Tag Archives: Susan Reynolds

In celebration of the life of Susan Reynolds

It has become all too frequent a thing, as I get older and those who have helped me along my career remain the same distance older than me, that I have to put aside whatever I had meant to post on a given blog day because news reaches me that somebody who deserves celebration or memorial has sadly died, and thus it is today. Susan Reynolds, whom I feel as if I’ve mentioned on this blog a hundred times, passed away on Thursday morning, with family and friends around her, I am told. (There don’t seem to be any obituaries up yet; I have to thank Fraser McNair and David Ganz for making sure I knew.) She was 92. I am very sad about this, because I enjoyed her work and indeed her company a lot and I know I’m not alone in this, but I’ve had a couple of goes at writing this as tidings of doom, and it just won’t write like that because everything I remember of her was basically uplifting and encouraging. So I blog not to mourn Susan but to celebrate her, and I hope that if you knew her you can do likewise.

Portrait photograph of Susan Reynolds

This seems to be the only photo of Susan on the Internet, and is probably from the 1980s? And more immediately it’s from the IHR website, linked through

I suppose that for most people, or rather for people who didn’t have the privilege of hanging around the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in London a while, Susan Reynolds is a name one knows primarily from her books, and especially Kingdoms and Communities in Medieval Europe and the almost-infamous Fiefs and Vassals.1 There were actually more than that, including two Variorum collections of essays and her last actual monograph, completed in 2014 when she was a mere 85, plus a plethora of useful and incisive chapters and articles I could cite, but those two books especially kept her on reading lists across the English-speaking world within quite a short space of their publication and will continue to do so for a while yet.2 That’s because there are few people who could deal as well as Susan did with all the difficulties of interpreting massed textual sources by people whose thoughtworlds were a millennium removed from our own and still extract some kind of synthesis about what they did and why, often over really quite a scale. So there’s all that, the kind of scholarly legacy we might all hope to leave but must know that few of us will, but if you know Susan’s name it’s because you know some or all of that already. What might not be so obvious, without having met her or talked to her, is quite how remarkable it was that any of that came to be, because Susan’s passage through the life academic was not by any means what would now pass for normal.

Now, I’m not going to recount her life here, partly because who am I to do that and so on, but mostly because she did it herself, in an interview for the IHR in 2008, and it’s online here. The sound file is gone from there, but happily, if ironically, the Internet Archive has preserved it where the IHR’s own archive pages have not, so there you can not just read it but hear it—and you don’t have a full impression of Susan unless you know how she talked. So I very much recommend giving that a listen. But, either in text or in sound, gather in the first fifteen minutes or so, in which she laid out her scholarly biography, because it’s sort of amazing, for at least these reasons:

  1. she did not get a first at undergraduate, she had no MA, no Ph. D., and her only postgraduate qualification was a diploma in archive management;
  2. she was never a professor; in fact I’m not sure she was ever promoted in any of her jobs; and
  3. much of her substantial work was only begun, let alone published, after she retired at age 58 from what was only her second university post; even Kingdoms and Communities only came out three years before that.

It’s easy to say to all that, well, things were different then (and she repeatedly stressed those differences in the interview), but that makes it sound as her work also dates from some distant era, whereas actually, Fiefs and Vassals came out when I was an undergraduate; Kingdoms and Communities went into its second edition just as I finished being an undergraduate; and her last book came out when I was working in Birmingham. And this was a retiree, turning out work that overthrew or updated whole subfields in ways that young ambitious scholars would have suffered greatly to achieve. In her sixties into seventies, in other words, Susan Reynolds became a whole new big thing in the field. If anyone’s life demonstrates that it’s never too late, surely this is it.

Now of course, she was an ageing lady by then and, as that interview shows, deeply conscious of having once been brighter and faster and being able to remember more. I had a couple of conversations with her where she lamented this, while I wished I were half as sharp even then. She had a reputation among attendees of the IHR seminar as a fierce questioner, and certainly she would pin anyone down on matters of what the terms used in medieval sources really meant—one of her hobby-horses, definitely, though again, the interview is very good in explaining why it matters—but I don’t think I ever saw her kick downwards, beyond that injunction to think about words. The impression I formed was that she didn’t think it was fair to attack anyone her junior, and of course by the time I knew her there weren’t many people who weren’t… The two people I saw get the full force of her critique, in fact, were John Gillingham, in person, and Rees Davies in print, and it is to be noted that she singled both of them out, in that interview, for praise as brilliant scholars; so I think she just felt that they should have known better…3

Certainly, what I mainly remember Susan for is interest and kindness. Quite early on we bonded somewhat over being the only two people in England whom each other knew to have thought about what the people called Hispani in the legislation of the Carolingian rulers actually were, in terms of status; but I used to make a point of chatting with Susan whenever I was in the IHR and saw her, partly in the hope of some delicious bon mot that could be quoted later, I admit, which I was not the only one collecting, but also because it was always interesting to talk with her and because she was always happy to be interested.4

The Semantic Triangle, as conceptualised by Charles Ogden and Ivor Richards

The Semantic Triangle, as conceptualised by Charles Ogden and Ivor Richards and as used by Susan Reynolds, from Patricia Brenes’s In My Own Terms, linked through, where further explanation is provided

On one occasion, when she had a presentation to give in the near future in Vienna and was reckoning to use Powerpoint for the first time, in her eighties let’s remember, she asked if I could work through the software with her when I was next in London, to prevent her holding everything up and being “foolish”. I think it was me just because I was there while she was worrying about it, but we set a date anyway. By the time it came round, every other reason I’d had for being in town that day had collapsed. I went down anyway though, from Birmingham I think, because I just couldn’t face cancelling on Susan. I went straight to the IHR, found her in the tea-room, corralled an empty seminar room in which to do the computer demo, and spent ten minutes coaching her with the software and fifty fascinating minutes discussing the implications of the single diagram she’d painstakingly got onto the slide for her paper, which I have found again and which you see above. We got chucked out of the seminar room when someone actually needed it for a seminar, parted ways and I went straight back home on the train, and that was basically my day. I look back on it now as a day tremendously well-spent, and kind of an honour. The volume of essays that was dedicated to her clearly professes that it wasn’t just me who felt this way about her, either.5

So as I say, I tried to write this sadly, and obviously I am sad that she’s died, how could I not be? Apart from anything else, lockdown must have been tremendously hard for someone whose life was so arranged around the sociability of London academia and a regular routine of library visits, and I’m glad that at least by the time the time came people could be with her again. But I also don’t suppose she was actually finished, despite being 92; I imagine there were things she was still working on and indeed work of hers that must still be in press and will now follow her intellectual cortège, and we might wonder what else there would have been if she’d been given any more time. But despite all this, I cannot remember Susan Reynolds sadly. Tales of her will continue to delight me, her work will continue to anchor and inspire my own, and I hope I will always smile, even if sadly, to think of her. And I hope this all sort of explains why. I feel very fortunate to have known her.


1. Susan Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300 (Oxford 1984; 2nd edn 1997); eadem, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994).

2. What to select, where to start? Firstly the other two monographs, of course, Reynolds, An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns (Oxford 1977) and eadem, Before Eminent Domain: Toward a History of Expropriation of Land for the Common Good (Chapel Hill NC 2014), both prefigured by useful shorter pieces. After that, a top five illustrative shorter pieces might be eadem, “What Do We Mean by ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Anglo-Saxons’?” in Journal of British Studies Vol. 24 (Chicago IL 1985), pp. 395–414; eadem, “The Historiography of the Medieval State” in Michael Bentley (ed.), A Companion to Historiography (London 1997), pp. 117–138; Susan Reynolds, “Empires: a problem of comparative history” in Historical Research Vol. 79 (Oxford 2006), pp. 151–165; eadem, “Early Medieval Law in India and Europe: A Plea for Comparisons” in The Medieval History Journal Vol. 16 (New York City 2013), pp. 1–20; and eadem, “Society: hierarchy and solidarity” in Benjamin Z. Kedar and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks (edd.), The Cambridge World History, volume V: Expanding Webs of Exchange and Conflict, 500 CE–1500 CE (Cambridge 2015), pp. 94–115.

3. I can’t remember what John had done to catch Susan’s ire, but I think it must have been at his IHR presentation of the paper which became John Gillingham, “Fontenoy and After: pursuing enemies to the death in France between the ninth and the eleventh centuries” in Paul Fouracre & David Ganz (edd.), Frankland: The Franks and the World of the Early Middle Ages. Essays in Honour of Dame Jinty Nelson (Manchester 2008), pp. 242-265, which was before I began blogging. In Davies’s case the problem was caused by Rees Davies, “The Medieval State: The Tyranny of a Concept?” in Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 16 (Oxford 2003), pp. 280–300, to which cf. Susan Reynolds, “There were States in Medieval Europe: A Response to Rees Davies”, ibid. pp. 550–555. Davies’s piece was itself a critique of Reynolds, “Historiography of the Medieval State”, so it could be argued that he started it.

4. For which reason, in Jonathan Jarrett, “Settling the Kings’ Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320–342, you will find on p. 321 n. 2 a citation of Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals, pp. 107-111, which until Cullen J. Chandler, “Between Court and Counts: Carolingian Catalonia and the aprisio grant, 778-897″ in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 11 (Oxford 2002), pp. 19–44, to which I was responding in my piece, was the only work in English in what Carolingian or Catalan aprisio might in fact be. The thanks that Susan, among others, got on p. 320 was for exactly those kinds of conversations.

5. That volume being Pauline Stafford, Janet Nelson & Jane Martindale (edd.), Law, Laity and Solidarities: Essays in honour of Susan Reynolds (Manchester 2001).

Seminar CCXLIII: creating the law under Charlemagne

Pickets outside the University of Leeds on 26th February 2020

Pickets outside the University of Leeds today

It’s back to work for the UK’s academics tomorrow, in what for me will be one very frantic day of teaching followed by another one of marking, but then, unless some substantial progress is made in negotiations, we’re back on strike again on Monday. There is therefore time now, but maybe not later, for me to deliver on the first of the posts I just promised, by reactivating a long-dormant series with a post about a visit to the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, like I used to do so much long ago. On this occasion the beneficiary is Professor Jennifer Davis, who had at this point just published an important book on Charlemagne’s government and had come to talk to us with the title, “Rethinking the Frankish Capitulary”.1 This is stuff that affects how the Frankish kings who separated Catalonia from the rest of the Iberian peninsula ruled there, so I care enough to make a post out of it so as to think more about it.

Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Ripoll, MS 40

The opening page of an actual Catalan text of some Frankish capitularies, in the copy of the collection of Ansegis in Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Ripoll, MS 40

Now, if you’ve never met the word ‘capitulary‘ that is not a reason to feel ignorant, because it’s arguably a word without a solid definition and is only used by scholars of the line of Frankish kings we call the Carolingians, but what they usually mean by it and what was meant here is documents of legislation arranged as headings or chapters, in Latin in capitula. This was how the rulers of the Carolingian kingdoms liked to issue new law, in collections of points that had needed ruling on at the same time. Some of them are more programmatic, when there was a policy at work that means lots of the laws connect up, and some are just the business of that particular assembly as it fell out.2 The ones that actually were issued in assembly, however—which by no means everything that’s ever been called a capitulary was—present a paradox, which is where this paper started: these are, as far as we can tell, legislation that was actually given out from royal assemblies, but the texts we have of them are all private copies, often slightly varying, with no clear sign that there was actually an ‘official’ text of the rulings anywhere. What kind of law is it that generates so much text but doesn’t actually stick to its own letter?

Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, MS Cod Guelf 130 Blank, fo. 35v

The end of the capitularies and the beginning of the laws, in a Carolingian legal collection now preserved as Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, MS Cod Guelf 130 Blank (fo. 35v)

There have, hitherto, been two fairly broad ways out of this particular difficulty and one newer, narrower one. The older one of the broad two is simply to assume that the Carolingians were way more ambitious in their legislation than was actually practical, that the ideals of the state outstripped its actual capacity.3 This seems necessarily to suppose that the Carolingians themselves didn’t know how well their own state worked, and while communications and knowledge networks were surely imperfect, then as now or more so, scholars have been less and less happy over time to assume in this way that we know better than our subjects did. The alternative broad way, therefore, associated forever with the name of Patrick Wormald, is to argue that the kings knew perfectly well that what they legislated probably wouldn’t actually happen but the point was to behave in a royal or imperial fashion by issuing law, by being seen to know what the good of the kingdom was and how it should be achieved, and in general to create the impression that royal government was doing what it should and living up to expectations. In this view legislation was primarily performative, and the number of texts we have of Carolingian legislation just indicate that the performance was well received.4

Drawing by L. Bethmann of a portrait of a Lombard king issuing law in the Codex Cavensis, c. 1005

Drawing by L. Bethmann of a portrait of a Lombard king issuing law in the Codex Cavensis, c. 1005; click through for a link to the full-size original drawing in context at the dMGH

In the last decade or so, however, law has become part of the material for a developing school of thought that says that although the Carolingians proclaimed a rhetoric of reform and correction and standardised a lot of texts, including those of the big traditional lawcodes that helped to define many of the identities within the Frankish Empire, uniformity may not have been the goal, as opposed to uniform participation, within which a certain amount of variety was not only tolerable, but maybe even necessary so as to be able to test different possible solutions to problems.5 By this reckoning the point of the capitularies was not to get everyone dancing to the same tunes, but to make it clear that the band was playing and they should listen. This was roughly where Professor Davis located her argument, but she did so only after touring us through a number of difficulties with any of the three solutions so far argued, based on a really good study of the manuscript evidence. For instance:

  • Charlemagne’s later capitularies repeatedly stress that everyone should know and even discuss what was in the laws, but there was still apparently no standard text or content for any collection of them; his son Louis the Pious had one made, but he did not.6
  • Apparently there were written copies in circulation, as well as the reports of the messengers who carried them, because some of the capitularies instruct their recipients to make copies of them upon receipt—so why don’t we have many copies that match? We have some, but few.
  • If you actually did have access to all the capitularies of the reign, they’d contradict each other quite a lot on some issues, so what were people supposed to learn?

Professor Davis’s overall suggestion was that, while details were sometimes important to know—and one particular capitulary was so keen on that that it required that a copy be made of itself and then signed by all present, and it’s possible we still have one copy of a lawcode – not a capitulary – that shows this happening, as you can see below—what the king was really after was a general knowledge of ‘the law’, writ broadly, in all its contradictory possibilities, whether canon law, Biblical law, ‘Frankish’ or other ‘ethnic’ law or the capitularies; as long as the royal right to be authoritative was recognised, and people did this work to discuss and know the law because the king required it, the fact that this might create the crazily-paved pattern of slightly different selections, determinations and versions of ‘the law’ all across the empire might not matter; people using it would still be doing right at royal behest.

The opening of the Law of the Ribuarian Franks in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Clm. 4115, fo. 1r, apparently signed in quite a variety of hands

I think this does help us squeeze through that narrow gap of conformity-not-uniformity while still recognising that these texts appear to require specific behaviour of their audience, but the contradictions from our point of view don’t entirely go away with this answer, and there was some pushback in discussion from well, me and Susan Reynolds, and I don’t like to consider myself the awkward squad but—no, that’s probably a lie actually; I kind of do. Anyway; Susan thought that it was more likely that the texts existed to provide governmentalised sanction of what people were already doing, so reflect steady practice rather than royal direction of change, to which Professor Davis reasonably argued that some of the texts are explicit about innovating, which would seem to lose some of the benefit of confirming custom if that’s what you were doing; and I argued from there that the centre sometimes aimed to change ‘custom’ by contradicting the big lawcodes which it itself had compiled, so clearly had a programme of sorts, and wondered whether there were limits on the variation the centre would allow. To this Professor Davis argued that considerable autonomy of interpretation would have been allowed to those making legal judgements, especially counts and judges, but that they were expected to be making those judgements on the basis of knowing this aggregate of usable law. I am sort of OK with that, as it is very much how law was being applied in tenth-century Catalonia, as we’ve seen. But that was another century, and besides the law was the Goths’, so I wouldn’t like to be sure that this is Catalonia being Carolingian; maybe we have something more broadly Wormaldian about what early medieval law was for here… In his absence, I guess we’ll figure it out by ourselves eventually! But this was a step along the way, I thought.


1. Jennifer R. Davis, Charlemagne’s Practice of Empire (Cambridge 2015).

2. A recent discussion with the kind of nuance I’m trying to imitate here is Christina Pössel, “Authors and Recipients of Carolingian Capitularies, 779–829” in Richard Corradini, Rob Meens, Pössel and Philip Shaw (edd.), Texts and Identities in the Early Middle Ages, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 12 (Wien 2006), pp. 253–274.

3. I think of this as being the domain of François-Louis Ganshof, in particular his “The Last Period of Charlemagne’s Reign: A Study in Decomposition”, in idem, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy: Studies in Carolingian History, transl. Janet Sondheimer (London 1971), pp. 240–255, online here, but more specifically on this issue Ganshof, Was waren die Kapitularien? (Darmstadt 1961).

4. Patrick Wormald, “Lex Scripta and Verbum Regis: legislation and Germanic kingship, from Euric to Cnut” in P. H. Sawyer and I. N. Wood (edd.), Early Medieval Kingship (Leeds 1977), pp. 105–138, repr. in Patrick Wormald, Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image, and Experience (London 1999), pp. 1–44. The issue must also be covered in his The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, Volume I: Legislation and Its Limits (Oxford 1999), but I don’t have easy access to a copy just now to check.

5. As well as Pössel, “Authors and Recipients”, see Carine van Rhijn, “Manuscripts for Local Priests and the Carolingian Reforms” in Steffen Patzold & van Rhijn (edd.), Men in the Middle: Local Priests in Early Medieval Europe, Ergänzungsband der Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde 93 (Berlin 2016), pp. 177–198.

6. That being the Collection of Ansegis, of which one copy is shown above, on which see Stuart Airlie, “‘For it is written in the law’: Ansegis and the writing of Carolingian royal authority” in Stephen Baxter, Catherine E. Karkov, Janet L. Nelson and David Pelteret (edd.), Early Medieval Studies in Memory of Patrick Wormald (Farnham 2009), pp. 219–235.

Seminar LXXII: half of the world for a thousand years in one hour

On 3rd November 2010 the Earlier Middle Ages seminar at the Institute of Historical Research heard a paper entitled “Eurasia: society and solidarity 500-1500”. This, you might think, was just a bit ambitious, but as we rapidly learnt the paper had come about because the speaker had been asked to write an 8,000-word chapter for the Cambridge History of the Word covering that territory, and as we already knew, that speaker was Susan Reynolds, and though she professed ignorance and inadequacy throughout I can’t think of many people, if any, who could attempt this even if so asked, and not many more who might be asked. What we got was therefore a kind of first run that enabled all of us to put our areas of interest into a much bigger picture for a while. Summarising what was already a summary (except in as much as Susan probably had more space here than she will have in the chapter) doesn’t seem likely to succeed but I don’t think I can do much more; my notes for this paper run to two sides of narrow-lined longhand even before the questions started, I usually aim for half that, and that shows either how much I didn’t know or how well-packed the time was, I think the latter.

For Professor Reynolds the unifying theme of this huge spread, if there was one, was inequality: all societies of any size in this scope had haves and have-nots and the order in which they were arranged was usually fairly stable as long as not transgressed; polities were seen as natural, and this reinforced hierarchy. Even the poorest societies practised a hierarchy of genealogical structure, in the modern sense, or, as she said, “in my modern sense”. Most governments were monarchical, were expected to be such, and were challenged only by rivals for that status. Over the period these governments tended to have acquired more control of land and increased rights over it more generally. This was the development of the age that Susan thought could be most safely asserted as a generalisation. Land was always the basic source of power, even as professionalisation took hold towards the end of the period, but nowhere did a ruler hold all rights in his territory while, at the other end of the scale, very little property appears originally to have been held in common, as opposed to rights in property, which often were. Rights in property were usually very confused compared to most of our schema, and of course remain so. (Susan used herself as an example: “I’m a tenant of the Duke of Bedford, you know. It’s not feudal. It’s just how it is.”)

Map of the Silk Road

Map of the Silk Road

Production rose and populations expanded over the period, though again not continuously, not least because all areas, more or less, in this span were affected by the Black Death and its subsequent lighter-toned offspring, which travelled along the same routes as goods and ideas both, especially the Silk Road, one of the few things that gave the area Susan had been assigned any unity; although there was some argument afterwards about the importance of sea trade, this was, she argued, less steady and more variable than this long route along which wayside stops became hemisphere-famous cities. In other respects, though, the period was one in which large-scale social change is hard to assert, rather than shifting political configurations; technology and lifestyles were not very far from each other, viewed from outside the period, from 500 to 1500 across the area, especially compared to the advances and developments after this period. (David Ganz asked about before, and Susan agreed that that was probably very similar but that it was, thankfully, outside her remit here.)

Medieval hierarchy depicted; original source sadly unknown

Governments were layered, either hierarchically or from centre to periphery; connections between the two were made either by government officials or religious organisations, most often. Rulers were expected to give justice and take counsel, even eastern ‘despots’, in whom Susan found little reason to believe as the topos is largely based on court flattery writing aimed at the despots themselves whom it also usually urges to take counsel… Nonetheless, some rulers did not stay within the expectations of their societies and those in the most hierarchical organisations were the hardest to quell without terminal violence and upheaval, because their developed status made them invulnerable. Bureaucracy accrued with structure of government, but did not necessarily preserve that structure; it could often persist without the unity that had originally given it cause. Instead, political survival came best through solidarity, the acceptance of an order and development of an identity within it that could then be employed by others outside, if they would accept the existence of such groups. The larger your polity was, of course, the more disparate its member groups and the harder this was to do with any uniformity.

