Tag Archives: Catalonia

Increased recognition and research capability

I figure you’ve probably had about enough of me this week, what with the strike posting, so for the regular post of the week I shall keep things short with two bits of good news amid the current woes, and not even backdated like most of my posting. (Well, a little bit, but not as much as usual.)

In the first place, those of you who’ve been tracking me a while may remember that I arrived at Leeds in the post of Lecturer in Early Medieval History and the mission, more or less, of keeping coverage of the years with three digits going in whatever fashion I thought best. Apparently, despite my early difficulties, that has gone all right because on 30th June I was able to accept promotion to Associate Professor in or of [no-one seems sure] Early Medieval History. My core mission remains unchanged, but this does mean that people sending me mail from the US addressed to Professor Jarrett will technically no longer be incorrect! There are also implications for my take-home wage (still not keeping up with inflation of course) that make the 15-page form, 19-page CV and 18-month process (admittedly thrown sideways by Covid-19 like so much else) a bit more worthwhile, but mainly it’s quite nice to have some form of reassurance that actually, I have been doing my job not just well enough but well enough for it actually to be a better job. But actually probably nearly as important for my academic future is this:

Volumes 2 through to 8 of the Catalunya Carolíngia on the blogger's shelf

Yup, that’s a whole lot of uniform-looking books on a shelf all right…

What is that? you say, and I answer, it is the entirety of the Catalunya Carolíngia charter volumes, on my shelf and ready for use and consultation, which is to say that I now own texts of every known charter from Catalonia prior to the year 1000. You must all have seen these volumes in my footnotes, but until very recently they took up less space in my house because not all of them existed yet. It’s been a long project, founded by the lawyer and amateur scholar Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals in the 1920s, which saw the royal charters for Catalonia and the charters of Pallars and Ribagorza published beginning in 1926 and finishing in 1955, and then a long nothing till Ramon Ordeig i Mata published the 1,500-odd documents from Osona and Manresa in 1999. Since then Ordeig seems to have been the magic ingredient, as every subsequent volume except the three covering Barcelona, which came out in 2019 thanks to Ignasi Baiges i Jardí and Pere Puig i Ustrell, has been completed by him, even if it wasn’t started by him, and in 2020 that culminated with volume 8 for Urgell, Cerdanya and Berga.1 The facility this gives my work is hard to explain. It has dramatically slowed work on the book because of having new data, the dangers of which I have described before and which have again come true, but you see, now I have everything there is: almost no future evidence of this kind can be expected to be discovered.2 That means that if I check my notes and the indices to these volumes I can be pretty sure how much something does or does not occur over a corpus of just about 5,000 documents and about 20,000 square miles over two-and-a-bit centuries. It may only be in print, but it’s still a heck of a searchable database, and I intend putting it to work for many years yet. If I ever meet Ramon Ordeig i Mata I will shake his hand gratefully; his work has really made, and continues to make, my research possible.3


1. I won’t cite all the volumes here now, as those who really want to can find the details themselves without trouble, but there is a useful history of the project in Gaspar Feliu, “La Catalunya Carolíngia” in Joandomènec Ros, Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Mercé Morales Montoya, Josep María Salrach Marés, Feliu and Marta Prevosti i Monclús, Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals: sessió en memòria, Semblances bibliogràfiques 97 (Barcelona 2021), pp. 75–89, online here.

2. There probably are more documents in private hands still—indeed, I kind of live in hope of one or two caches that went missing during the Spanish Civil War turning up some day—but it’s probably not many that go back as far as my period of interest, and the project had already been quite good at getting at the ones that do exist. Their advantage was largely having Church connections, rather than government ones, as far as I can see, because a similar government venture did not meet with the same success: see Daniel Piñol Alabart, “Proyecto ARQUIBANC – Digitalizacion de archivos privados catalanes: Una herramienta para la investigacion” in Antonella Ambrosio, Sébastien Barret and Georg Vogeler (edd.), Digital diplomatics: The computer as a tool for the diplomatist?, Beihefte der Archiv für Diplomatik 14 (Köln 2014), pp. 99–108.

3. A lot of other people are owed thanks here too, but especially Josep María Salrach who made it much easier for me to get several of the volumes. I should also note that the intention of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans is actually to turn it into an electronic database too, via Project CatCar, which has already generated a lot of interesting essays about what these documents have to tell us about Catalonia’s past. I’m sure the full electronic version will make a difference when it exists but right now, just wait till you see what I can do with all these indices!

AFK as promised: in marca hispanica iterum videndo

Tomorrow afternoon I am flying out to Catalonia, as I’ve mentioned, so things will be unattended round here for a short while. I should be back to regular blogging on the 12th, and I’ve got a couple of posts ready that I will schedule to go up while I’m away, but I won’t see comments or anything. I hope that the resumption of seminars, finishing some work and (camera permitting—it’s not well) photos of castles and so forth will make for better content than has been to have round here lately. I hope to go all of here (because of this), here (not because of this, though it should be, but because of this), here (because of this), here (because of this), here (because of the book, and also this again, and lastly back here because of a charter I haven’t told you about yet which will likely get a post to itself if I can get a look at it. None of this may be possible, because I don’t have the driver I had last time, but I aim to have fun anyway.

(And for more details see here or here.)

In the meantime, if you have heard or, better, used, the phrase “medieval warm period“, which is still more or less where I stand as an explanation for the By-Our-Lady Feudal Transformation, you may well be interested in this attempt to bring actual science to the question. I’m no scientist myself but it seems to me that they’ve either got a point or they’re lying (I mean ‘funded by vested interests’) and I think the point they seem to have fits better with the historical evidence, myself.

Recent finds in soil and sea, from the heart of the Empire and well beyond its borders

Since my own work this brief ‘holiday’ has so far been mostly revising stuff I wrote long ago, rather than finding out new stuff, I’m sticking to observations culled from the Internet this post. I think almost all of them came from either News for Medievalists or the Heroic Age blog, so thanks to both those fine institutions for these links that I went and followed.

In the first place, of interest to no-one but me most likely, I have discovered a Catalan archaeology blog, ArqueoCat, which has duly been blogrolled, though nothing there has been posted since I did this. Its focus seems to be mainly prehistoric, and of course it’s written in Catalan (there is a translator for webpages offered by the Catalan government but its results are, er, erratic) but I have hopes for it and I also have the relevant language skills. If you have those, I’ve also just happened across a Catalan blog dealing in medieval romances and chivalry, Eixa altra Edat Mitjana, whose author is apparently reading this, so hullo! I warn the general readership, it is about as work-safe as Got Medieval, and phrases like “butttrumpet” may be necessary. As we’ve observed before, the Middle Ages weren’t a particularly clean-minded era.

For those of you reading mainly in English, I had Kirsten Ataoguz’s Early Medieval Art blog down in the resources section, but discovered I was never checking it, and have therefore put it with the other blogs where it probably rightfully belongs, and have simultaneously discovered, I think through someone’s notice at the Unlocked Wordhoard (how do people expect Prof. Nokes actually to read all those darn blogs? I lose too much time on the ones I follow already) Medieval Ecclesiastical Art, which is a bit late for me academia-wise but has the signal advantage of telling me about places I might actually visit, because I in turn have the signal advantage of being in Europe of course, though some of our political parties here might prefer to think otherwise.

That kind of leads us to archaeology, and recently the hot archaeology appears to be in Rome where they are claiming to have found the underground retreat where the Emperor Caligula was murdered. I am pretty dubious about this. I mean, even I have fallen prey to the whole let’s-associate-a-written-source-with-our-recent-find syndrome, it’s natural enough, but in the case I blogged about here, the source was rather more solid than Suetonius’s Vita Cæsarum and the archaeology rather clearer. This new case could be all wrong: let’s remember that the Roman digs are being led by someone who was trying to tell us he’d found genuine evidence for Romulus and Remus only a few years ago. Their level of interpretation comes across too much, in English-language media at least, as “it looks so close it must be true! what do you mean, dating evidence?” and I worry. There’s some further reports that I haven’t seen (no YouTube at work, no inclination to switch off the Black Sabbath at home—after all, heavy metal’s a legitimate subject of scholarly inquiry now) here on News for Medievalists, which I guess are covering the same stuff. However, that’s all Classical so I don’t have to worry more than I choose to. Much more interesting to me, and not sensational for them so rather less likely to be over-/misreported, is this story that they’ve found evidence for ‘Dark Age’ habitation apparently in the Classical catacombs, people living among the ancient dead. A certain amount of sensationalism has crept in with a claim that these people “must” have been runaway slaves or persecuted Christians living in hiding, but I wonder (and I’m not the first). The Roman catacombs elsewhere in the city, and some of those in Milan, have turned up much more complicated scenarios than this, including anti-Christian graffiti, so I hope more investigation goes on here as it would be a window into a period of Rome about which I don’t think we know as much as we’d like.

The site of the tomb complex uncovered in Rome (follow link for credits)

Then from the other end of Empire, I discover that Martin Carver isn’t the only one with a Pictish-period monastery in Scotland to play with, although Inchmarnock, where digging has recently been concluded, is on the opposite coast to Portmahomack, where meanwhile the digging and finds continue, which must be almost irritating for them now that they have the Visitors’ Centre up and running and have to rearrange the display every time something new that’s old comes up. Inchmarnock isn’t quite so productive a site, or so Pictish but, as has been said here before the Picts were on Skye, though we only see them as they Gaelicise, so the dating could be crucial for such a definition. Unfortunately for the Pictish nation enthusiasts, what’s come up so far is mainly slates, and those used for writing in Ogham, which makes an Irish connection most likely. But writing on slates is always interesting anyway, my first really popular post here was about that very phenomenon, and the parallel intrigues me especially as the report suggests that the slates suggest people learning Ogham, which would be inordinately important for the literacy scholars, some of whom, of course, taught me to pay attention to this stuff. If writing was being taught, I suppose it is likely that what they’re finding is from a monastery, and we know that there was eventually one there. All the same, it’s not as conclusive as Portmahomack’s all-male cemetery, but I see that this hasn’t stopped the dig leader writing a book about it which I guess I shall now have to read, some day in my mythical free time.

Well outside the Empire in one direction, because I already mentioned Inuit cultures here once I now feel they’re sort of part of the remit even though I know nothing about them. Partly it’s because it’s useful to keep a vague notion of what else is going on where in the world during the Middle Ages just so that one doesn’t get too fixed to a European idea of progress and development. So, late Antique Alaska: we have new evidence. Constantine was founding a new Rome and these people really didn’t care, but we know more about them than we did a few weeks ago.

"A bird bone... grooved for snapping out thin blanks that would be ground down and eyed into sewing needles"

'A bird bone... grooved for snapping out thin blanks that would be ground down and eyed into sewing needles'

And lastly, and maybe most importantly of all I find this story about a sunken Arab dhow, from its cargo datable to after 826 A. D., that has been found, still mostly preserved on the seafloor with a fabulous cargo. The important thing is not so much the cargo, however, as the location, which is off Sumatra. Then the cargo becomes important, because it’s basically gold treasure and really really fine Tang dynasty pottery of the highest grades, as well as 40,000 china bowls—which are now the oldest known actual ‘china’ in the world—packed in beansprouts… Who knows what this stuff was doing on one badly-lost dhow, which seems to have come to grief on the reefs of the Gaspar Strait, but it illustrates really high-value commercial links between (probably) Iraq, via Basra and on into the cAbbasid Caliphate, and Tang dynasty China, well before we have much evidence of such contact. Also, bulk long-distance trade too: even Chris Wickham would have trouble writing off 40,000 bowls as marginal luxury traffic… So I hope for much more on this in future months.

If that isn’t enough to keep you clicking, and in some cases boggling at how little some Romance languages can change over six hundred years, well, I don’t know what would be but I look forward to seeing it…

Feudal Transformations VII: Michel Bur and the motte-and-bailey castle

I don’t plan to talk about each of the papers in that Spoleto volume individually, but Michel Bur’s contribution is a very good example of the kind of explanation of the changes in European society around the year 1000 that annoyed me enough to draw my famous diagram.1 His argument, very basically, is that at the end of the tenth century new motte-and-bailey castles proliferate all over northern France, and that this must have fundamentally affected the way that areas are run, bringing the collection of surplus much closer and, well, transforming society. And certainly this has some weight, but it’s only part of an argument. There are two ways to tackle this, what after one of the earlier posts we might call the Bedos-Rezak way, that is invalidate it by logical and theoretical argument, and the Jarrett way, which is to punch it full of exceptions until it deflates. First let’s do the theory.

Model of motte-and-bailey castle, from Wikimedia Commons

Model of motte-and-bailey castle, from Wikimedia Commons

It is certainly the case that one of the changes in society that characterises this period is the way castles pop up everywhere like plague. In Italy, where the phenomenon was first really studied, they call it Incastellamento and the effects on society of a new local and unassailable structure of domination are well worked out.2 But it’s not as if the technology to achieve these sites is unthinkable before this time. The Romans could throw up fortified camps many times this size as part of an afternoon’s work, and if you follow the campaigns against the Vikings in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or the Annals of St-Bertin you’ll find each side putting up forts against each other as if it were no big thing.3 So, why isn’t everyone doing it before this? What’s changed? What, in fact, explains the castles?

Dépiction de l'action d'une bêche intellectuelle d'un archéologue, comme vue par Jonathan Jarrett

Dépiction de l'action d'une bêche intellectuelle d'un archéologue, comme vue par Jonathan Jarrett

The diagram above illustrates what’s going on here. Castles are part of a larger cycle of causation in this process, and because M. le Prof. Bur is an archaeologist as well as a historian this is what he knows best of all and sees in most detail. Above therefore we see the intellectual spade of M. Bur exposing the castles to the historical view, leaving the fact that they in turn were permitted to arise by other phenomena buried. So, what about these other phenomena? Time for the Jarrett view.

This is one of those things where Susan Reynolds has a good grip on the problem of explaining it all. We know that later kings police the building of castles very tightly, because it is by then well understood that just this process of local Incastellamento is downright detrimental to their command of an area. If their armies can be diverted or resisted they have no recourse against their vassals, and so on. So it is assumed that the Carolingians and their ilk were just as avid against local castle-building when in fact this is very hard to show. Certainly there are Carolingian cases of rebels’ castles being demolished, but these aren’t adulterine castles in the later English sense, these are just castles that were in the wrong hands. Out in my area, in the supposed cauldron of the Feudal Transformation, pretty much the first thing a lord does when he opens up a new area is put a tower up in it.4 You’ve seen some of these towers in the blog already:

The Castell de Tona, Osona, Catalunya, photo by Jonathan Jarrett

The Castell de Tona, Osona, Catalunya, photo by Jonathan Jarrett

Tona here boasts a tower whose foundation date is unknown but which was certainly not a refuge for the townsmen; you can barely get two people inside. And Òdena, founded by Sal·la of Bages as I told you a while ago, is not so very much bigger. I could tell you more, but I don’t have the pictures to hand to make the point.5

What remains of the Castell d'Òdena, founded by Sal·la and Unifred

What remains of the Castell d'Òdena, founded by Sal·la and Unifred

Now certainly Northern France was not a frontier area like Catalonia, and the obvious need for defensive towers and guardposts is rather less. All the same, there was no fear on the part of the counts of these castellans-in-the-making. The counts made a good few of them, they wanted this area castled, because castles brought them power. How? They could demand military service from these places, they could use them as bases, they could if they had to maintain garrisons out there but they’d far rather have had someone else paid for that.6 And perhaps this was a dangerous game to play, gambling on the biddableness of their fideles in time of trouble, but the prize was arguably worth the gamble, because the prize was military domination of an ever-increasing area and a considerable increase of surplus as the newly-protected areas around the new castles filled out and become productive. You can actually, with Catalonia, put castles into a different chain of causation with land clearance and therefore economic growth, though which caused which would be a bit more of an argument.7

So Michel Bur is surely right to stress the importance of castles, and when Dominique Barthélemy tried to dismiss his findings in questions by saying that the ‘wave’ of castles at issue were spread over most of a century, Bur was quite easily able to answer with “no they’re not, I’ve dug them and you haven’t” or words to that effect.8 But Barthélemy’s argument is the wrong one to use. The castles were important, and not just in Northern France either; but there are so many other things that are important too happening at the same time that this is not the answer we need, if it even exists.


1 Michel Bur, “Le féodalisme dans le royaume franc jusqu’à l’an mil: la seigneurie” in Il Feudalesimo nell’Alto Medioevo (8-12 aprile 1999), Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo Vol. 47 (Spoleto 2000), pp. 53-78 with discussion pp. 79-83.

2. Originated, I believe, with Pierre Toubert in (or rather translated from) his Les structures du Latium médiéval: Le Latium méridional et la Sabine du IXe siècle à la fin du XIIe siècle (Rome 1973); international findings gathered by him and Miquel Barceló in L’« Incastellamento »: Actes des Rencontres de Gérone (26-27 Novembre 1992) et de Rome (5-7 Mai 1994) (Rome 1998).

3. Easily accessible in M. Swanton (ed./transl.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (London 1996), and in the older translation of J. A. Giles online here, and in Janet L. Nelson (transl.), The Annals of St-Bertin (Manchester 1991), online here for those with subscriptions.

4. So, for example, the Torre dels Fils de Guadamir, as it’s briefly known, seen in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíingia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa (Barcelona 1998), doc. no. 1472; see Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 183-184. The tower was apparently a family venture, perhaps by the sons of an estate manager of the Cathedral of Vic. It seems to have rapidly disappeared or else, more likely, changed its name.

5. Tona was certainly standing by 889: see Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. 9. For Òdena’s connection to Sal·la see ibid. doc. no. 769.

6. The military service more or less assumed, see now Ramon d’Abadal & Josep María Font i Rius, “El regímen político carolingio” in J. M. Jover Zamora (ed.), Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, tomo VII: la España cristiana de los siglos VIII al XI, volumen II. Los Nucleos Pirenaicos (718-1035): Navarra, Aragón, Cataluña, ed. M. Riu i Riu (Madrid 1999), pp. 427-577 at pp. 467-503. Some form of comital control over castles is evidenced from the apparent resumption of the castle of Maians near Bages by Count Borrell II between 966 and 972; given to the monastery of Sant Benet de Bages in its 966 endowment (Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíingia IV, doc. no. 995A) it was gone by the monastery’s church consecration in 972 (ibid. doc. no. 1127), when the scribe used the monastery’s lack of military property as a moral high ground, and Unifred, Sal·la’s son, later held it from Borrell (ibid. doc. no. 1238). On all this see Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 38-46.

7. So, for example, economy driving lordship in Pierre Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle: croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975-1976), 2 vols; the other way round in Gaspar Feliu i Montfort, “Societat i econòmia” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), 2 vols, also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols. 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 81-115.

8. Again the delight of having the discussion printed! After Barthélemy’s harangue, Bur begins his response with (I translate): “Thankyou for that bracing statement of a case. It permits me to be clear in my turn.” In academese of course that’s tantamount to rolling up sleeves and asking him to step outside. Let no-one ever say that good manners prevent you being rude.

Rustici ad libertatem! or, things I’d like to discuss with Ramon Martí

I’m sorry it’s been so long. There was the Vienna trip, which will make for a couple of posts, and then there were just other things that needed doing before spending quality time with the Internet. On the upside, activity should now be fairly intense for a while, as I’ve been reading a range of stuff that’s caused me to bluster, think and start drafting posts. First of these, then, follows.

Ramon Martí i Castelló is Titular Professor of Medieval History at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, and is a name I come across quite frequently. I’ve corresponded with him once or twice and he’s always been drily helpful, but I’ve so far really only met him in print. This is always stimulating, but frequently makes me wonder if someone changed the consensus take on Catalan medieval history while I was out. Anglo-Saxonists might feel the same way about Eric John, and I’m sure there are others in everybody’s field; it’s all sustainable, but it’s very different from what most people argue… I’ve recently hit it again, in an article of his from 1999 called “Conquistas y capitulaciones campesinas”. There is a translation in the relevant volume later on, under the title “Peasant victories and defeats”, which just isn’t as snappy.1

Peasants at work, from the Bíblia de Ripoll

Peasants at work, from the Bíblia de Ripoll

I could go on at great length about this short article, because it leaves so much unexplained; this is why I’d like to talk to Prof. Martí about it, once my Catalan is better. But there’s value in trying to get out the reasons it gives me problems, in case they’re not much good. So, let me try and explain. His paper is a contribution to a lengthy debate about slavery and serfdom in Catalonia. The canonical view is probably Pierre Bonnassie’s, which as with most of his work makes better sense for Catalonia than anywhere else (like Marx with Russia).2 Bonnassie argued, firstly, that under the Visigothic kings of Spain slavery was still economically important, even if Roman-style fundi of dormitoried labourers working the owner’s fields (what Marx would have called the Ancient Mode of production) were probably rare compared to servi casati, ‘hutted’ slave families living on the plot of land they worked. (This refinement owes as much to Josep María Salrach as it does to Bonnassie really,3 and fits better into what the neo-Marxists now call the Tributary Mode of production.) Secondly he argued that due to slow but growing Christianization, which made it harder to pretend that these men and women who shared a church with you and got the same sacraments weren’t really human beings, due to the diminution of supply of slaves due to warfare as the kings slowly brought the whole peninsula under control, and due to political and economic collapse, that system was falling apart by the end of the Visigothic era, as the increasingly ridiculous legislation against fugitive slaves shows. Thirdly he argued that in the early independent Christian areas, the open frontier offered a zone of opportunity to which fugitives could go to make a new life and where the new power structures would support their rights, which as soon as that territory was opened up by the Carolingian take-over (in Catalonia—other processes along the northern coast obviously) meant that a slave system back in the mountains (where large-scale demesne farming didn’t really work anyway) was unmaintainable, so for a short period there is a society here in which peasant dependence is minimal, and almost all of them are free smallholders who can bear arms and owe neither rent nor labour to anyone, except what everyone owes to the public power by way of military service and tax. And (fifthly) as the economy booms in the late tenth and early eleventh century and the rich get richer, and then suddenly public power collapses, the increasingly oppressed peasantry is rapidly forced into subjection to the new lords and becomes the tied serfs that have to wait till the fifteenth century for its violent revolution. All this can be summed up as the “d’une servitude à un autre” argument.4

Martí’s version is much starker. As I first read it, I thought he was genuinely suggesting that the peasants took up arms to free themselves in the wake of the social disorder caused by the Carolingian takeover, which he sees as much more aggressive than, well, the sources do, albeit that they are all Frankish sources.5 In fact it’s not quite that amazing, but it’s not exactly canonical. In fact he suggests that the Visigothic kings’ measures were more effective in preserving slavery than Bonnassie thinks, mainly because they were in a powerful position and it seems hard to explain why they shouldn’t have been able to do this.5bis He argues that the Muslim takeover in any case arrested any decline, and froze Christian society’s development for some years, so where lords could hold their position they could continue to own slaves, even though slaves might find better lives working for the state on taken-over fiscal estates. And then he argues that because of resistance to the Carolingian takeover, and the Carolingian readiness to overturn social structures, converting the old fundi to benefices whose owners were often shuffled, and to support the establishment of immigrant and other armed yeoman households independently populating the frontier for its defence, this is the period in which it was possible for the slave system to break down, and that remaining slaves would have taken full advantage of the social breakdown to escape to new situations and become independents. By the time the charter evidence really gets going, in the late ninth or early tenth centuries, everyone can agree that slavery is so rarely seen that it seems basically to be domestic, and that there are an awful lot of free peasants. Martí is basically saying, this all happened in the century or so of effective Carolingian rule when our sources hardly exist and the Carolingians were prepared to endorse, establish and defend a new social order breaking out of the old one.

The Carolingian host on the march (though not on the March)

The Carolingian host on the march (though not on the March)

It’s difficult to argue with this, in as much as it’s possible in the absence of evidence to argue almost anything. And certainly others have argued that slavery persists much later than Bonnassie thought, Paul Freedman believing in the freedom effect of the frontier but thinking that there was probably always more dependence and slavery than the sources, which are obviously generated by landholders, would ever show, and Gaspar Feliu generally arguing that the lords never really lose that much control, and that it’s the way servitude is defined and exploited that changes, not its existence.6 All the same, the amount of peasant initiative and their ability to overcome a previously-rigid structure of oppression once the state behind it doesn’t want to hold it up, is very different in this account from Bonnassie’s, Freedman’s, Feliu’s or anyone’s really. It’s not fully explained here either, referring the reader to other works of his which are much harder to track down, though I’ll give it a go. How to get a grip on this and assess on what it is that my disinclination to accept it is based?

I don’t actually have a realised alternative argument, it must be said, except that on the whole I’m somewhere between Bonnassie and Feliu; I think that there probably was a lot of oppression of peasants by powerful people but on the whole, there was more smallholding liberty in the Carolingian period as documented (as opposed to the bit we can’t see) than before and after. I’ve explained why I think this elsewhere, but Martí’s argument isn’t on this continuum. I think that the differences in argument arise from differing accounts of two particular things, or at least my differences with this do. (This ignores our considerable difference over the extent to which the pre-Catalans were complicit in the Carolingian takeover; I think his version is militantly nationalist almost to the point of delusion, but it doesn’t actually alter his argument if it wasn’t like that.) The first of these is the definition of slavery, or servitude, and the second is the róle we give to the ‘public power’, the ‘state’ or whatever you want to call the government of the day.

Commemorative plaque at Santa Maria dAmer in Catalonia, recording the 1485 agreement between the peasant rising known as the Remences and their lords by King Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragó, Count of Barcelona

Commemorative plaque at Santa Maria d'Amer in Catalonia, recording the 1485 agreement between the peasant rising known as the Remences and their lords by King Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragó, Count of Barcelona

Martí has taken a very stark definition of slavery, which could be nuanced a great deal. Me, I think there is a difference between free, serf and slave which must have been very hard to draw in individual cases, but which can be expressed (and is best seen) in land transfers: a free man sells the land, a serf is sold with it but not without it, and a slave can be sold with no land involved. What this doesn’t really cover is the tenant, whom Professor Feliu has rightly warned me was surely the most common person we never see. He could be free and still included in a land sale, though he might well consent or witness without being specified as such I suspect.7 But Martí again isn’t on that continuum, so I can leave that problem of mine aside, for the moment. Bonnassie argued that by the ninth century, there was really little visible difference between the slave, who lived with his family on a plot of land and was subject to various duties, renders and levies to his owner, and the poor peasant who technically owned some land but had had to commend himself to a lord, did labour for him, paid him various renders and so on. They worked in the same fields, worshipped in the same church, and generally lived the same lives. This distance was not unbridgeable, and even in the Visigothic period there are complicated laws about marriages that cross it.

The argument more or less ignores domestic slavery, which is obviously more oppressive, has various implications that still draw me a great deal of web-search interest, and which clearly continued, but since we are like good post-Marxists focussing on the means of production here, let those unfortunates step back into the shadows. Martí repeatedly argues for the Carolingian conversion of fundi, big-estate farms of the Ancient type, into benefices, which means that he is thinking in terms of concentrated agricultural slavery. It’s true that the Visigothic Law does seem to be trying to save that, and that the Muslim polity further south did take over big estates bodily and run them with only semi-free labour, and therefore might have done here too; that is, if fundi lasted till 718 the Muslims might have maintained them as fiscal estates and that slavery might therefore have continued there, though whether we’re really looking at barracks of men and women in chains fed from a communal kitchen like US plantations are sometimes imagined rather than outhoused families farming strips and notionally owned is more dubious; there really just isn’t evidence for the former after the Forum Iudicum, and that, being normative not documentary, is a world of interpretative difficulties. I would need to chase up the other papers of Martí’s before I knew why he thinks this is defensible, but at the moment it doesn’t seem right to me, and I prefer Bonnassie’s take on it.

King Sisebut of the Visigoths, as depicted on a gold tremiss of his reign (image from Wikimedia Commons)

King Sisebut of the Visigoths, as depicted on a gold tremiss of his reign (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Then there’s the fisc. Until the late-ninth century almost all the charters we have from Catalonia are either royal precepts or dispute settlements that royal missi or counts heard in Carolingian-style courts (albeit with Visigothic-style judges and saiones). One of these, from 832, is a case where a count tries (and fails) to claim a man as a servus fiscalis, which Martí claims as proof that the counts still held big estates of the fisc for which slave agriculture was appropriate. Wrapped up in this is the question: what happened to the lands which belonged to the Visigothic state? We know that it was separate from the land the kings themselves owned, because some chronicles of those kings criticise King Sisebut for mixing the two up.8 And my charters are full of land that is called fiscs, and occasional unspecified ‘benefices’ which seem to be held by officials.9 But are these two the same thing? Were the royal lands partly taken over by the Muslims, and then the walis of Barcelona, and then its counts for the Carolingian kings? Or is it just that all abandoned land is swallowed up into the fisc during the Carolingian takeover? Could the title to its supposed slave cultivators have been maintained through all that in either case? Martí says yes, until the Carolingians turn up at least; Bonnassie said it was gone before they arrived. (Feliu says it hardly matters what you call it, there are big landowners who have tied dependants at all points.) The problems are made worse because we can’t assume that everything the later counts hold or dispose of is fiscal land, even though at times Bonnassie did; like the earlier kings, they have lands of their own.10 Here I don’t have an answer; I know I don’t think there was slave agriculture of any kind really, and that serfdom was as yet unformalised even if, especially in Barcelona county rather than Osona, there were big estates farmed as demesne which must have looked like serfdom did later once definitions were clearer. But as to how much there was a survival of public landholding that the Carolingians might have messed up, I couldn’t tell you. Boundaries are remembered that are that old; but that’s not the same thing as what dues whatever’s in them is supposed to pay and to whom, which is essentially what the difference is and breaks down when there is, for example, no king any more.11

I don’t seem to think the same things about these important building blocks of the argument about what happened between late Antiquity and the medieval period, what Chris Wickham has called ‘the Other Transition”, in Catalonia, as does Martí.12 He certainly knows more about it than I do, though whether that explains how he thinks of it is another question. I do wonder for example whether, since the different ways Gaspar Feliu and I seem to see things is at least partly a factor of the fact that I know Osona best and he knows Barcelona, where estates are bigger and seigneurial power larger, better, it may not be the case that Professor Martí, who is best centered in Girona, is seeing a regional situation in this old area that was never frontier that genuinely did differ from the two frontier counties.13 And I think there is some pretty basic difficulty with what Martí is proposing at the level of continuity, because it requires a very great deal of continuity through all the disturbances of the seven and eighth centuries, rebellion, secession, invasion and resistance, take-over and foreign occupation, which is then able to just collapse into severe and violent discontinuity as soon as the magic Carolingians turn up and take a more hands-off approach. I think the obvious period for discontinuity is during the Muslim occupation myself, when the supervision of the area by the state is basically military garrisons in a few places and the isolated places can now remake things their own way. But what mainly intrigues me about this is that from such quite fine differences over some important basics we can pile up deductions, conditioned by those different views, until we are so far apart that almost all we can do is throw things at each other’s preconceptions, because our two takes on the same evidence essentially don’t meet at several points.


1. Ramon Martí, “Conquistas y capitulaciones campesinas” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cutura antes del románico (siglos IX y X) (Madrid 1999), pp. 59-63, transl. as “Peasant victories and defeats”, ibid. pp. 448-451.

2. Most easily accessible in Pierre Bonnassie, “Survie et extinction du régime esclavagiste dans l’occident du haut moyen âge (IV-XI s.)” in Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale Vol. 28 (Poitiers 1985), pp. 307-343, transl. J. Birrell as “The Survival and Extinction of the System of Slavery in the Early Medieval West, fourth to eleventh centuries” in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe (Cambridge 1991), pp. 1-59.

3. Josep Maria Salrach, El Procés de Feudalització, Història de Catalunya 2 (Barcelona 1987), pp. 93-109; Salrach has since written what is probably a very important book precisely on this question, La formación del campesinado en el oriente antiguo y medieval: anàlisis de los cambios en las condiciones de trabajo desde la Roma clásica al feudalismo (Barcelona 1997), which I haven’t yet read; clearly time to fix that.

4. The phrase is Bonnassie’s, translated by Jean Birrell as “From one Servitude to Another: the peasantry of the Frankish kingdom at the time of Hugh Capet and Robert the Pious (987-1031)” in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism, pp. 288-313; rev. from orig. French as “D’une servitude à l’autre: les paysans du royaume” in R. Delort (ed.), La France de l’An Mil, Points-Histoires H130 (Paris 1990), pp. 125-141.

5. In particular, though the Royal Frankish Annals are plainly hiding some complexity when they baldly say that Girona handed itself over to Charlemagne in 785, the whole area between there and Urgell seems to be in Carolingian hands very soon after, and this just isn’t something a single campaign that isn’t even mentioned in the annals could conceivably have done. I just find the Catalan-cooperation version far easier to understand. Cite for the Annals in the previous post but one. Meanwhile, one of the first things that made me baulk at this paper was his adduction of the Hispanus John as evidence that the Barcelona area was one of lawless warbands at this time. John (or Juan, or Jean—what language do you use for a man who came from who knows where in Spain, fought around Barcelona before the place really spoke Catalan and settled in what’s now France?) is discussed in José Enrique Ruiz Domenec, “Un «pauper» rico en la Cataluña carolingia a fines del siglo VIII” in Boletín de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vol. 36 (Barcelona 1975-1976), pp. 5-14, and Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), pp. 106-110; he was no peasant, but trailed round a small force of armed men who later became his dependants when he scored two big estates from Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. They were probably his dependants before that, too. The fact that he was out there in no way shows that there were peasant warbands on the rampage as the Carolingians arrived.

5bis. There is this basic problem here for anyone studying Visigothic Spain: how, if it was so strong, did it collapse? Or, if it was so weak, how did it survive so long and act so powerful? Peter Linehan points out people struggling with this in his History and the Historians of Medieval Spain (Oxford 1993), but doesn’t have a solution, and no-one really does.

6. Paul Freedman, The Origins of Peasant Servitude in Catalonia, Cambridge Iberian and Latin American Studies (Cambridge 1991), pp. 1-68; Gaspar Feliu, “La pagesia catalana abans de la feudalització” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 26 (Barcelona 1994), pp. 19-41, and “Feudalisme: llibertat i servitud” in Miguel Barceló, Gaspar Feliu, A. Furió, M. Miquel & J. Sobrequés, El Feudalisme Comptat i Debatut. Formació i Expansió del Feudalisme Català (Valencia 2003), pp. 45-70. Professor Feliu kindly sent me offprints of both these papers, for which I thank him.

7. Feliu, “Pagesia catalana”; I’d reached some of the way along this path before I received that article, as can be seen in my “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 160-167.

8. Questions of the Visigothic fisc most recently discussed (I think) in Santiago Castellanos, “The Political Nature of Taxation in Visigothic Spain” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2004), pp. 201-228.

9. Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 188 & 194, mentions two of these apparently fiscal allotments; it’s hard to say what will make the final cut just now but as it currently stands two more are added in idem, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

10. Bonnassie made a table of alienations of the fisc by the counts of Barcelona in his La Catalogne du Milieu du Xe à la Fin du XIe Siècle: croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975-1976) 2 vols, I pp. 145-148, but one of them was a sale of lands that the counts had only bought a few years previously and which had passed to the seller there from a village founder who had developed it (Jarrett, “Pathways”, p. 195 n. 166). If that was fisc, so was anything the counts owned in any way at all, and there needn’t be anything ancient about it.

11. On continuity of boundaries see Jordi Bolòs i Masclans, “Paisatge, poblament i societat a Catalunya entorn de l’any 1000” in Imma Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 254-283, with English abstract pp. 285-286.

12. Chris Wickham, “The Other Transition: from the ancient to feudalism” in Past and Present no. 103 (Oxford 1984), pp. 3-36; rev. in idem, Land and Power: studies in Italian and European social history, 400-1200 (London 1994), pp. 7-42.

13. Jarrett, “Pathways”, is essentially centered on Osona and the Ripollès immediately to the north, though it also touches Urgell and Rulers and Ruled will make more of the latter evidence even as it spreads the range in Osona. Feliu’s key article on Barcelona, derived in turn from his thesis, is “El condado de Barcelona en los siglos IX y X: organización territorial y económico-social” in Cuadernos de Historia Económica de Cataluña Vol. 7 (Barcelona 1972), pp. 9-31. Martí’s works meanwhile include the definitive collection of the charter material from the Cathedral of Girona, Col·lecció Diplomàtica de la Seu de Girona (817-1100), Diplomataris 18 (Barcelona 1997), although it was still not he who published that material for the Catalunya Carolíngia series, which oddly never cites his edition. I imagine some disagreement behind this.

Linking al-Andalus: approaches separated by a millennium

I started working on Catalonia mainly because it was a frontier zone, and though I identify as a Carolingianist if I can get away with it, it has to be said that the reason I knew anything about the area at all was because of having done a paper on Muslim Spain as an undergraduate. I don’t read Arabic (a salutation here to the friend and Arabist who occasionally helps me with it) but it is, all the same, important to have some kind of idea what the other side of the frontier was like, especially given that what first interested me in the area was the space in between the two sides, which could therefore be some of either. So I read stuff about al-Andalus, which you probably know is the Arabic name for Muslim Spain, when it passes my way.

the first Cordoban Caliph

Cover of Maribel Fierro’s ‘Abd al-Rahman III: the first Cordoban Caliph

So recently I’ve just finished Maribel Fierro’s cAbd al-Rahman III: the first Cordoban Caliph (Oxford 2005), which is a slim little biography in a series called Makers of the Muslim World. It does the man reasonable credit, as far as I’m any judge. The narrative sections are a little awkward, but not at all bad when you consider the author was writing in at least her second language. Only twice, both in the same chapter, is the grammar or syntax anything less than fine, and there I think bad editing had lost words. The thematic chapters are stronger, though, quite subtle settings-out of the propaganda war with the rival Fatimid caliphs in what is now Tunisia that provided the context for cAbd al-Rahman’s adoption of the caliphal title in 929, of the differing currents of religious opinion, and of how the ruler operated so as to maintain his position and reputation (his rule, from 912-961, was one of the longest of any medieval Islamic ruler). This means that the cultural sphere is treated rather better than the political one, but for that there are better books (which Fierro’s bibliography directs you to).

I spent most of the first half of the volume twitching every time I came across the phrase “the sources tell us…” though. The sources for the Umayyad court are as or more problematic as those for the Carolingian court, in that they were mostly generated by or for that court, and therefore give us very little sense of what the opposition thought they were doing; also, in the Andalusi case, the key ones largely exist only in much later manuscripts or extracts, less faithful than is sometimes claimed, by other authors. The former problem, Fierro does address in an appendix, though not so as to solve it (no-one else has, after all) ; the latter one she doesn’t really touch. In the end, one has to reach the appendix before we know that she knows the problems and has made her decision about what can be used, but the keen critic might wish that she explained the basis for this decision in a few more places in the text. That, and a rather butterfly touch in arrangement which repeatedly sidetracks the reader somewhere unhelpful before resuming a theme, are the only criticisms I’d really raise against a neat little book that does a reasonable job of explaining why cAbd al-Rahman III al-Nasir and the title he took mattered in his world.

The ruins of the caliphal palace of Madinat al-Zahra', Córdoba

The ruins of the caliphal palace of Madinat al-Zahra’, Córdoba

Actually, the two things I was most interested to learn (though, you know, I did know some of it) were not so much to do with his actions. Firstly, something I had read before but I’d forgotten, his mother was a Basque princess, so this leader of the Arabic world was blond and fair-skinned. The only reason that this mattered to anyone was that the Fatimids could claim descent from Arabian caliphs on both sides of their family; the Christian mother was no greater a stigma than a fully-Islamic woman from Egypt would have been. Skin colour just wasn’t the issue. It’s always timely to be reminded that some parts of the medieval world really didn’t bother with ethnicity-by-birth the way we have been trained to avoid.

The other thing was nothing to do with him at all, but with his son al-Hakam, who eventually succeeded him as caliph, but in his considerable adult life as heir apparent mainly busied himself with books. He was a great patron of learning, much treated therefore in poetry and history especially by Ahmad and Isa’ al-Razi, father and son chroniclers. His library was immense, and so since we know that a copy of Orosius’s Histories against the Pagans was brought to al-Andalus and translated by his order into Arabic so that he could read it, it has been suggested that the surviving Arabic text that we have of Orosius, which adds a short chronicle about Visigothic Spain, was al-Hakam’s own work. (Fierro mentions the possibility, which is why it comes up now). It sounds bizarre, but he did collect the sort of texts that might have enabled him to do it. And one of them was Catalan. (This is the point at which Simon MacLean, with whom I’ve been discussing this text by e-mail, can stop reading, because he saw this musing already…)

In 940, you see, Bishop Godmar II of Girona was part of an embassy sent by his master Marquis Sunyer of Barcelona to negotiate peace with the caliph now that a rebellion in Saragossa was over that had permitted Sunyer to start taking tribute from a couple of Andalusi cities. That stopped, though as I’ve mentioned this didn’t stop them taking over Tarragona as soon as cAbd al-Rahman III took the pressure off. But in 940 it was important to win favour, and so among the gifts that were taken south Godmar added a work of his own, a Book of Histories of the Kings of the Franks. Unfortunately a very garbled list of kings given by the Iraqi traveller and historian al-Mas cUdi, who died in 957 and so must have seen a copy very close to al-Hakam’s own, is all that remains of it. (The article on him in Wikipedia says he saw it in Egypt, but also thinks Godmar was an Andalusi, so I doubt its fact-checking.) This is immensely frustrating, because I (and probably others) would absolutely love to know how a Catalan bishop in the days of early seigneurial takeover saw his notional royal masters. Alas, it is lost.

The improvements made by al-Hakam II (as Caliph) to the Mosque of Córdoba

The improvements made by al-Hakam II (as Caliph) to the Mosque of Córdoba

Just take one more moment to tease out the implications, though. Godmar presumably thought that such a present wouldn’t be considered a snub, but would instead be greeted with interest. Al-Hakam’s reputation must therefore have been known in Catalonia; was Godmar in touch with scholars in Córdoba? Whom did he meet when he went there? Did this amateur historian meet the professionals like the Razis? Could they converse? Was his Arabic or their Latin good enough? Did he see the embassy more as a chance to meet scholars, or was he trying to show that he was good enough to walk into a court he knew was full of them? And bear in mind too, that al-Hakam wasn’t caliph yet, his father would rule for twenty more years. So if someone brings a present that al-Hakam will love (and apparently allow to be copied), does that mean that the son has his father’s especial ear, or that cAbd al-Rahman himself was an antiquarian of sorts, or that Godmar was just touchingly naïf? So many little possibilities hang off this book that, like Fierro’s, tried to translate one culture for the enlightenment of its neighbours…

Bishops and metropolitans in Catalonia (also, the Carolingian conquest thereof)

You, the keen reader, by now know that I argue that Catalonia in the ninth and tenth centuries can justly be called Carolingian. It occurs to me to wonder how much you could possibly know of how that comes about. It’s essential background for being perplexed about what I’m currently perplexed about, and not for the first time. Let me set it up.

The Roman theatre at Tarragona in its ruins

The Roman theatre at Tarragona in its ruins, from Wikitravel, copyright renounced

Spain, as I guess is not news to you, was conquered by the armies of Islam in 711, or at least, the conquest began with the defeat of the Visigothic king Roderick that year by the Berber leader Tariq, whose rock (jabal) Gibraltar (Jabal al-Tariq) is. The North-East took longer to fall: already in rebellion against Roderick, it set up its own king, Achila and he resisted till 714, when he is supposed, I don’t know on what evidence, to have reached terms with the Muslims, leaving his son Witiza II to hold on till 718 beyond the Pyrenees. Both these kings are known to us only from their coinage, so don’t say numismatists never tell you anything. But anyway. Tarragona, the erstwhile capital of the region, held out when it was attacked and was therefore bloodily sacked in 712, other cities thereafter reaching terms; Tarragona remained a ruin for the next four centuries, proving that the others were long-term correct to surrender.

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

But Catalonia was not Muslim for long. Muslim attacks through Aquitaine, as well as the Frankish desire to bring Aquitaine properly under rule and renew the regnum Francorum once held by the Merovingians, provoked Frankish aggression into the old Visigothic province of Septimania (the bit at the southern tip of l’Héxagone) and this in turn led the frontier princes of the Muslim state, whose allegiance to the centre was ever questionable, to look interestedly at Charlemagne when contemplating rebellion. In 778, famously, Charlemagne was induced to bring an army south into Spain by the promises of the walis of Saragossa and Barcelona to hand their cities over to him if he came to aid their latest secession. He did, but they didn’t, and on the way back across the Pyrenees Charlemagne’s army was hit by the Basques in an ambush, in revenge for his sacking of their capital Pamplona on the way in, and the seneschal Roland died with the vanguard trying to fend them off. In later years someone wrote a song about this that you may have heard mentioned.

Anyway, it is argued that this must have left some people in Catalonia in a difficult position vis-à-vis the Muslim rulers, at least if they’d joined Charlemagne’s army or, I don’t know, put out “Franci veniunt, Agareni ite domum” posters or something. Certainly there seems now to have started a significant wave of emigration from the area into ‘safe’ Septimania, and in 785 the cities of Urgell and Girona, we know not under what control, handed themselves over to Charlemagne. So at least say the Royal Frankish Annals, and as the campaigns go on they are joined by the works of Thegan, the Astronomer and Ermold the Black.1 This and the immigrants drew the Carolingians back into the area, and Louis the Pious, at this time King of Aquitaine, and his right-hand man Duke Guilhem of Toulouse, campaigned more or less annually thereafter to secure it, refortifying large swathes of frontier on old Iberian sites or empty Visigothic cities, and in 801 managing to take Barcelona. They held Tarragona briefly, but found it worthless, and couldn’t get either Tortosa or Huesca beyond it despite numerous attempts, so the old province of the Tarraconensis remained partly-Muslim. What is now old Catalonia, Catalunya Vella, is more or less what the Franks took. This is also why Catalan is a different language from Castilian Spanish, much more like French, Provençal or indeed Latin.

Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals, photo from the Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana

Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals, photo from the Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana

The importance of this for what I’m writing about is that Tarragona, empty and Muslim-held, had been the area’s metropolitan see. Without it, the Catalan bishoprics (two of which were suppressed anyway and their territories divided) were placed under Frankish Narbonne. Now, thanks to the patient work of a man called Don Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals for many years, Catalonia is not thought to have had much of a national identity this early.2 The area was split between many counts, until the tenth century was repeatedly sunk into civil war between them, did not (and does not) have a single language and was sprinkled with immigrants from both sides of the border. Don Ramon had to work against a justly patriotic school which wanted to assert Catalan identity in the swamping Spanishness (Catalunya no es Espanya!) of the kind of unifying historiography seen, for example, in the statues in my post on Madrid, and he had to do it largely during a period when Franco was trying to put all that back again, but he did more or less succeed, and these days it is usually felt to be the 985 sack of Barcelona that shocked Catalonia into realising that it was on its own and furthermore therefore of its own.3 But when you read about the Church, specifically, this work seems to be forgotten in the wake of three stories that won’t die about attempts to renew the metropolitanate of Tarragona and break away from the Frankish Church.

There is no question that the lordship of Narbonne over the bishops across the mountains from it weighed more heavily than royal rule did, but I’ve still never bought this secession idea. Furthermore, Don Ramon only bought it for one of the three, but nonetheless the trio is repeated again and again in stock histories by contributors who should know better.4 I actually have a paper under work about this, have had for years, and I hope still to get it out some day so I won’t go into too much detail, but, some idea. The three episodes are these. In 886, when Bishop Ingobert of Urgell fell ill, the chapter seem to have uncanonically appointed a replacement called Esclúa. Ingobert got better but Esclúa didn’t retire; instead he collaborated in the appointment of a new bishop of Girona, Ermemir, despite Archbishop Theodard of Narbonne having chosen one Servedéu, and in the appointment of Bishop Adulf to an entirely new see at Pallars. A Narbonne source also says that Esclúa claimed he could do this because he’d named himself Archbishop of Tarragona and several other bishops had gone along with it. Because, however, he had the backing only of the less powerful of the March’s two main counts, Archbishop Theodard was able to enlist the support of the other. He and the count, none other than Guifré the Hairy, went and got King Odo, whom Guifré had not recognised until now, to withdraw his support and empower them to reimpose order. Esclúa and Ermemir, says the Narbonne source, were degraded in council in 890. Well, this has been disproved for thirty years. The Narbonne source, indeed, and the fake papal Bull it includes, have been declaimed as forged since 1933, and Esclúa went on appearing as bishop until his death in 924, even though Ingobert was apparently restored; there also seems to have been some power-sharing at Girona, though Ermemir disappeared much quicker. So that’s rubbish and the episode looks like local factionalising, not secession.5

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

Between about 941 and 966, the counts of Barcelona were again briefly in charge of Tarragona. (I’ve been told by a reviewer that no historian takes this claim of the Arabic sources seriously, but well, actually many do, it comes from Ibn Hayyan who originally worked from administrative records at Córdoba, and it seems a very unlikely thing for any subsequent editor to insert, because it was soon reversed and does no-one any particular credit.6) Around the beginning of that time, anyway, we are told by a very strange letter in the name of Abbot Cesari of Montserrat that he went to Santiago de Compostela and there got himself ordained by the bishops there as Archbishop of Tarragona. (No-one who has written about this has realised the old see was actually Christian again at the time, as far as I can tell. What the time was is tricky: Cesari, if it genuinely was he, gives a date that should be 940 A. D., but the list of officiating bishops he mentions fits only to 956, if then, and that’s roughly when the title starts appearing in the copies of the Montserrat documents too.) The letter says that when he returned home, none of the Catalan bishops would obey him, so he retired back to the monastery, where we do indeed have records of charters that called him Archbishop. This one’s hard to refute, but what is clear is that wherever he got his title, no-one took it seriously, perhaps because of treaties forcing the return of his see to the Muslims in the 960s.7

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

In 970, Count Borrell II of Barcelona took his pet Bishop of Osona, a guy called Ató, and their star pupil Gerbert of Rheims, later to become Pope Sylvester II and even later to be infamously remembered as an Arab-trained magician, to Rome to beseech Pope John XIII. They came home with five papal Bulls (three on papyrus, two on parchment, apparently…) saying firstly that Ató was now Archbishop, Tarragona’s rights being shifted to the see, and secondly that he should take over the administration of the see of Girona where, the pope was horrified to hear, a neophyte had been elected, which was totally illegal. Actually, Ató was murdered inside the year, we never see him act as Archbishop and though his see recorded him as such, Girona when it noted his death called him only Bishop; his successor Fruià went to Rome but only as bishop even though the Bulls said the dignity would be renewed in his successors, and generally, whatever happened here didn’t work out and wasn’t agreed at the time even in Borrell’s own territory (he also ruled Girona). So even if they really did ask the pope, which I have doubted, it didn’t work for long.8

An early modern depiction of Pope John XIII, apparently thinking better of something

So we have three `archbishops’. None of them were universally accepted even in their own patron’s territories, one of them almost certainly never really claimed the dignity, and the Archbishop of Narbonne retains his rôle in the area throughout. It’s really not a nationalist breakaway movement by a whole Church. And all this has been known for many many years, so why do these venerable and otherwise sharp scholars persist in ignoring it? How important can this one myth be when they’ve been willing to discard so many others? Why do I keep reading these stories over and over again like Gospel? I understand nationalism, I do, even if I don’t feel it myself, but this is such a weird manifestation of it…


1. Friedrich Kurze (ed.), Annales regni Francorum inde ab a. 741 usque ad a. 829, qui dicuntur Annales Laurissenses maiores et Einhardi, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores Rerum Germanicum) VI (Hannover 1895; repr. 1950), transl. B. Scholz & B. Rogers in eidem, Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories (Michigan 1972), pp. 35-125, with commentary pp. 2-21; Ernst Tremp (ed.), Thegan, Die Taten Kaser Ludwigs (Gesta Hludowici Imperatoris). Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs (Vita Hludowici Imperatoris), MGH SRG LXIV (Hannover 1995); Edmond Faral (ed./transl.), Ermold le Noir: poème sur Louis le Pieux et Épîtres au Roi Pépin (Paris 1932).

2. Most obviously Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Els Primers Comtes Catalans, Biografies Catalanes: sèrie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958; repr. 1980).

3. On the effect of the 985, sack on the area, see Michel Zimmermann, “La prise de Barcelone par al-Mansūr et la naissance de l’historiographie catalane” in Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l’Ouest Vol. 87 (Rennes 1987), pp. 121-218; cf. Paul Freedman, “The Symbolic Implications of the Events of 985-988” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), I pp. 117-129.

4. To wit, in Antoni Pladevall, “La organización de la iglesia en Cataluña” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la Época Carolingia: arte y cultura antes del románico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), pp. 53-58, transl. as “Church Organization in Carolingian Catalonia” ibid., pp. 444-448; and in Manuel Riu i Riu, “La Organizació eclesiástica” in J. M. Jover Zamora (ed.), Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, tomo VII: la España cristiana de los siglos VIII al XI, volumen II. Los Nucleos Pirenaicos (718-1035): Navarra, Aragón, Cataluña, ed. M. Riu i Riu (Madrid 1999).

5. Robert-Henri Bautier, “La prétendue dissidence de l’épiscopat catalan et le faux concile de « Portus » de 887-890″ in Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1610) du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques 1961 (Paris 1963), pp. 477-498, citing Étienne Griffe, Histoire religieuse des anciens pays de l’Aude. Tome I: des origines chrétiennes à la fin de l’époque carolingienne (Paris 1933), pp. 252-263; cf. J. Morera Sabater, “Un conato de secesión eclesiástica en la Marca Hispánica en el siglo IX” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 293-315.

6. For example, Philippe Sénac, “Note sur les relations diplomatiques entre les comtes de Barcelone et le califat de Cordoue au Xe siècle” in idem, Histoire et Archéologie des Terres Catalanes au Moyen Âge (Perpignan 1995), pp. 87-101; Albert Benet i Clarà, “Castells, guàrdies i torres de defensa” in Udina, Symposium Internacional, I pp. 393-407, at pp. 386-388 ; and Dolores Bramon (ed.), De Quan Erem o No Musulmans: textos del 713 al 1000. Continuació de l’Obra de J. M. Millàs i Vallicrosa (Vic 2000), pp. 284-286, where the source references.

7. J. M. Martí Bonet, “Las pretensiones metropolitanas de Cesáreo, abad de Santa Cecilia de Montserrat” in Anthologica Annua (Rome 1974), pp. 157-182; cf. R. Martí, “Delà, Cesari i Ató, primers arquebisbes dels comptes-prínceps de Barcelona (951-953/981)” in Analecta Sacra Tarraconensia Vol. 67 (Tarragona 1994), pp. 369-386 and indeed J. M. Martí Bonet, “Entre dues obediènces: Roma i Compostela”, ibid. pp. 387-397.

8. Martí, “Delà, Cesari i Ató”; I presented my views as “Archbishop Ató of Vic: ecclesiastical separatism in Carolingian Catalonia”, paper presented at EMERGE 2003 Conference, University of St Andrews, 13th September 2003, but my argument has got a lot more complicated since then.

Love stories in charter evidence

People who ask me what I work on are occasionally moved to respond, when I tell them “Catalan charters”, by asking if there are any narratives from my area. And well, in the sense they mean, chronicles, saints’ lives, no, there aren’t.1 Extracting a macro-history for Catalonia once the various Frankish annals stop paying attention is a bit tricky and has thankfully been done very well by others cleverer and subtler than me.2 However, as I’m always trying to show, that doesn’t mean there are no narratives, because every transaction is a narrative. Not only that, it often contains another, describing what happened that caused this transaction to take place. Sometimes that’s as conventional as “Jesus died to save us and the Fathers tell us that alms may free the soul from death”. And sometimes, it’s a court case where it’s all clearly got a bit mad. But aside from murder, jealousy, envy and contention, can you get at the good side of humanity in these documents? Well, maybe sometimes.

Scenery around the hills south-west of Sant Hilari Sacalm

Scenery around the hills south-west of Sant Hilari Sacalm

You see, there once was a man, a mighty man who was named Sal·la. He was a vicar, which here means an officer who holds the place of the count at some castle or other, a fiscal representative. But Sal·la ranged over such a wide area that we don’t know where he was actually vicar of, and one of his documents calls him an ‘egregious prince’. You could find his lands on the western Girona border at Sacalm, or right out in the ‘extreme furthest limits of the marches’ at Òdena, and many points between; he gave land to peasants under an agreement that they would develop it for him, he built towers and he founded a monastery at Bages in honour of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Sant Benet to the Catalans, and well for us that he did or we’d have precious little record of him, were he never so mighty.3

Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, from Wikipedia Spain

Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, from Wikipedia Spain

Now Sal·la had children, in fact he had at least four. A boy called Sunifred died in infancy, but the others whom we know about grew to adulthood, and they were called Unifred, Isarn and Filmera. (There’s also another Sal·la who’s clearly related to this bunch but they never call him a sibling and I feel sure they would have if that’s what he were.) Filmera became Abbess of Sant Pere de les Puelles in Barcelona, probably by agreement with Count Borrell II that Sant Benet would hand over the castle of Maians to him, because Sant Benet was subject only to the bishop of Rome, and Borrell didn’t like his defence network falling out of his hands like that. Unfortunately, Filmera was probably still abbess in 985, when Barcelona was sacked by the Muslims and all the nuns carried off as captives. In fact Sal·la’s kids by and large don’t seem to have lived long and prospered. Sal·la himself lived till probably 970, when he must have been old; we first see him purchasing in the late 920s. Unifred fell ill and died in 978, all the same, and Isarn didn’t live a great deal longer. Filmera may even have been the last living in her generation of the family. But let’s talk more about Unifred.

Unifred was an unusual man in one small respect, which is that he affected a surname, Amat. Then, as now, that simply means ‘Beloved’, from Latin amatus. Even more unusually, his son Guillem also adopted the surname, and he was the only one of the family who continued on to be important after Filmera’s unhappy deportation. Both were presumably beloved by Guillem’s mother, Riquilda, but she seems to have died not very long after he was born; she didn’t execute Unifred’s will in 978, and little Guillem only came of age (14, under Visigothic Law) in 982, when Riquilda’s brother Seniol, a priest, passed on to him a load of properties, presumably hers, that he had been holding in trust till that time. So he was ten when his dad died and his mum was already gone. Dismal, no?

What remains of the Castell dÒdena, founded by Sal·la and Unifred

What remains of the Castell d'Òdena, founded by Sal·la and Unifred

And not much better for Unifred, you might think, but there you’d be wrong. One of the people who did execute Unifred’s will, along with brother Isarn and some others, was a woman called Sesnanda. Exactly what she was to the family takes a little working out, because we only have land transactions to go on. She was clearly no farm girl, as she bought land from Unifred before he died and then called him “senior meo“, ‘my lord’. But even in comparatively equitable Catalonia a female landholder is a rarity in the documents, especially one with no apparent family, and after a while it becomes clear that the connection between them was a bit more than patronage. Many years later, in 996, she came to a court at Vic, and there she appealed one Bonfill Sendred for having appropriated lands of hers in Òdena. When the court asked this venerabilis femina how she claimed these lands, she explained that they had come to her from ‘her man the late Unifred by bounden testament, by a series of conditions [the formulaic phrase used for the sworn declaration of a testament] and by other scriptures’. And in case we were in any doubt, she went on to explain that Unifred had cleared these lands from the waste “with his father Sal·la”. But it’s quite a lot of land at issue: when it’s actually listed, it covers much more than just Òdena. She had done well out of Unifred, even if we don’t have the bequest from his will that might show this and explain things better.

The court found for her, of course—we have the document, after all. But it seems clear that Unifred had pretty much showered her with wealth at his death, leaving poor lil’ Guillem to mostly inherit his mother’s lands instead. So Sesnanda was apparently dearer to Unifred than just a vassal, and you’ll notice that by 996 she doesn’t remember him as ‘my lord’ any more but ‘my man’, “viro meo“. So now we have only imagination to fill the gaps. A daughter of some vassal of Sal·la’s, orphaned early and rapidly catching Unifred’s eye and protection? Was Riquilda already dead? Maybe this was soon after she’d died, and Unifred found himself lonely and glad of a pretty pair of considerate eyes. (Or, of course, maybe Riquilda wasn’t dead, and Unifred was fed to the teeth with her and fancied a bit on the side; but that’s a little cynical, isn’t it?) And then, a few years later, Sesnanda’s on her own again, but Unifred’s done his best to make her a rich woman able to make her own choices, and by 996 she’s at least middle-aged and respected, ‘venerable’ and what we might call a common-law partnership is something she can call on in court and the judges recognise her claim. Now, we have to fill in a lot of gaps, but nonetheless, between these property movements, there is a love story. Unifred much-beloved, indeed; a bitter-sweet thing to smile at in a rather tragic collapse of a grand family.

If you have enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming) by the same author, where this and many other stories are told, and whose body text the author finished on Wednesday! Available in time for Easter 20092010 I really really hope!


1. This curiosity addressed in Thomas N. Bisson, “Unheroed Pasts: history and commemoration in South Frankland before the Albigensian Crusade” in Speculum Vol. 65 (Cambridge 1990), pp. 281-308.

2. Mainly by Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, as in Els primers comtes catalans, Biografies Catalanes: sèrie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958, repr. 1980) and Josep María Salrach, as in El Procés de formació nacional de Catalunya (segles VIII-IX), Llibres de l’Abast 136 & 137 (Barcelona 1978), 2 vols; if you wanted English, you’d be stuck with Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: unity and diversity, 400-1000, 2nd edn. (Basingstoke 1995), pp. 250-63, or Michel Zimmermann, ‘Western Francia: the southern principalities’ in Timothy Reuter (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History volume III: c. 900-c. 1024 (Cambridge 1999), pp. 420-56 at pp. 441-49. Better than either, but hard to obtain, is Josep María Salrach i Marès, ‘Carlomagno y Cataluña en el marco de la Europa carolingia’ in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la Época Carolingia: arte y cultura antes del románico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), pp. 19-27, transl. as ‘Charlemagne and Catalonia in the context of Carolingian Europe’ ibid. pp. 427-31.

3. Now trust me, I could document all of what follows except where I explicitly say it has to be imagined, but the footnotes would be pages worth. Instead, if you really care, you can either wait till the book comes out, or you can lay hold of Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, where this stuff is set out at pp. 228-236. Some other attention is paid to Sal·la and his kids by Adam Kosto, “Laymen, Clerics and Documentary Practices in the Early Middle Ages: the example of Catalonia” in Speculum Vol. 80 (Cambridge 2005), pp. 44-74 at pp. 60-62.

Frontier communes in tenth-century Barcelona

The Leeds paper is going well, but the supporting materials are still under way; the week ahead is being a right pig to organise; and I have to be slept and sane before I try and herd medieval bloggers, and at this time in my life `slept’ and `sane’ appear to conflict with each other badly. Anyway, I once more have no fresh content, so I’ve just done a brisk run through one of the charter files I keep looking for something to tell you about. And as it happens what I’ve come up with chimes nicely with The Naked Philologist demanding more female medieval interest figures in her blogging, and posts elsewhere about nuns indeed; so it’s time for female monasticism!

In early medieval Spain, there were few nunneries, far fewer than there were monasteries. In Catalonia, in particular, there were only three by 1000, possibly four, and all of those comital foundations which probably had strong requirements for entry (by which I mean, substantial land grants). The oldest was Sant Joan de les Abadesses, so dear to my heart, but even that had only been founded in 885; before that, then, what did Spanish women with religious urges do?

The answer lies in a Latin phrase, deo dicata, ‘dedicated to God’ (feminine), and it’s a practice going back to the sixth century if not before. I mean, you could draw it back to Cæsaria of Arles and her private convent if you wanted. Basically, imagine that you are a widow of independent means. You may well therefore need to stop people trying to make you remarry so as to reclaim your land, or you may just genuinely want to live la vida apostólica, or indeed both. So you go to the local bishop, if you’re doing it by the book anyway, and you agree that a certain portion of your estate will be set aside from secular jurisdiction under his protection, and there you live, with a priest visiting regularly to check on you, or indeed being resident if you’re that rich, simply and piously, praying a lot but not under any particular Rule or anything; these terms get worked out in each individual case.

