems may use additional holding types such as:

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