The Mughal Emperor Akbar debating different religions with scholars in his court

The Mughal Emperor Akbar (just slightly out of period) debating different religions with scholars in his court

Religion might lend some more egalitarian ideas, but more often was part of the hierarchy itself; this should not be allowed to shroud the extent to which rulers and religious clashed, which was common in many places. Christianity, among these religions, was unusual in its mobilisation against opponents, among whom cohabitation and mutual influence were more common. Another social glue was law, sometimes, but these often existed without any real influence detectable in the sources (which of course vary massively, another point of subsequent discussion, though less massively than we might suppose, Susan argued). Legislation through consensus achieved in assemblies was however common and sometimes effective, and almost all local government was done this way. Professional law declined in Islam and rose in Christianity over the period; one wonders why both, and will presumably never know.

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 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

In all areas, the bottom levels of society were roughly similar, and more or less enslaved, though Europe (alone?) had mechanisms of emancipation that could sometimes be called on and social mobility also came, here as elsewhere, from geographical mobility. Towns, contrary to popular wisdom, rarely made free and rarely gave impulse to democratic movements: this should not be taken as axiomatic. Collective action by the populations of towns was quite common, however, even if it did not institutionalise itself very widely. Class conflict also existed everywhere, as could be seen in the number of fairly hopeless revolts for goals we cannot now see clearly, for the most part, but which could probably usually be characterised as ‘justice’ rather than revolution, that is, uprisings were often aimed at a reversion to a status quo and almost never at a new order. Once more, most of the oppressed would accept a hierarchy if it were justly run. This was repeated several times and was clearly the point Susan felt most strongly about; it is certainly worth making before we allow too many generalisations about human nature and the desire to be free in the same sense that we now understand that word (i. e. idealistically).

The historiography available to Professor Reynolds was substantially Eurocentric, it’s worth noting, and this is a characteristic generally, she thought, of work covering this period, which is one set with reference to developments in Europe, developments furthermore that were subsequently exported or adopted overseas in many places, which makes that worse. Another characteristically Reynoldsian aside about words and their varied meanings (and do follow that link if you are fond of such things) in historical writing—which culminated with “serfs!”—drove the point home that the historiography has done the same thing in many cases, exporting European phenomena as terms locals would not have recognised for what they were used to identify.

The apparent steadiness of state that Susan had depicted led to a conversation in questions about what distinguished this period from others. She said that new ideas such as the Rights of Man and the State of Nature do in fact change things permanently; John Sabathapy said that he had felt while she talked that most differences she’d mentioned were surely geographically determined, not philosophically, but she argued that while the differences can and should be explained geographically, the similarities must be explained by ideas. This is logically really quite interesting, or perhaps illogically: it seems to me to imply a neutral space in the middle where something is neither similar nor different. This may not fit the binary well, but Susan is known for arguing that thinking in triads is better than in diads for your history… There is here considerable room for thought and, for those that want to think about it, may make it clear why the regulars at this seminar have such a great affection for Susan; she would say otherwise, I don’t doubt, but she is a very wise person, and few other people could have said anything coherent, still less anything as erudite as this was, about such a wide area and period.

Words that all look the same: a way to deal with evidence for social change

Once or twice here, I’ve written about one particular development in the way that Spanish medieval history is viewed and talked about by Spanish historians, which can be viewed as a battle of two schools. This is not just a question of old rivalries and forgotten debating positions, though, as both schools have remained influential and they still have a lot to tell us, not just about medieval Spanish history but about ways to approach our sources in general. I came freshly up against this just the other day and decided that, with a bit of luck, the themes would be close enough to universal to make it a suitable Cliopatria debut topic. So I’ve bitten my lip and posted it there, and you can go read it and agree with the person who thought it was too long if you like. There’s not usually a post at Cliopatria with nothing in to interest even me, despite its fairly modern US focus, so you may already be reading.

On the other hand, I want the search hits too, and you may not want to start tracking me across two blogs, so employing the famous device of the cut, I’ve stationed the rest of the post with minor tweaks underneath this one… Continue reading

Feudal Transformations VIII: two ways of confusing the issue

Back to the Spoleto volume once more! Bracketing the clutch of papers I just mentioned are two by Hans-Werner Goetz and Patricia Skinner.1 Goetz is putting the case of East Francia under the Carolingians, and Skinner is dealing with Southern Italy before and under the Normans. Neither of these two plays the conventional game that the papers discussed before were playing, but the ways in which they differ from it are themselves so huge that it’s really striking.

The castle and monastery of Quedlinburg, founded by Otto I's sister St Matilda, from Wikimedia Commons

The castle and monastery of Quedlinburg, founded by Otto I's sistermother St Matilda, from Wikimedia Commons

(By the way, since I drafted this and found that image in my stash, Gabriele at the Lost Fort has posted a series of far better ones and some introduction to Quedlinburg’s importance and history, so once you’ve read this, go and have a look. Hoi! I said once you… Oh well, anyway.)

