This is the first part of the important news I’ve not been getting round to posting, and this bit already broken at Medieval History Geek. In fact, had I not checked in out of curiosity, Curt’s notice that the new issue of Early Medieval Europe was online would have been the first I’d heard of it myself; their mail didn’t arrive till rather later. That’s how cutting-edge he is folks! You will hear it there first, at least sometimes. And now today my single author’s copy has arrived in the post, so it is genuinely ‘out there’.
So yus. We have here two instances of me in my negative scholarly mode, in the first place a paper I’ve mentioned here a fair few times as it developed or waited but which was started by my reaction to an earlier EME paper by Cullen Chandler, on a procedure of land settlement from our mutual corner of medieval Europe which had a unique name, aprisio.1 This seems to come from the same root as aprehendere, means something like ‘taking over’ and if you read the article you’ll see that I have doubts as to whether it ever bore the legal significance that it’s often been given. Here’s the abstract:
Important aspects of social history can sometimes be lost in legalisms. A long debate, recently continued in EME, has studied the right of aprisio claimed by those who took over wasteland on the frontier of the future Catalonia. This paper argues that previous treatments of the term have conflated many separate factors and misunderstood what aprisio actually was in practice. When studied at ground level it seems that, despite the role given to immigrant settlers by historians, landholders by aprisio need not have been newcomers, but locals using new rules for otherwise normal land clearances.
After I’ve cleared the previous scholarship on the word and the phenomenon out of the way to my satisfaction, I do therefore get onto some more constructive consideration of how frontier settlement might have worked and how the various models fit with the actual evidence of practice. I think that that is the paper’s actual importance, but you could be forgiven for reading it as mainly a hatchet job on the older work, and in that it is true, ’tis pity, that Cullen’s paper gets the most blows with the axe, not least because it’s closest of course. Medieval History Geek has given Cullen a kind of right of reply with a post about it and if you want to see how we argue, there are a few comments there showing it in action. Here I just want to say, I first wrote this in 2003. It’s been through various stages of refinement as I referenced more and more previous scholarship in it, incorporated feedback, eased the critique and added more alternative views, but it was still in the print queue three months before I first met Cullen. At that first meeting I warned him this was coming, because I didn’t want us to become friendly and then him find out the hard way I’d only finished throwing daggers at his back a few months previously. I’m afraid I stand by every word, and I think they’re good words and am happy to have them being read, but it’s still kind of regrettable it’s taken this long, not least because the new paper of his that this one shares the issue with demonstrates perfectly well that he is a scholar to be taken seriously and learnt from.2
It’s also regrettable to an extent that this comes out at the same time as my review of Kathleen Davis’s book Periodization and Sovereignty: how ideas of feudalism and secularization govern the politics of time (Philadelphia 2008). I have not been kind about this book, which I think is two article-length ideas, one of which was already out, blown up to book-length by massive and unhelpful repetition and free use of ‘the language that locks others out‘, and which had no business going to an early medievalist journal. So I was thorough, so that someone could hopefully tell if they needed to read it despite my dislike, but my writing is unavoidably negative here as well. These two things were begun four years apart and have emerged together only by coincidence, but the effect on me is that I now want to reassure people that I can write nice things about people’s scholarship, honest.3
Statistics: the article presented once in 2005; three drafts, one revision stage. Time from first submission to print: two years six months, slowed at least in part by strategical favouring of things that at the time I thought would come out sooner. I guess we probably could have shaved six months off that if I’d put it first. Also, unless their printers are somehow mistaken, it would apparently cost me £750.00 to have any offprints at all and I can’t have fewer than fifty, which is taking the mickey I think, as is their copyright agreement. On the other hand I will say this: there were almost no errors in proof at all, and that was a wonderful surprise, as indeed was the publication… As for the review, one draft one revision, time from first submission to print one year one month, and there were no proofs of this to check but it looks fine now.
1. Jonathan Jarrett, “Settling the King’s Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford forthcoming), pp. 320-342, provoked by Cullen J. Chandler, “Between court and counts: Carolingian Catalonia and the aprisio grant, 778-897″, ibid. 11 (2002), pp. 19-44.
2 Chandler, “Barcelona BC 569 and a Carolingian programme on the virtues”, ibid. 18 (2010), pp. 265-291.
3. I have been taken to task for being too self-deprecating about my publications here, and this is probably fair: after all, EME’s a top-rated journal and I am, I am really pleased to be in it again. But it is the devil of publishing in the humanities that things take so long to come out that they have become awkward by the time they emerge, and this is a particularly sharp example of that.
Ah, so that was the book you mentioned over at mine! I understand now!
By the way, your link to Medieval History Geek is broken.
Argh, thankyou, fixed.
Thanks for the link – I probably should mention this in that thread but I want to leave the comments for you and Cullen. It felt very strange to write “Dr. Jarrett” or “Jarrett” rather than “Jonathan.”
It wasn’t as strange to write “Chandler” or “Dr. Chandler” rather than Cullen but it may become so – and I’ll count myself fortunate if this happens.
Gotta not review stuff from people I know, even a little bit, I think.
I was quite surprised you went formal on us, actually. I always give in to the temptation to name-drop. I’m not sure how to advise you as to the reviewing policy, though; I took no offence from your report or scruples at all, but it’s not me that’s brought under fire in the article…
I don’t go 100% formal usually – call it “jacket but no tie.” But that one had me wondering how to handle it a bit. I started off with the intent of a summary with some brief comments and became much more detailed than I’d originally intended – not quite a full-on review but not terribly far from it either.