The river Llobregat passing through Monistrol de Montserrat

Sometimes you could do this in a town house, and not really lose much by way of society; sometimes, for whatever reason, you might have had to go further afield. The charter I picked up on is one in the Arxiu Capitular de Barcelona, in which one such deo dicata, Aurúcia, gets a chunk of land for such religious purposes from none other than Count-Marquis Borrell II (which is of course why I know). It’s right out on the frontier, on the Riu de Llobregat (which is far enough out even in the late tenth century) and another of the boundaries is “ipsa limite”, ‘the frontier itself’ (though I’m never sure exactly what that means; it turns up in Girona too, which was never on the frontier). And, interestingly, she wasn’t alone; another deo dicata had land next door, and her husband is referred to, ‘the judge Odesèn who is now a monk’. Odesèn turns up enough previously that we know they had some land between them; but if all these snippets should be combined, near the end of their lives they seem to have all decided to sort out their souls and go and live like farmers (possibly quite rich farmers, for sure) in the wilderness. This was 986, not even a year after the sack of Barcelona by Muslim troops who must have come very close by this area (and the land is at a place called Torre, indicating a local fortification), so it’s not a location I necessarily would have chosen! but good on ’em all the same. It sounds idyllic. Of course you could only really have the idyll if you could afford to be idle, but Aurúcia was plainly very rich; we also have her will, what makes this clear. But here she is living, or attempting to live, a genuinely good life. It’s funny what you find in charters.

Edit: I suppose there are worse things to typo than `love’ for `live’, but I still wish I wouldn’t.


The charter in question is edited as Àngel Fabregà i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Barcelona: documents dels anys 844-1260. Volum I: documents dels anys 844-1000, Fonts Documentals 1 (Barcelona 1995), doc. 160, and Aurúcia’s will is doc. 220 there. On female monasticism and deo votae, what I know about is basically in Spanish languages, specifically Montserrat Cabré i Pairet, “«Deodicatae» y «Deovotae». La regulación de la religiosidad femenina en los condados catalanes, siglos IX-XI” in A. Muñoz Fernández (ed.), Las Mujeres en el Cristianismo Medieval: imágenes, teóricas y cauces de actuación religiosa, Colección Laya 5 (Madrid 1989), pp. 169-182 or Cabré, “El monaquisme femení” in Borja de Riquer i Permanyer (ed.), Història Política, Societat i Cultura dels Països Catalans volum 2: la formació de la societat feudal, segles VI-XII, ed. J. M. Salrach i Marés (Barcelona 1998, repr. 2001), pp. 174-175. You can however now at least have a look in Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007), pp. 164-188, and I’m sure there must be generic treatments you have closer to hand.

Ancilla-swapping in Burgundy

I ran into Magistra in the Institute of Historical Research yesterday, just after she’d made her latest discovery—I swear, neither she nor I go looking for this stuff, and neither do we come across, in real life, like a pair of leering perverts I hope—and it has been one of three things that have set me again thinking about medieval slavery. The second was an article by Josep María Salrach I was reading the same day, which covered social groups and stressed that really, there probably were more slaves in my period of Catalonia than we see in the evidence.1

This is germane, you see, because there really is very little sign of slavery in the Catalan stuff. A few rich men give away slaves in their wills, a few rich women too, and Bishop Sal·la of whom I have spoken before bequeathed four Sarraceni to his cathedral, and there is an assumption, which seems fair, that captives taken in border warfare were enslaved which is presumably where those Sarraceni had come from.2 And if you read up about this stuff, you’ll find that Barcelona really ought to have been a heaving slave market, because the Slavs from whom our word for a living chattel comes were supposedly being ferried overland from, for example, Verdun, down to the south along the old via augusta and eventually to Zaragoza and other Muslim markets, which does very much involve travelling through Catalonia. But written evidence for trade of any kind is notoriously late, and laws that might help are ambiguous because Catalonia’s legal text of resort is the Visigothic Forum Iudicum and thus somewhat anachronistic three centuries after its compilation.3

Modern painting of a Rus\' slave market in the early Middle Ages, by Sergei Ivanov

This has meant that the third thing has been something of a culture shock to your humble blogger: slaves are all through the material from Cluny. Most of the big land-grants also transfer mancipia, that oh-so-usefully neuter term that makes the human being concerned even more of an object; and while some might argue that these are serfs, not slaves—I see the difference as whether he or she can be sold without land, a serf is tied to land and changes ownership with it and a slave can be disposed of at market as genuinely movable property—and that here we’re seeing sitting tenants staying with the estates, they’re not listed with the land, but separately afterwards.4 And sometimes, there is no land, so it’s pretty inarguable. Burgundy seems to have either been much less chary of mentioning slave sales, or, what is vastly more likely, however many slaves Catalonia did have, the Mâconnais had a lot more. And I will confess, being confronted with what I, as modern moralist, think is an inhuman practice this much is making it harder for me to think my way into this society, though arguably for what I’m actually doing here I don’t need to go beyond document use anyway.

There are two cases which have caught my imagination, though, and they are two of those where there’s no land at issue.5 The two documents are both exchanges, and they are exchanges where the price on both sides is a slave. That is, both parties give away a manicipium to get one. Firstly I like these because the idea that slaves are not of fixed value, but have qualities that presumably differentiate them, seems more humane again: someone had to look at this person someone else owned and like them for something. But secondly, I wonder what they were actually trading for? The only scenario I’ve thought of so far, for the swap that involved female slaves (ancillae) that isn’t as trivial as ‘blonde for brunette’ is one where, perhaps one was a really good cook, but the other was young enough to wet-nurse, so the family with young children to look after swapped cuisine for lactation. But there must be other possible explanations. Any suggestions, anyone?


1. Josep María Salrach i Marés, “Los grupos sociales” in Jose Maria Jover Zamora (ed.), Historia de España Menéndez Pidal II: la España cristiana de los siglos VIII al XI, 2: los nucleos pirenaicos (718-1035): Navarra, Aragón, Cataluña, ed. Manuel Riu i Riu, pp. 393-425 at pp. 414-416. This is not the only place he argues this, and in fact I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this article compared to others; it’s uncharacteristically lazy, and resorts to regula magistri an awful lot. This—arguing that because Venerable Predecessor said something, and he knew everything, it must be true, without resorting to evidence—is very unusual for Catalan scholarship, in part because the magistri are few as yet, but rather more common in mainline Spanish stuff, as Abilio Barbero and Marcelo Vigil rant in the beginning of their La Formación del Feudalismo en el Penísula Ibérica (Barcelona 1978). Given that the article was written for the Historia Menéndez Pidal, which is a crazy monster of a project half of whose authors are already dead and that is basically the world’s biggest Festschrift, sunk tomes deep in that Spanish tradition, that may be why Salrach seems to be writing more like Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz (who wrote the entire preceding volume in the series) than Pierre Bonnassie here. Salrach is usually a lot more like Bonnassie, and if you wanted him at his best on social structure, I’d suggest “Entre l’estat antic i feudal. Mutacions socials i dinàmica político-militar a l’occident carolingi i als comtats catalans” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (Barcelona 1991-1992), 2 vols also published as Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991-1992), I pp. 191-251. That’s got to be close to the acceptable maximum length for a blog footnote, really, and quite possibly not from the safe side…

2. For example, the act by which dear Emma, future abbess of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, was given to the nunnery, sees her accompanied with three slaves, one of whom may later work for her as an estate manager, in as much as no-one else of the same name (Gualter) occurs in the abbey’s documents; the endowment is Federico Udina Martorell (ed.), El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. 3; someone called Gualter also crops up in docs 21 & 87. See for the argument Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, p. 134 n. 246. Sal·la’s will, meanwhile, is Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels segles IX i X, conservats a l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 78-143, doc. 287, eventually actually carried out in doc. 314; see Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 290-308.

3. The historiography on slavery is huge, and it’s not much use citing Catalan stuff for it because as I say here, Catalonia is a bit unusual; instead, one can get the general picture of the field from Wendy Davies, “Servile Status in the Early Middle Ages” in M. Bush (ed.), Serfdom and Slavery: studies in legal bondage (Harlow 1996), pp. 225-246, and the latest news from Alice Rio, “Freedom and Unfreedom in Early Medieval Francia: the evidence of the legal formulae” in Past and Present no. 193 (Oxford 2006), pp. 7-40. For specific stuff about the Catalan trade, however, see Josep María Salrach, “Servi i mancipia” in B. de Riquer i Permanyer (ed.), Història Política, Societat i Cultura dels Països Catalans volum 2: la formació de la societat feudal, segles VI-XII, ed. J. M. Salrach i Marès (Barcelona 1998), pp. 78-79.

4. Auguste Bernard & Alexandre Bruel (edd.), Recueil des Chartes de l’Abbaye de Cluny (Paris 1876-1903), Vol. I, doc. nos 18, 44 or 75. For someone else using this serf/slave distinction, see Davies, “Servile Status”, pp. 245-246, cited by Rio, “Freedom and Unfreedom”, p. 9 & n. 6. There are some sitting tenants on some of the other transfers, so we can see that that is referred to differently (“manentes“): Bernard & Bruel, Cluny, I doc. 55.

5. Ibid. doc. 30 is the first with no land involved. Doc. 74 is one of the exchanges, this one a man for a man, the other being doc. 108.