Because of Karl-Ferdinand Werner and a Spanish scholar called Carlos de Ayala Martínez, Goetz’s article is not the longest paper I have ever had to read. All the same, sixty pages of very theoretical German historiography, my first German for a while, took me a long time to get through. He must have expanded what he said at the conference a very great deal, as he presumably had no longer to speak than anyone else and all their contributions, even François Menant’s which is seriously mostly footnotes, come in at between thirty and forty pages.2 So, what does it do? Goetz is tangling with the fact that really not a lot has been written about East Francia before the Ottonians.3 In looking into the gap, he takes a historiographical stereotype of the feudal transformation in Germany, which as he points out (and others, most notably Tim Reuter, whom many of us miss, have also pointed out in English) is a rather different, more state-guided and controlled affair than in parts West, which acquires a legalistic form which underpins a number of the stereotypes that Reynolds took to task in Fiefs and Vassals.4 (He doesn’t cite Reynolds or Brown, but then he is sort of on their side.) This leads him into much musing on what people have said about whether East Francia, whose shape was rarely the same for twenty years together, whose capital shifted, and which, his developing argument reveals, was changing the way its government operated over the period, was any kind of state, as well the larger metadebate about whether the state as defined by Weber, with its claimed monopoly of legitimate force, can ever be seen in the Middle Ages and if not, what terms or definitions can be used instead. This is, incidentally, another field where Professor Reynolds has been busy, but anyway, you can see where Goetz’s wordcount is coming from.5

By the end he has drawn out several long strands of the feudal state as it is conceived of for the later period, Ottonians or Salians, and stressed in each case that antecedents of some of its characteristics can be found in the Carolingian predecessor quasi-state. The message is that it really isn’t as simple as the scholarship has made it, because these elements which later form part of the ‘feudal imaginary’ as we imagine it often occurred there in contexts which are not, or not yet, feudal. I would have to go back into the text for examples, but that’s his basic attack; our definition of ‘feudal’ needs an awful lot of looking at before it will deal with this extensive but partial prefiguring. He is basically digging a big and obvious ditch in front of anyone who wants to argue that the Ottonians and Salians built their states on a new style of political relations that could be called feudal, rather than on a selective and evolving inheritance from the Carolingians and their idea of rule, but he does so very carefully, politely and with incredible breadth of citation.

But, apart from Reynolds and Brown, do you know what’s basically missing from the citation? Primary sources. This is an almost entirely historiographical paper. Of course if he’d had to prove every point from the sources rather than by regula magistri (or really, given whom he’s citing, regula collegarum) the paper would have been even longer, but it is also a stylistic choice tat places him in a tradition. He is basically doing a nuanced and subtle form of the old Verfassungsgeschichte, plotting the formation of the state. He is willing to consider jumps, skips, and “the possibility of a discontinuous evolution” but it’s basically ‘what makes this polity work and how does that change’? As such it’s a very odd, to this non-German anyway, mix of new thinking and old learning, and to get through the sixty pages only to find that the conclusion was, more or less, “seriously, guys, it’s all really complicated!” was something of an anticlimax.

The cathedral of San Cataldo in Palermo, from Wikimedia Commons

The cathedral of San Cataldo in Palermo, from Wikimedia Commons

Compared to this, and to the four thick papers already discussed that lie between Goetz’s and hers, Skinner’s paper is a real breath of fresh air. It does deal with the historiography, including both Brown and Reynolds, and does due deference to the conference theme by giving some account of the way in which Sicily and Southern Italy have been made to take a part in this big meta-narrative of feudalisation. It does this in a very few pages, though, sorting it clearly into themes, and then goes about much the same feat as Goetz, showing that the real picture was far far messier than that, but she does it Jarrett-style (I suppose, rather, I do it Skinner style, but I have read very little of her work; I’m familiar with quite a lot by people she came up with such as Jinty Nelson who would probably approach it the same way, though), by adducing example after example from bulging charter archives and showing that some places in Italy fit better than others, that the Normans didn’t necessarily bring a clean slate of feudal rule but kept whatever worked in their takeover areas, and that again, it’s all much more complicated. But where Goetz appears to be arguing for a new and better version of the main theory that will somehow take account of all that variation, Skinner is saying that there’s just too much of it, and that a better approach would be to throw out this silly expectation we seem to have that places can be made to fit and that there is a path they should have been on, and instead study what was actually going on in each area and see how many units of what size this makes, and thus we can make something a bit more meaningful of the way that the Normans manage to build a kingdom that runs more or less as a unit out of this variety and what that means in its political and social context. I like this approach a lot better, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

The kind of stuff she throws up as evidence for the variety all seems very like home to me though. She has the same kind of frontier all-to-play-for conditions in her material as I do in mine, and the same sense of Islam-only-just-over-there motivating the warrior class too maybe. I already found Sicily really interesting for its mixture of cultures, in just the sort of edge situation that first interested me in Catalonia, and I think this paper has indicated to me that when I have models I want to test somewhere else, which is my ultimate aim for now, Southern Italy is probably where I should start by testing them. And you know, Sicily looks nice to visit :-) It’s nice to have some long-term aims…

A tombstone of a Norman noblewoman in Palermo, lettered in all of Latin, Greek and Arabic, from Wikimedia Commons

A tombstone of a Norman noblewoman in Palermo, lettered in all of Latin, Greek and Arabic, from Wikimedia Commons


1. Hans-Werner Goetz, “Staatlichkeit, Herrschaftsordnung und Lehnswesen im Ostfräkischen Reich als Forschungsprobleme” in Il Feudalismo nell’alto Medioevo, Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo Vol. 47 (Spoleto 2000), I pp. 85-143 with discussion pp. 145-147, & Patricia Skinner, “When was Southern Italy « feudal »?”, ibid. pp. 309-340 with discussion pp. 341-345.

2. François Menant, “La féodalité italienne entre XIe et XIIe siècles”, ibid. pp. 347-383 with discussion pp. 385-387.

3. Though you could start with the coverage in Timothy Reuter, Germany in the Early Middle Ages 800-1050 (London 1991) and you’d have as good a grounding as there is in English I think.