Also, I feel pretty comfortable addressing you on a 1st name basis but not quite so much with Cullen (getting there I think) and addressing the two of you as Jonathan and Chandler or Dr. Chandler didn’t seem right.
And also fixed, the links to EME that were inadvertently pointing at Cambridge University’s subscription to it, what won’t have been much use to anyone elsewhere, sorry; now DOI links throughout.
Good review of the ‘aprissio problem’, down to hearth, and realistic.
1) The roots of the practice, seems to be gothic nature (presuras/aprissio + 30 years custom), but promoted (/invented?) under the carolingian occupation/legislation.
2) As you points out, the term is clearly conflated, there’s not a single aprissio, but many of them according to time and context. Like trying to define what a ‘loan’ in the XX century USA was.
3) The key point seems to be in the ‘settlement’ concept. As a legal term, (an especific way to gain rights over a piece of land) it’s not a good indicator of the causes that promoted his usage, and it seems that except the ‘hispani’ of the early frankish ocupation, maybe there was no massive population mouvements, so, little ‘settlement’ here, but problably only different ‘re-legalization’ waves on the frontier lands. Related for example, with the parrochias definiton and/or eglises (re)building on ‘desert’ lands mouvements documented also on the catalan and asturian areas.
Thankyou for the approving words! There is certainly a parallel with the situation in Asturias and, rather more, León, where all new settlers are readily assumed to be incoming Mozarabs (whatever that means!) even though you can find in the same Leonese charters places called `villa de cordobesos’ and `villa de asturianos’ (a little way south-west of León itself). But I think that the Larrea & Viader paper picks up and differentiates the two situations well and I had no space for any more words!
I think this third point is very good. I personally have seen no evidence indicating massive settlement in either Septimania or Catalonia south of the Pyrenees in the late eighth or early ninth century. Now, my knowledge may well be rusty, what with working on Dhuoda and all, but it might not be until the 870s and 880s that settlement in some areas picks back up again. Am I right in thinking that the foundations of Ripoll and Sant Joan de les Abadesses are part of that movement? That seems to be when the counts first start to take over the aprisio institutions. Seems to me, from what I recall, they knew that there was such a thing, so they recognized–or even encouraged–new settlements by updating the institution for present purposes.
If you think that formulation is getting close to right, then we’re not now nor have we ever been very part on our views, after all.
I think we have a bunch of differences, to be honest. One is in how much control we think the counts have over aprisio. I think that though they certainly encourage new settlement, and carry out aprisio themselves, there is no aprisio privilege that they can recognise, and no single process that they can claim control of. They do (or rather, Borrell II and Ramon Borrell do) assert that they, as the king’s successors (not representatives! successors, by charter, is what they assert) own waste land, but this is hardly ever actually enforced or acted on, and it’s only expressed in the 950s onward. Aprisio is not a legal institution, just a way you get land. So that last is also a difference between us, I think, though I think we agree about settler density.
When the two Ripoll houses are converted to monasteries, meanwhile, if Santa Maria was ever anything else, it’s done with land that Guifré’s bought from people who did ‘apprise’ it. There’s almost always someone there by the time the counts move the institutions in, otherwise what’s the point? This is why Cardona and Isona are such problems for them; defensively, they need people out there, but they can’t muster the support to keep them there. And here I differ from basically everyone, so it’s hardly surprising you’re among them…
Crossed posts. My english is just too limited to express succesfully my opinions. I don’t think the counts controlled the aprisio. As you points out, they were just using an already present method, but it was a legal one, at least, in the sense that justice tribunals recognized the term as a legitimate source of rights over land property.
Can’t comment on Cardona, for what I recall, Guifre have to offer big ‘incentives’ to try to keep there some defensive presence. :)
Yes, but in that sense it’s exactly as legal as inheritance, purchase or donation. I grant you those all receive coverage in the Visigothic Law, rather more than land clearance does in fact! But the idea that if you clear land you should own it, all other things being equal, is no more controversial or specialised for these people than the idea that if you buy something you own it or that you can legitimately inherit your father’s house when he dies. It’s that level of basic.
As for Cardona, yes, but remember to beware that we only have Guifré’s concession through Borrell II’s regrant. Borrell was quite good at making up new stuff along these lines so I wonder how much of it really went back to Grandpa Guifré… And that in 987 was the fourth reoccupation since the Carolingians took over, so whatever Guifré did offer… wasn’t enough.
Oh, and I was arguing with Cullen, not you, I should say. That’s more or less how this whole thing started, after all…
Yes, I took the Cullen post as being yours, but it was already too late. My fault.
Indeed, we have quite similar views.
What eludes me most, is the cultural reasons that moved those ‘settlements’. I can detect political/religious issues going on here and there, in especific episodes, but the whole picture scapes me much. So much to learn.
Well, there it’s tempting to just follow Bonnassie and ascribe a substantial rôle to ambition and initiative, I think. There was opportunity there, and a few people took it, looking for a way to make their fortune, or at least subsistence, out of the new deal rather than the old. But as you’ll have seen from the article, I don’t think there were that many such people compared to the ones who were already there and just expanded their operations, along with their children, in a time of growth, increased security and better harvests.
Pingback: Amateur Medieval Strategy – Book Hunting « Medieval History Geek
Pingback: Building states on the Iberian frontier, II: clearing the land | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe
Pingback: Towards a Global Middle Ages II: the middle of what, exactly? | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe
Pingback: Enlisting medieval history against the Islamic State | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe
Pingback: Is Victorian the New Feudal? | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe