Tag Archives: settlement

Digging normality in the 11th-century Pyrenees

Hullo again! It’s been quite the festive season, and hasn’t left a lot of time for blogging, but I did have some subjects lined up and here is one of them, arising as I foretold from Marta Sancho i Planas‘s paper at the 2018 International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. That was, as I said in the post where I covered the congress, entitled, “The Underground Memory: 25 Years of Medieval Archaeological Research in Catalan Pyrenees“, and used a series of sites to talk the audience through the developments that society up in the south side of the eastern end of the Pyrenees underwent as the Roman system receded and broke up and was slowly turned into something that I would not, but Marta was happy to, call feudalism. Basically, we mean a situation in which the settlement was overdriven by the demands of a taxing state to one where it was more locally driven by the demands of aristocratic landowners with some connections to a state, via a situation in the middle where the economy was more subdued and the state and government only really present, in these areas at least, in the form of the Church, visible largely as monasteries or very tiny village buildings. The social paradigm, therefore, was really nothing we haven’t heard before—and if the results fit that paradigm then that’s hardly a reason to abandon it—but the sites covered for me raised another question, which was one of typicality or normality.1

The Castell de Mur, in Castell de Mur, Pallars Jussà, Catalonia

The Castell de Mur, centre of an eponymous jurisdiction in lower Pallars. Image by Ainhoa from Catalunya – Castell de Mur, licensed under CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

That question could basically be phrased as: what did normal settlement look like up here? For example we can be pretty sure it wasn’t this, Castell de Mur having begun as a round tower on my normal side of the year 1000, when it was still under Islamic control, then developing a curtain wall that didn’t stop it getting taken over in 1048, grabbed by the counts of Pallars in the 12th century and becoming home to a canonry at its nearby church, then the castle being abandoned in the 14th century and the area resettled as a hill village in the 15th. There are aristocratic burials at the church and it was obviously a rather singular settlement socially as well as visually.2 So not this, sure, but then what?

1994 picture of settlement at Vilavella de Castellet, Pallars Jussà, Catalonia

Joaquim Parcerisas Civit, Albert Parpal i Tamburini, Teresa Reyes i Bellmunt & J. Sánchez, “Vilavella de Castellet”, licensed for reproduction from Calaix, online here and photographed before digging began

At first I would have assumed that this place, Vilavella de Castellet, was more like a normal operation, being a sheep-farming settlement that seems to have collected itself into being in the 11th century, and which at its greatest extent was seven houses and a small church, probably 40 people all told.3 This chimed with my then-recent study of Ardèvol and my expectation of dispersed settlement in the mountains but even then, apparently, I was asking this question because my notes have in square brackets, “Typical? Evocative…” And it is the latter, but indeed, is it the former?

The Coll de Fabregada, in Sant Esteve de la Sarga, Pallars Jussà, Catalunya

The Coll de Fabregada, in Sant Esteve de la Sarga, image by Gustau Erill i Pinyot – own work, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The reason this seemed worth asking in so structured a way as a blog post is that the next place that was looked at, this one or at least in the vicinity, seemed to show a different and unusual pattern but one of which Professor Sancho had a lot more examples. ‘Fabregar’, as you may not know, is the Catalan word for ‘to make’ and more specifically ‘to forge’, and indeed, Fabregada was an iron-working site at a crossroads with charcoal furnaces and water power. It was active from around 1000, and abandoned in the late fourteenth century again (the common factor in these abandonments around that time probably being the major civil war into which Catalonia and its appendages then descended).4 Now, there aren’t many specialised iron-working sites like this in the record; but at Gerri de la Sal, otherwise known for an important monastery, there was salt production of a similar scale, and nearby Vilamolera made millstones. By this time, therefore, I was beginning to wonder if a bit of specialised craft or industrial production was actually what made it worth gathering people together, because sheep-farming obviously doesn’t necessitate that all the sheep farmers live together; in fact, it is kind of hampered by nucleation of settlement.

So although Professor Sancho’s analysis was primarily in terms of changes in power structures, which I would ordinarily default to myself, by the end of this paper what I had begun to see was a settlement structure that was really best explained by the growth of enough of a market economy that specialised production made sense, whoever controlled the means of it. Power is part of the picture, for sure – for example, searching up the images has taught me that once the counts of Pallars owned the iron-works of Fabregada, and gave it to a follower, which is probably exactly the kind of privatisation of fiscal interests that Bonnassie saw and others since him have seen as the feudalisation of Catalonia.5 Nevertheless, I’m not seeing growing feudalisation in this evidence, but rather growing economic connection and complexity. There is, of course, a chicken-and-egg question that then follows about which causes which, and that is an old debate here at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe. But evidence like this makes it worth asking the question again – at least, if the specialised production villages were actually more normal than the tiny sheep-farming hamlets…

1. Thinking most directly here of Pierre Bonnassie, “From one Servitude to Another: the peasantry of the Frankish kingdom at the time of Hugh Capet and Robert the Pious (987-1031)”, transl. Jean Birrell in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe (Cambridge 1991), pp. 288–313.

2. The definitive write-up appears to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, Marta Sancho i Planas (ed.), Mur: la historia d’un castell feudal a la llum de la recerca històrica-arqueològica (Tremp 2009).

3. Here the write-up is more recent, being Xavier Badia, Walter Alegría Tejedor, Júlia Coso Alvarez and Sabina Batlle Baró, “Vilavella del Castellet (Tremp, el Pallars Jussà): Resultats de les intervencions arqueològiques realitzades en el període 2015-2018” in Segones Jornades d’arqueologia i paleontologia del Pirineu i Aran (Barcelona 2020), online here, pp. 156–165, but Xavier Costa at least was one of Marta’s students when the digging was happening.

4. Here see Marta Sancho, “Ipsa Fabricata”: Estudi arqueològic d’un establiment siderúrgic medieval (Barcelona 1997).

5. As well as Bonnassie, I’m thinking mainly of Josep M. Salrach, El procés de feudalització (segles III-XII), Història de Catalunya 2 (Barcelona 1987), but cf. Imma Ollich i Castanyer, “Arqueologia de la Catalunya feudal i prefeudal: Poblament i territori. El model teòric de la Comarca d’Osona” in Jordi Bolòs (ed.), La caracterització del paisatge històric, Territori i societat: el paisatge històric. Història, arqueologia, documentació 5 (Lleida 2010), pp. 399–465, which reads similar settlement changes differently.

Building states on the Iberian frontier, IV: what’s going on

[As with the previous one of these posts, this was first written in February 2013 as part of a single piece of thinking-in-text that has since resulted in an article that should be online for all to see within a few weeks.* That article will represent a more fully-thought-out (and also shorter and better-founded) version of some of the below, but the first thrash-out still seems worth posting.]

In what ought to be the last of these posts, originally inspired by that crucial sense on reading someone else’s work that this is not how you see it, but without the initial ability to articulate what your difference is, I need to try and come to some kind of conclusion about what I think is special about frontier settlement, perhaps in Catalonia and perhaps (I hope) more widely.1 It is a strong feeling of mine that this is not thought about enough, that we have a tendency to pile up case studies about frontier societies without working out what of these cases is common or distinct and in general to talk about these things without theorising from them in a way that might inform others, so, I must put my money where my mouth is mustn’t I? So, OK, let’s start with why anyone opens up a chunk of frontier waste-land at all.

Peasants undertaking land clearance in the Sachsenspiegel

Peasants undertaking land clearance in the Sachsenspiegel

The first and obvious thing that seems safe to infer from this happening is that the people in question want more land. There could of course be a lot of reasons for that; the obvious ones are to do with agricultural or other natural resources, but it also seems to me that if we are talking about a genuine frontier situation, these must essentially be gambles; if you have good information about what a piece of land will bear, be it “this seems the sort of place where olives might grow well” or “there’s gold in them thar hills!” then it’s not really a frontier, or not a classical one; if information is available to you it’s not the unknown.2 So, OK, it’s presumably a general desire for more resource, which would need to be provoked either by a problem with the existing situation at home, food shortage or labour surplus, or by a wish to better one’s situation relative to those at `home’ with whom you continue to interact, i. e. a project to obtain wealth and/or status. That might cause some people conceptual problems unless there be a lord pressuring those people to hand over surplus, of course; I probably don’t need to remind readers here about Chris Wickham’s famous opinion that without oppressive lordship peasants would, “work less and eat more”.3 Nonetheless, we have here seen some time ago that, at least on the frontier of tenth-century Catalonia, people of a fairly ordinary if affluent sort were prepared to spend a lot of money in order to get resources that would make them money, sometimes just a share of those resources rather than any kind of monopoly, in the form of mills, and I think that we don’t have to turn the whole central medieval peasantry into proto-capitalists in order for there to be enough would-be nouveaux riches to staff a slow move out into new territories just over the edge of current jurisdictions.4

That said, these are the reasons of the producers, and one main message of the Escalona and Reyes chapter from my reaction to which I span all of this is that the initiative for such expansion could instead be that of the élite, be those élites `local’ or more seriously-ranged contendors.5 One obvious reason for them might be security. One of the first requirements of some of the big frontier concessions by the Catalan counts is the building of fortifications, as we’ve seen here while I was wrestling with whether such concessions could meaningfully be called feudal or not. This might be seen as just a power-grab, ensuring that whoever lives in these zones be properly dominated by people under obligation to a wider authority, but one ought not to forget that it also and genuinely constituted a means of defence for populations `behind the lines’. This kind of concern was a live one in late-tenth-century Catalonia. We have also seen here how people from all over the principality could be rallied to fight in `public expeditions’ when danger threatened from the Muslim south.6 It is also possible to cite a castellan who had been given one of these concessions by the counts, Amat de Gurb who held a tower called Atonell in the area of the current Santa Perpetua de Gaià (and maybe even that tower, since it is held to be tenth-century and is also triangular), paying the ultimate price in defending it against the raid of al-Mansur in 978; sometimes, the obligations of such a position of dominance had to be fulfilled, whatever the cost.7 This, surely, must also have been the case in Castile, famously described as `a society organised for war’ and subject to attacks from the same Muslim power at this same time.8 The enemy need not, of course, be so foreign; the recipients of the Cardona franchise charter of 986 were encouraged to get themselves land from ‘Christians or pagans’, as long as they could defend it themselves, and going rather farther back, this is one of the things I think Cullen Chandler has right about Charlemagne’s and Lous the Pious’s concessions to immigrants from the south on this same frontier; it created a band of serious yeoman soldiery with ties direct to the king who could be used as some kind of counterweight to an otherwise-dominant autochtonous or gone-native counts at the top levels of delegated power.9

The castle complex of Santa Perpetua de Gaià

I’ll wager that it was a lonelier place to die in 978 than it is now… The castle complex of Santa Perpetua de Gaià, from the website of an architects’ firm who are apparently now restoring it. If that tower could speak, the first thing I’d ask it is just how many rebuilds it remembers…

Those concessions did also create dependents, of course, and that can’t be ignored even if the master rapidly became unable to reach or protect his followers.10 Each time Count Borrell II handed over a castle to one of his men, or to a monastery, the securing of surplus from agricultural workers in its vicinity must have been assumed to come with; several (perhaps all) of these castles had nearby units of land called beneficia which probably had this function, and it is not so close to the end of the tenth century when we start to find these being called fiefs, or at least feva, though cases where this word is equated with fiscum do mean that so early we should probably see this as the portion of notionally-public land attached to the castle from which its upkeep and support were to be provided.11 The progress of these allotments and the dues they could command towards becoming wider accumulations of seigneurial rights and abuses that we could lump under the general heading of ‘the ban’ if we loved Marc Bloch enough to brave Susan Reynolds’s unhappiness with our terms, is something that doesn’t need to be covered here; I will say only that Gaspar Feliu’s twenty-five-year-old plaint that Pierre Bonnassie’s work on this needed replacement after standing for more than a decade still wants an answer, which may even be because Bonnassie’s picture was basically right.12 Something probably must be, after all, pace Paul Edward Dutton’s gloomy prognosis that as medieval historians, “the best we can hope for is to be wrong in new ways.”13

In any case, that frontier settlement by élites must have involved the obligation of people there to support those élites with food or service is pretty basically evident, and while we can see it with the Hispani‘s passage to subjection in the ninth century or tenth- and eleventh-century complanters putting in their work for two on the agricultural margins, we must suppose it in all cases, in varying and changing degrees of formality and structure. We might see this as a simple equation of subjects with power, or we might see a more sophisticated and, I have to grudgingly admit, Foucauldian, attempt to turn activity in these regions into a general recognition of a right to act in the name of power here. This would be the “notion of popular collective subjection” that Escalona and Reyes invoke in their picture of these processes, but while it certainly must have been one of the results of such activity I’m not sure that their study gives us much insight into how it had been created, whereas I hope that the one I’m developing here may.14 With that said, I’m not sure that my élites were conscious of this result of their activities in these areas, because it seems to me that if your aim is to create a recognised space for ‘state’ power by intervening in otherwise ungoverned territories, you don’t hand it out to a dependent as soon as you’ve met with any success. So I might wonder whether this isn’t more cause than effect, at least this early and here. Anyway, this would be an issue for another study and perhaps even another student.

Castell de Llordà, Isona, Catalunya

The current state of the Castell de Llordà (image from Viquipèdia), a castle donated to the Church pretty much as soon as Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona and Urgell had got it up and running

So, we have a range of conceptual possibilities for how frontier settlement might be going on, and who might be getting something from it and what, but the question then becomes the more complex, how can we recognise these possibilities in the surviving record on any more than a one-off basis provided by the occasional super-informative document? Can we build anything from this box of possibilities that will survive the shaking of ‘not invented here’? To my mind the best way to do this kind of work is not to try and provide a universal answer or even a universal list of answers, but instead to provide a deeper set of questions, the sort of structure of inquiry that might eventually become material for a flow-chart with possible solutions and formulations at the bottom. Such questions might be: what are the points around which each area is organised? Does it in fact have a castle, as did my case study at Gurb, or an old fort no longer used except by the Church as at l’Esquerda not so far away and about which you’ve read so much here, or indeed a church and nothing more as at one of my favourite, because documented only in archæology, cases, Santa Margarida de Martorell?15 Sometimes, and perhaps more often in other areas, and of them especially Castile where the ‘aldea’ operated in this kind of way if I understand it right, the organising point would actually be a settlement, the village proper and the rights it collectively claimed, and some places would have had none of these things and only the vaguest of unities.16 My favourite case here is the villa of Montells, near Vic and spread out enough to have an upper and a lower portion as well as places that could be described as between those halves, but no apparent church or fortification due to a plethora of others nearby or because the whole place really only counted fourteen people or whatever; I could do more with the documents from here than I have.17 Again, here there is some clarity for Catalonia about what the situation would become—the name of the principality does after all derive from the word for `castellan’—but less about how things were before, when the move into the frontier zones was nevertheless happening.18 Even later, of course, the places that were being brought into control did not arrive under control in this definitive form; that was the result, not the cause.19

That is one important thing that we could attempt to distinguish cases by, not least because unlike many of the things we might look for, this could be archæologically detectable in settlement patterns, assuming a useful ceramic sequence ever comes within reach.20 Questions that we can probably only hope to resolve by even finer interpretation of the documents would be about the processes that were going on that might be controlled and who controlled them. There are a lot of these, once one starts to break it down: any of land clearance, grouping and linking of settlement, defence, worship, the settlement of disputes and representation to other groups or higher authority could be in different hands, some or all of the same hands or under no control at all. There are probably more categories I haven’t yet thought of. But when we have so many variables in play, a clear narrative in which some group, be it bold pioneer peasants, comitally-organised aristocracies or ‘local élites’, was actually creating territory, may well be over-simplistic. Probably each group only controlled some of these aspects and a truly domineering élite would need to have appreciated and been able to interfere conclusively in each of them; this will not always have been the case, and perhaps not even often, all of which would have left some recourses open to the communities control of whom was at issue.21

Sant Andreu de Gurb viewed from the castle hilltop

Sant Andreu de Gurb viewed from the castle hilltop; which of these was dominating whom, eh?

Once again we seem to be up against the plausible word limit and to have reached a temporary conclusion. That might even have been the big point I have that others can take away to their own frontiers. These are, however, conclusions about lordship and settlement generally, and I’d actually promised them for locally. Reasoning down from a model rather than up from practice is unusual for me, but I do still have some stuff I want to say to reattach this question to what lordship could actually do in these frontier situations where institutions are in formation, specifically in Catalonia, and briefly glance at Castile again with those things in mind, but this looks like far enough for a post and I feel as if I have got over the hump with struggling to express my point of view on the still-excellent chapter that rattled my personal cage on this question. Hopefully it’s not been too dull for you! But if so or if not, one more yet a-coming.

* J. Jarrett, “Engaging Élites: counts, capital and frontier communities in the ninth and tenth centuries, in Catalonia and elsewhere” in Networks and Neighbours Vol. 2.2 (Leeds forthcoming).

1. Julio Escalona & Francisco Reyes, “Scale Change on the Border: the county of Castile in the tenth century” in Escalona & Andrew Reynolds (edd.), Scale and Scale Change in the Early Middle Ages, The Medieval Countryside 6 (Turnhout 2011), pp. 153-183, DOI:10.1484/M.TMC-EB.3.4772.

2. E. g. Nora Berend, “Medievalists and the notion of the frontier” in Medieval History Journal Vol. 2 (1999), pp. 55–72, DOI:10.1177/097194589900200104 or David Abulafia, “Introduction: seven kinds of ambiguity” in idem & Nora Berend (edd.), Medieval Frontiers: concepts and practices (Aldershot 2002), pp. 1-34.

3. Chris Wickham, “Problems of Comparing Rural Societies in Early Medieval Western Europe” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th Series Vol. 2 (Cambridge 1992), pp. 221-246, rev. in idem, Land and Power: studies in Italian and European social history, 400-1200 (London 1994), pp. 201-226, at p. 224 of the reprint.

4. See Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalona 880-1010: pathways of power, pp. 92-93, though don’t use what I say there to try and get across the Riu Ter….

5. Escalona & Reyes, “Scale Change on the Border”, pp. 164-173; cf. my review of that volume in Historia Agraria: revista de agricultura e historia rural Vol. 59 (Valencia 2013), pp. 193-197 at p. 194.

6. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològico LIII (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. 1771; Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. R. Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), doc. no. 524.

7. Emilio Morera Llauradó, Tarragona Cristiana: historia del arzobispado de Tarragona y de territoria de su província (Cataluña Nueva) (Tarragona 1897-1899), 2 vols, repr. as Publicaciones del Instituto de Estudios Tarraconenses «Ramón Berenguer IV» 9, 13 & 31 (Tarragona 1954-1959), 3 vols, reprinted again (Tarragona 1981-2001), 5 vols, ap. IV.

8. Elena Lourie, “A Society Organized for War: Medieval Spain” in Past and Present 35 (1966), pp. 54-76, DOI:10.1093/past/35.1.54, repr. in eadem, Crusade and Colonisation: Muslims, Christians and Jews in medieval Aragon, Variorum Collected Studies 317 (Aldershot 1990), I, and in John France (ed.), Medieval warfare: 1000-1300 (Aldershot 2006), pp. 339-362; James F. Powers, A Society Organized for War: the Iberian municipal militias in the Central Middle Ages (Berkeley 1988), online here; for al-Mansur’s campaigns see Miquel d’Epalza, “Descabdellament polític i militar dels musulmans a terres catalanes (segles VIII-IX)” in F. Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), also published as Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 49-80, online here.

9. Antoni Galera i Pedrosa (ed.), Diplomatari de la vila de Cardona, anys 966–1276: Arxiu Parroquial de Sant Miquel i Sant Vicenç de Cardona, Arxiu Abacial de Cardona, Arxiu Históric de Cardona, Arxius Patrimonials de les masies Garriga de Bergus, Pala de Coma i Pinell, Col·leció Diplomataris 15 (Barcelona 1998), doc. no. 7; Victor Farias, “Guerra, llibertat i igualitarisme a la frontera” in Borja de Riquer i Permanyer (ed.) Història política, societat i cultura dels Països Catalans 2: la formació de la societat feudal, segles VI-XII, ed. Josep María Salrach i Marés (Barcelona 1998, repr. 2001), pp. 112-113; Cullen Chandler, “Between Court and Counts: Carolingian Catalonia and the aprisio grant, 778-897” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 11 (Oxford 2002), pp. 19-44, DOI:10.1111/1468-0254.00099. Of course, I do disagree with him that Charles the Bald continued with this tactic (and I am not the first), or that this has anything significant to do with the justification of landholding by claim of its clearance known as aprisio, but you can read about that elsewhere (J. Jarrett, “Settling the kings’ lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol.18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320-342, DOI:10.1111/j.1471-8847.2010.00301.x).

10. Jarrett, “Settling the kings’ lands”, pp. 328-330, cf. P. Imbart de la Tour, “Les colonies agricoles et l’occupation des terres désertes à l’époque
carolingienne” in A. Picard (ed.), Mélanges Paul Fabre : Études d’histoire du moyen âge (Paris, 1902), pp. 146–171 at pp. 162-169; cf. Chandler, “Between Court and Counts”.

11. Beneficia in e. g. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 63, 241, 245, 277, 343, 405, 417 & 767; see Manuel Riu, “Hipòtesi entorn dels orígens del feudalisme a Catalunya” in Quaderns d’Estudis Medievals Vol. 2 no. 4 (Barcelona 1981), pp. 195-208 at pp. 203-204, or indeed Marc Bloch, “Histoire d’un mot” in Annales d’Histoire Sociale Vol. 1 (Paris 1939), pp. 187-190.

12. S. Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994); G. Feliu, “Societat i econòmia” in Udina, Symposium internacional, I pp. 81-115, online here, at p. 115, referring of course to Pierre Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle : croissance et mutations d’une société, Publications de l’Université Toulouse-le Mirail, Sèrie A, 23 & 29 (Toulouse 1975-1976), 2 vols.

13. Paul Edward Dutton in discussion of idem “Voice over Writing in Eriugena”, paper presented in session ‘The Boundaries of Free Speech, II: silencing the voice, restraining the pen’, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 15th July 2009.

14. Escalona & Reyes, “Scale Change on the Border”, p. 171.

15. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 100-128, 81-99 & 44 respectively, and refs there.

16. E. g. Ignacio Álvarez Borge, “El proceso de transformación de las comunidades de aldea: una aproximación al estudio de la formación del feudalismo en Castilla (siglos X y XI)” in Studia Historica: historia medieval Vol. 5 (Salamanca 1987), pp. 145–160, online here; cf. Julio Escalona, “De ‘señores y campesinos’ a ‘poderes feudales y comunidades’. Elementos para definir la articulación entre territorio y clases sociales en la alta Edad Media castellana” in Álvarez (ed.), Comunidades locales y poderes feudales en la Edad Media, Biblioteca de Investigación 27 ([Logroño] 2001), pp. 117–155 or Jordi Bolòs, “La formación del hábitat medieval en Cataluña: Aldeas, espacios aldeanos y vías de comunicación’ in Studia Historica: historia medieval Vol. 31 (2013), pp. 151–180, online here.

17. And so could you! They are Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 350, 509, 559, 653, 661, 784, 968, 1075, 1130, 1136, 1144, 1258, 1264, 1303, 1315, 1324, 1341, 1347, 1367, 1460, 1462, 1588, 1715, 1724, 1730, 1788 & 1792.

18. Bonnassie, Catalogne.

19. J. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: organisation of society in the pre-Catalan ‘terra de ningú'” in †Alan Deyermond & Martin Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London: Queen Mary University of London 2010), pp. 97-127.

20. E. g. Philippe Araguas, “Muro, castro, roca… Peuplement rural et fortifications aux confins de la Catalogne et de l’Aragon pré-romans” in Philippe Sénac (ed.), De la Tarraconaise à la Marche Supérieure d’al-Andalus : les habitats ruraux (IVe-XIe siècle). Desde la Tarraconense a la Marca Superior de al-Andalus: los asentamientos rurales (siglos IV-XI), Méridiennes : Études Médiévales Ibériques 2 (Toulouse 2006), pp. 211-222, and Benoît Cursente, “Conclusion”, ibid. pp. 231-235 vs Eduard Riu-Barrera, “La cerámica del Mediterraneo noroccidental en los siglos VIII-IX: Cataluña, el país valenciano y las Baleares entre el imperio carolingio y al-Andalus” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cultura antes del Románico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), pp. 259-263.

22. Susan Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300 (Oxford 1984, 2nd edn. 1999), is the go-to for solidarities in medieval communities; cf. however for this area Thomas N. Bisson, Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis, and Humanity in Rural Catalonia, 1140-1200 (Cambridge 1998).

Building states on the Iberian frontier, II: clearing the land

Catalan peasants at work, from the Biblia de Ripoll

Catalan peasants at work, from the Biblia de Ripoll

Continuing as promised, or threatened, the rethink of my picture of frontier development in Catalonia spurred by the recent chapter by Julio Escalona and Francisco Reyes on the same themes in tenth-century Castile… let’s talk about peasants.1 At some level, after all, the expansion of settlement, social structures and government into an unorganised zone requires the basic work of somebody taking tools to the soil, felling unhelpful trees, clearing scrub, putting it to the plough or planting helpful trees and generally turning the land to use. This is implicit in any story of territorial expansion that isn’t simple annexation of territory where someone else has already done that. The question is thus not whether this is happening, but rather who is controlling it. Now, I have worked on this for Catalonia, partly because it’s just inherent in an expanding frontier situation as I say but also because of an early article by Cullen Chandler that I disagreed with and which gave me a fair bit of work to figure out what my alternative picture was (and even longer to publish it).2 This does mean that I could simply direct you to that work but because it’s part of the argument that I’m developing here in reaction to the Escalona & Reyes chapter, it needs to be out where it can be seen. I will reuse some text, though, and the first bit I will reuse is that from my book which attempts to describe how other historians have answered this question of control. Given that what follows is quite a lot of quotation, and that the whole post is plural thousands of words, a cut seems moot here… Continue reading

Building states on the Iberian frontier, I: putting the peasants up front

This is going to be a long and thinky post, and short of illustrations, so let's have something scenic to start with. This is the mountains of Montserrat seen from the Riu Llobregat, the far frontier in my period, an image from Wikimedia Commons

This is going to be a long and thinky post, and short of illustrations, so let’s have something scenic to start with. This is the mountains of Montserrat seen from the Riu Llobregat, the far frontier in my period, an image from Wikimedia Commons

As I sat down to write this I was having trouble thinking something out, and by now my favourite strategy when this happens, assuming that I can’t trap someone at a pub table and thrash it out at them verbally, is to try and write about it. So this is the first of a number of posts messing with questions of agency and, well, credit or blame I suppose, in the creation of medieval society at the Muslim-Christian frontier in medieval Iberia. It comes out of reading a genuinely excellent account of that for Castile in the tenth century (the most important of European centuries, as I’m sure you realise) by Julio Escalona and Francisco Reyes.1 It gets right down into the mechanisms by which lords got themselves into positions of power on the frontier and then used those to make themselves more important wherever else they turned up, creating extensive lordships which would only be converted to intensive ones much later. This is a really clear chapter, informed by a lively and interesting new theoretical base, and is important not just for the tenth century and debates about state formation on frontiers anywhere, but also about the delay in what comes after, the intensification, which of course plays into the feudal transformation debate of which everyone is so tired and so on.2 It really made me think but one thing that it made me think was that it’s only about lords. This has made me write a great deal, and out of general mercy for the audience I put the rest behind a cut, but if you feel up to it I would be very interested in feedback and corrections, not least because I tread on several nationalisms in the course of it and need to know what bits may make people angry… Continue reading

From the sources VII: to demilitarise and populate

I can’t quite believe I haven’t yet posted this charter, as it’s important for a whole bunch of things, but as I noticed a few posts ago I haven’t, so here it is. This is a document from 973 that is unusually informative about the processes of settling a frontier, defending a frontier principality, about the rôle of the Church and counts in those things, and it also joins up with a couple of previous posts because as well as the inevitable Borrell II, it also features his mysterious kinsman Guifré whom I’ve mentioned here before and additionally a person who may or may not have been self-identifying as a Goth, in the late tenth century, which has also been a recent discussion here. So, here it is in translation; I’ll stick the Latin in first footnote again.1 It’s long, but it’s so full of stuff that it’s worthwhile, honest.

In the name of God. I Borrell, Count and Marquis and also Guifré, my kinsman, we together as one, under an inviolable faith in God and his sacred confidence, have chosen to make this donation to the Lord God and his holy martyr Saturninus, whose house is sited in the county of Urgell, not far distant from its selfsame see of Holy Mary next to the river, and so we do. For we give, willing of heart, to the aforementioned monastery, and to Abbot Ameli and the brothers dwelling with you or those who shall be hereafter, churches that were founded in ancient time and endowed with holy altars in the furthest outermost limits of the marches, in the place called Castell de Llordà or in the city of Isona, which was destroyed by the Saracens, and the churches… which were built in their confines or which shall have had to be built in the future. Of which, the first church is called Sant Sadurní, in its castle of Llordà. Another is called Santa Maria in the selfsame city of Isona, which was destroyed. Another Sant Vicenç which was a monastery in the centre of the already-said town, next to the spring which they call Clarà.

Portal from the belltower into the now-missing nave at Sant Sadurní del Castell de Llordà

Sant Sadurní del Castell de Llordà seems to have been a fairly accomplished building, though as you can tell by the sunlight around the edges of this Viquipèdia view of the doorway between the belltower and the nave, not so much of the latter now stands

These aforesaid churches we do concede and give to the aforementioned monastery with their praises and possessions and the sum of their acquisitions with their tithes and first-fruits or offerings of the faithful living and dead in integrity; and we do concede the tithes of our dominical workings, present and future, to Holy Mary in whole. We have arranged similarly for the plots of the selfsame scouts and guards who have guarded the selfsame castle, and we bestow upon the selfsame already-said churches that which we have… [the bounds follow].

Whatever these same bounds include, thus we do concede to the monastery of Sant Sadurní aforementioned or to the abbots, to the monks present and future, so that they may make perprisiones wheresoever they may wish or may be able to far and wide through all places, build churches in the waste solitudes, make endowments in all the places; and let them spread labourers everywhere who shall reduce the selfsame wastes to cultivation and let them live in the selfsame endowments and there let them acquire and let them buy from the selfsame possessors whatever God shall have given to those people and shall have been possible for them. And the selfsame tithes which shall go forth from those selfsame perprisiones which they may have made there or will make in future, or from their acquisitions, we do concede and give all of them to the precious martyr Saturninus and from our right into his we do hand over possession, with the entrances and exits of the properties too. Again, we accord to the already-said monks that they may make aprisiones on the selfsame riverbank of the Noguera, in the place which they call Calzina, in the selfsame plain before the rock of Pugentoso, in the place which they call Calzina and before the rock of Petra and the selfsame water which descends from the selfsame mountains, ten plots in one year and ten in the next; and let them build a church in honour of Holy Mary and let the selfsame church have the tithes and first-fruits and offerings of Perafita itself and as far as the river Noguera and as far as the river Covet and over the selfsame mountains of Calzina. Let this however be under our hand and fidelity and those of our sons and let the assembled things which pertain or ought to pertain to the monastery serve under our defence and governance for all time.

Church of Santa Maria de Covet, Pallars Jussà

The monks may or not have put in a church of Holy Mary as requested; either way, there's a twelfth-century one there now... (Image from Wikimedia Commons))

The charter of this donation made in the city of Barcelona on the 3rd Kalends of August, in the 19th year of the rule of King Lothar. If anyone against this donation should have wished to disrupt it, let him not avail in so doing but let him compound twofold and accept a portion with Datan and Abiron.

Signed Borrell, Count [and] Marquis. Guisad, Bishop, subscribed. Guifré subscribed. Fruià, chief-priest, subscribed. Sig+ned Marcoald. Sig+ned Guadall, chief of the Goths. Sig+ned Arnau. Sig+ned Senter.

Bonfill, priest, who wrote this as requested.

So, OK, my temporary pupils, some talking points here:

  1. This area had obviously been in the wars—one wonders how long ago Isona (the old Iberian city of Æso) had been destroyed by the Saracens—but equally there were people out there, which we can tell not just because there was no problem at all giving the boundaries, even if, unusually, they name no other landholders at all.
  2. That would probably be because Borrell actually claimed to own all the land in the area and the people there are his direct subject peasants, which is something that we very rarely actually see but which, some would argue, and by some I mean Gaspar Feliu, we should be expecting much more widely.2 Here, at least, the count helpfully informs us that he has dominicaturas, presumably demesne farms, out in this extremis ultimas finium marchas. So, had he moved the farmers all in as some would believe, or were they there already?3
  3. Castell de Llordà, Isona, Catalunya

    The current state of the Castell de Llordà (much later as it stands; image from Viquipèdia)

  4. Whatever their situation was—and remained, since the count only conceded the tithe off those dominicaturas, which you might think he hardly had a right to anyway—he was also getting shot of a castle and the “scouts and guards who guarded” it, who seem to have been supporting themselves by agriculture, but it looks as if Borrell provided the starting capital and as if they may not yet have been paying their way, an expenditure that was now passed onto the monastery.
  5. The monastery also got a to-do list a mile long: take in land and clear it, put churches on it, establish estates and find labourers for them, set up markets where those labourers can get their wherewithal (because not many merchants were likely to be coming this way, I suppose—on the other hand it may have been because of the obvious advantages to the monks of running the Company Store) in exchange for produce.
  6. For this the monastery got the workers’ tithes, and presumably whatever profit they made from the markets, but it’s not clear that they were the landlords, at least not to me. If not, the monastery was basically acting as a contracted developer here, which was presumably something they thought would be worthwhile somehow.
  7. The monks did get to make their own clearances too, in fact they were required to, putting at least ten fields into cultivation each year for the next two years (if I’ve properly understood that), and also to put a church up for them, which the count remained the landlord for, because as this document makes implicitly evident and others of his state, he claimed fiscal rights over all wasteland and despite the population that seems to have been in this area, this area is being counted as waste for these `accounting’ purposes.4

So there’s that, and this is all very informative about exactly how the whole process of rolling out organised settlement might work, but there’s also some points that aren’t about process and play more to my particular and peculiar interests. You may by now know the word aprisio, which is used here to describe the clearances the monks may make in their own right, but note that it contrasts with the word Borrell or his scribe used for the ones the monks might make in order to settle labourers, perprisio. This appears to be an actual Latin recognition of the difference that Gaspar Feliu (again) has seen between private and lordly clearance; the monastery will be clearing for others, as agent, and that means they don’t get the full alodial rights that supposedly accrued to those who cleared land unless other arrangements were made. As keen readers of my stuff will know, I think that these rules were essentially only being finalised at this late stage, in other words that Borrell was here floating new terms that his father’s generation would not have understood, but this is where he was doing it, in the palace at Barcelona with two bishops who also owned frontier properties and his mysterious kinsman, whose concern with frontier matters seems to have meant that he must be involved.5

There's only a certain amount of land use going on here even now

But lastly, what about the other notable witness, Guallus princeps cotorum, here rendered as `Chief of the Goths’? Well, if Jesus Lalinde had been right about `Goth’ by now essentially meaning someone living on land that made them liable to military service in the city garrison of Barcelona, this would fit pretty nicely wouldn’t it?6 Guallus would be the head of the garrison. Unfortunately, this charter is only a copy, not an original. The original, if that’s what it is, comes as you’d expect from Sant Sadurní de Tavèrnoles, who were getting all this stuff to make and do.7 And that version refers to Guallus not as princeps cotorum, which our editor here, Federico Udina i Martorell, ever the neo-Gothicist, read as a variant spelling of gotorum, but princeps coquorum, `Prince of the Cooks’.8 Udina’s text, indeed, has also been read as `princeps cocorum‘, a variant spelling of the same thing. `C’ and `t’ look a lot alike in this script, and Udina’s modification wasn’t stupid, but all the same, if it’s wrong, that might give Guallus rather a different place in the palace hierarchy, though apparently still one grand enough to flaunt in a charter signature. He doesn’t turn up again, so there’s no way to be sure.9 Obviously the original would be nice to have just to settle this, but I’d also love to know whether he could write. And also, how he cooked, of course…

1. Barcelona, Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó, Cancilleria, Borrell II, no. 7, ed. Federico Udina i Martorell in his El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18 (Madrid 1951), no. 174*:

In nomine Domini. Ego Borrellus, comes et marchio seu Guifredus, consanguineus meus, nos simul in unum, sub inviolabile Dei fide eiusque sacra confidencia, hanc donacionem Domino Deo eligimus facere santoque suo martiri Saturnino, qui est situs in comitatu Orgellitense, non longe distante ab eiusdem sedem Sancte Marie iusta amne, sicuti et facimus. Donamus namque, pronto animo, ad coenobium prelibata et ad Amelio abbate et fratribus tibi comorantibus vel qui post ea futuri erant ecclesias, qui ab antico tempore erant fundatas et sacris altaribus titulatis in extremis ultimas finium marchas in locum vocitato caustrum Lordano vel in civitate Isauna, que est destructa a sarracenis et ecclesias que ibi sunt, scilicet, in castro Lordano vel in civitate iamdicta quam in earum confinia vel in eorum omnia pertinencia qui infra sunt constructas vel ad future erant construendas. Quarum prima in eius castro Lordano sancti Saturnini est nuncupata Ecclesia. Alia sancte Marie est nuncupata in ipsa civitate de Isona, que est destructa. Alia sancti Vincencii qui fuit Monasterium in caput iamdicte ville, iustam fontem que dicunt Clara.
His prefatas ecclesias concedimus et donamus ad prelibatum cenobium cum eorum laudibus et possessionibus ac universis adquisicionibus cum illorum decimis et primiciis seu oblaciones fidelium vivorum et defunctorum ab integre; et de nostras dominicas laboraciones presentes et futuras ipsas decimas concedimus ad ipsam ecclesiam sancte Marie integriter. Similiter facimus et de laboraciones de ipsos spiculatores ac custos qui custodiunt ipsum castrum ponimus ad ipsas ecclesias iamdictas que incoamus a parte orientis in sumitate de ipsa rocha que vocant Dronb et sic vadit per sumitatem de ipsa serra usque in collo de Tolo et sic descendit per istam aquam qui discurrit ante Tolo et pervadit usque in Procerafita et ascendit per ipsum rivum de Abilio usque in collum de Abilia et usque in collum de Spina.
Quantum iste affinitates includunt, sic concedimus ad monasterium sancti Saturnini prelibato vel ad abbates, ad monachos presentes et futuri, ut faciant per presiones ubicumque voluerint nec potuerint longe lateque per universorum loca, hermis solitudinis edificent ecclesias, faciant munificenciis in congruis locis et obducant laboratores qui ipsas heremitates reducant ad culturam et in ipsis munificenciis habitent et adquirant ibi et emant de ipsis possessoribus quantum illis Deus dederit et possibile eis fuerit. Et de ipsis per prisionibus qui tam ibidem factas habent vel future facture sunt, seu de acquisicionibus eorum ipsas decimas que inde exierint, concedimus et donamus ea omnia ad preciosum martirem Saturninum et de nostro iure in eius contrahimus possessionem, simul cum exiis et regresiis eorum. Iterum damus monachi iamdicti ut faciant aprisiones ad ipsam ripam de Noguera, in locum que vocant Calzina, in ipso plano ante podium de Pugentoso, in locum que vocant Calzina et ante podium de Petra et ipsam aquam qui descendit de ipsis montibus decem pariatas ad uno anno in decem ad alio et construant ecclesiam in honore sante Marie et ipsam ecclesia abeat decimas et primicias et oblaciones de ipsa Perafita et usque ad flumen Nogaria et usque in flumine Gaveto et super ipsos montes de Calcina. Hoc tamen sit sub manu et fidelitate nostra filiorumque nostrorum et cuncta que ad Monasterium pertinent vel pertinere debent sub defensione et gubernacione nostra servetur per cuncta tempora.
Facta huius [carta] donacionis in Barchinona civitate die iii. kalendas augusti, anno xviiii. regnante Leutario rege. Si quis contra hanc karta donacionis voluerit disrumpere non hoc valeat facere sed componant in duplo et cum Data et Abiron porcionem accipiat.
Signum Borrellus, comes marchio. Wisadus, episcopus, SS. Wifredus, SS. Frugifer, presul, SS. Sig+num Marchoaldus. Sig+num Guadallus, princeps cotorum. Sign+num Arnaldus. Sig+num Senterius.
Bonifilius, presbiter, qui hoc rogateus scripsit.

2. J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London 2010), pp. 117-118 for comital claims to wasteland and pp. 154-155 for direct lordship over peasants; cf. G. Feliu, “La pagesia catalana abans de la feudalització” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 26 (Barcelona 1994), pp. 19-41, repr. in idem, La llarga nit feudal: Mil anys de pugna entre senyors i pagesos (València 2010), pp. 93-110.

3. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 15-17, gives some account of the differing models that have been suggested for frontier settlement; J. Jarrett, “Settling the Kings’ Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320-342, has some worked-out examples and engages more critically with the historiography on the issue.

4. A more obvious example of this happening can be found in J. Rius Serra (ed.), Cartulario de «Sant Cugat» del Vallés (Barcelona 1946), II no. 464, which I discussed in an earlier post here.

5. Referring to Feliu, “Pagesia”, and also his “Societat i econòmia” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), also published as Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 81-115. On the peculiar rôle of Guifré on the frontier, see my earlier post here and references there.

One question I haven’t reopened here is why, if what is happening here is something that was so common in later eras, the count used a charter of donation rather than an actual contract to do it with. One may argue that those documents have yet to be developed, and that the change is only in the documents, and here I might be more inclined to buy that than I was last time I raised that argument, because firstly this must have been going on in many forms for many centuries, and secondly because such contracts are almost unknown this early; there are pacts of complantation and so on (explained here) but not actual deeds of obligation or whatever. I suspect that in this case at least, the answer is that the count liked the idea of couching this in a way that means the monks would have to pray for him for getting all this work to do.

6. J. Lalinde Abadia, “Godos, hispanos y hostolenses en la órbita del rey de los Francos” in Udina, Symposium Internacional II, pp. 35-74.

7. Printed in Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Diplomatari del monestir de Tavèrnoles (segles IX-XIII)” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 12 (Montserrat 1995), pp. 7-414, doc. no. 23. The doubt over it being an original isn’t serious, but it seems to have been used, along with Manuel Riu i Riu, “Diplomatari del monestir de Sant Llorenç de Morunys (971-1613)” in Urgellia Vol. 4 (1981), pp. 187-259, no. 1, to create at least Baraut, “Tavèrnoles”, doc. no. 21 and Petrus de Marca, Marca Hispanica sive Limes Hispanicus, hoc est geographica & historica descriptio cataloniæ, ruscinonis, & circumiacentium populorum, ed. É. Baluze (Paris 1688; repr. Barcelona 1972 & 1989), ap. CXV, ostensibly a copy of a copy of this document found in Urgell, which might even be the Tavèrnoles original but if so got `improved’ somewhere along the transmission. That forgers have had their hands on it doesn’t, however, seem to me to prejudice the original itself. It’s also from the Tavèrnoles version that I get the form of Guallus’s name, since as you can see Udina’s text renders him as Guadall. That would be a much more common name, which is partly why I reject it; I want this guy to be odd in as many ways as possible…

8. I discussed this in Rulers and Ruled, pp. 158-159, where I pointed out and will do again here, that a princeps coquorum, one Gunzo, is (unambiguously) recorded by the poet Ermold the Black in his praise poem on Emperor Louis the Pious, In honorem Hludowici, ed. Ernst Dümmler in idem (ed.), Poetae latini ævi carolini II, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Poetae) IV, p. 71. I can’t show that the two can be connected, but if there was a copy of Dhuoda’s Manual for William in Barcelona perhaps there was also a copy of In honorem Hludowici somewhere that someone had read and mentioned one day to Guallus…