4. Idem, “Debate: the ‘Feudal Revolution’. III” in Past and Present no. 155 (Oxford 1997), pp. 177-195.

5. Susan Reynolds, “The idea of the nation as a political community” in Len Scales & Oliver Zimmer (eds), Power and the nation in European history (Cambridge 2005), pp. 54-66.

More feudalism from Spoleto: Elizabeth Brown where are you now?

Larry Swain did ask me to write more about this Spoleto volume, and what with him and the debate I seem to have got started with Another Damned Medievalist, I suppose there’s an audience of at least two for this post. I’ll try and keep it brief, though, because even for me it’s quite dry, and basically there’s only so many times I can illustrate a post with ye olde feudal homage illumination, so I have to keep myself limited on the number of posts where I actually talk about it.

A group swearing homage to the Count of Barcelona, from the Liber Feudorum Maior

A group swearing homage to the Count of Barcelona, from the Liber Feudorum Maior

Sometimes you have to wonder whether Elizabeth Brown should have bothered. Spoleto draws a very European crowd, obviously, and especially among them Italians and Germans. Therefore, in the middle of this volume is a clutch of German and Italian papers that make up quite a lot of its weight. Of these the weightest is by Hans-Werner Goetz and I’ll come back to that in another post, if at all, because it’s doing something different to the following four.1 These four, Piero Brancoli Busdraghi, Amelio Spicciani, Hagen Keller and Gerhard Dilcher, are all basically arguing about the content of relations between lords and their soldiers at different points and periods.2 Busdraghi, Spicciani and Keller all cover Italy, though of these only Spicciani really comes south of Lombardy and Keller gets good ground out of comparisons with Germany. Dilcher is different in that he focuses on Germany, and under the Salians and Staufen kings whereas all the others are paying attention to the eleventh century most of all, and Spicciani again earlier too where it’s useful. I think Keller’s is the most subtle and Spicciani’s the most empirically justifiable, but the basic question is the same: how feudal is it all? And this would be enough to make many people quite frustrated, because as I mentioned in 1974 Elizabeth Brown asked us all to stop that.

It is not quite basic and unmodified as some of the work she was contesting. As Chris Wickham said at this same conference, people do get their models of feudalism confused, but even when you’re clear about what you’re looking for, the human variation involved in society makes it a lumpy fit. All of these scholars were, either explicitly or implicitly, working with a juridical definition of feudalism that more or less limits it to military arrangements made between lords and soldiers paid for with temporary land grants, but they weren’t being quite as simplistic as “is my model visible here?”, because That Never Works. Instead they’re conceptually working at one remove, where the question is, “what is going on in my area that makes it distinctive in its transition towards feudalism?”, which lets you use the local variations to try and explain why your area is such a lumpy fit to the model. It is, however, still working with the model.

How does this look in practice? Of the four papers here, two particularly address a particular document of 1037, and the other two use it as an endpoint or starting point. The document is an edict of Emperor Conrad II that was intended to end a two-year uprising by the lesser vassals of the kingdom of Italy (which, you may need to know, was the north; of the south, which was nothing like as coherent, we’ll hear another time). The vassals were up in arms because they felt in danger of not being allowed to succeed to benefices that the lords had given their fathers; their expectation was that the “ius patrum suorum” should be continued in their hands, and Conrad went some way to setting rules for this that had not, previously, existed in a way anyone could rely on. This was good for his image as lawmaker and peacemaker and, Dilcher argues, more or less left Germany out of it, where such rules came, if at all, with the Roman law revival of rather later and on a background of long-developed German, not Italian, custom. But Dilcher’s focus is later, so his paper starts with this Edict; meanwhile, Brancoli Busdraghi’s ends with it and it forms a constant background to Spicciani’s and a frequent partner in the dance through concepts and practices that forms Keller’s contribution. It’s obviously a fascinating document and a good place to focus all their sorts of enquiry.3 So Brancoli Busdraghi finds that it plays substantially to the interests of the powerful, because although it does make it harder for them to arbitrarily remove their followers’ sons’ livelihood (which is, Spicciani emphasises, what it will have meant in some cases) it also fixes those followers in dependent service, removing their options too. Spicciani reads it in quite the opposite way, seeing the combination in pursuit of a ‘class’ interest as an indication that the lords are more or less at the mercy of the mob here and stressing the skill of the compromise that Conrad finds. Keller asks, somewhat incredulously, how a simple law could apparently resolve such social tension, and argues therefore, Barthélemy-like, that what is really happening here is orally-transmitted expectations being made concrete but that were already pretty general; Conrad therefore restores order by recognising it and only a few people have to change their practices. This somewhat fails to explain the uprising in the first place, and Spicciani’s strength is in explaining it, but Keller has much to say about how writing could exaggerate the importance of things simply by bringing them to the fore of our attention.

He cites some English work for this. In this he is unusual, but there is one work they all cite, and it’s not Brown but Reynolds.4 In a sense, they have to, because she goes for the Edict among the many other sources she considers misrepresented or unrepresentative. Against her argument that basically all the evidence for the model at issue is late and at least slightly wrong, Dilcher and Keller both claim at different levels of subtlety that oral practices underlie these later reflections so that really, the system is there beforehand but not evidenced in writing. In this way they avoid dealing with any of the rest of her criticisms about the model itself, or any of Brown’s. None of them cite Brown. But what they are doing, despite its actual historical content, is setting papers around the question of how much logic-chopping you have to do to retain the feudal model in the case of their areas. Does it really help? Is it not more interesting that the Romagna and Lombardy do power relations in different ways, and to explore why that is and what effects it has, than merely trying to work out at what different points they move onto a ‘feudal’ base? It helps me less to be told, with a considerable backing from almost entirely secondary sources—Spicciani’s demonstration of variation in other areas is a breath of fresh air but he is still basically discussing other historians, not the sources, and the others use even less primary material—that the passage to feudalism was more or less influenced by written law and Italian custom, than it would to be told how this lord and that lord organised their armies and whether it was significant for their status and effect, if it worked, and so on. I don’t think ‘is it feudal or not and if not why not?’ is useful to us most of the time, because if what we are finding is that ‘feudal’ is a category that doesn’t fit easily then its explanatory value is strongly diminished. And you know, Brown said that in 1974 and twenty-five years later Reynolds’s work, by attacking on so many fronts that some of them had to be defensible, was here actually making it easier to ignore what Brown and she were saying in common. I could wish Brown had been at the conference and able to speak her piece; apparently it still needed saying.


1. Hans-Werner Goetz, “Staatlichkeit, Herrschaftsordnung und Lehnswesen im Ostfräkischen Reich als Forschungsprobleme” in Il Feudalismo nell’alto Medioevo, Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo Vol. 47 (Spoleto 2000), I pp. 85-148.

2. Piero Brancoli Busdraghi, “Rapporti di vassallaggio e assegnazioni in beneficio nel Regno italico anteriormente alla costituzione di Corrado II”, ibid. pp. 149-173; Amleto Spicciani, “Concessioni livellarie, impegni militare non vassallatici e castelli: un feudalesimo informale (secoli X-XI)”, ibid., pp. 175-227; Hagen Keller, “Das Edictum de beneficiis Konrads II. und die Entwicklung des Lehnswesens in der erste Häfte des 11. Jahrhunderts”, ibid. pp. 227-261; & Gerhard Dilcher, “Die Entwicklung des Lehnswesens in Deutschland zwischen Salier und Staufern”, ibid. pp. 263-308.

3. It is edited, should you be interested, in Harry Bresslau (ed.), Die Urkunden Konrads II. mit Nachträgen zu den Urkunden Heinrichs II., Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Diplomata regum et imperatorum Germaniae) IV (Hannover 1909, repr. 2001), online here, doc. no. 244.

4. I only just gave these references, it seems, but, for completeness: Elizabeth A. R. Brown, “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe” in American Historical Review Vol. 79 (Washington DC 1974), pp. 1063-1088, repr. in Lester K. Little & Barbara H. Rosenwein (eds), Debating the Middle Ages: issues and readings (Oxford 1998), pp. 148-169; Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994).

Plz be respecting feudalizm: further opinions from Chris Wickham

I figure in these hard times Geoffrey Chaucer needs all the promotion he can get, you know? Though he seems, despite his absence from the Internet, to be writing in to the Guardian, or at least his agent is. But, you will be shocked to hear, this wasn’t the whole point of my post.

The 1999 Spoleto conference on feudalism that I mentioned before had its keynote speech given by Chris Wickham, and he set out to rehabilitate the word and its meanings. If you’ve been through a course in medieval history that went before 1200, you are probably aware that in 1974 Elizabeth A. R. Brown went thoroughly into the uses of the word ‘feudalism’ to describe the society of the high Middle Ages in an article in the American Historical Review, found them basically lacking because of lack of consensus about what it meant and lack of basis for the various explanations that there were, and asked all historians to please stop teaching it as soon as possible.1 Not satisfied with the results, Susan Reynolds in 1994 wrote a thick book, about ten times the length of Brown’s article, in which she railed at considerable length at how silly all the people were who were still using this broken and misleading concept and requested them at length to acquire clues and similar.2 Reynolds’s book was sufficiently vituperative and powerfully-phrased, and her career sufficiently autumnal, that while those who loved controversy lapped it up, those who had no intention of changing were able to more or less dismiss it as the fulminations of a crank. This was unfair, because it says important things, but it doesn’t, admittedly, leave one very clear on what Reynolds actually thinks did organise medieval society, at least in part because she’d written that at length elsewhere anyway.3 Reynolds’s work can’t be ignored, but nonetheless, because it’s older and therefore better cited, because it’s (slightly) less polemical, because it’s of US origin and therefore attracts itself to more people who are aware of the historical community on the Internet perhaps, and mostly I suspect because it’s shorter, Brown’s article remains a bigger influence on people than Reynolds’s book. Another Damned Medievalist has written about this, and so I’ll refer you there and get on with the point. If you do want more, the Reynolds debate is one of the rich patches in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook and Melissa Snell’s blog on About.com tackled the whole issue not so very long ago too, so that should be all the HTML any reasonable person can eat and beyond that you’ll actually have to read some print.

Roland receiving the sword Durandal from Charlemagne in exchange for homage, from Wikimedia Commons

Roland receiving the sword Durandal from Charlemagne in exchange for homage, from Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, the fine art of leaving Susan Reynolds by herself and arguing with the (easier) Brown was on good form in Chris’s hands in 1999.4 He carefully stays more or less clear of Fiefs and Vassals, arguing that he doesn’t have time to do a detailed critique of the sources, and instead goes for the theoretical throat, which is Brown. Yes, he admits, ‘feudalism’ is an ideal type, and thus probably didn’t really exist anywhere as we imagine it. But we can’t get very far without ideal types, he argues, because, lacking 100% information, we have to construct in order to imagine what our subject population was really like and doing. Ideal types are a thing that powers the imagination, and powers discussion about the respects that they don’t match. What he’s essentially arguing here is that we need, if we’re to understand medieval society to our own contentment, to be able to work not in terms of slow assembly, but in terms of bold-but-wrong thesis, careful and destructive antithesis, and synthesis, repeated each step closer to the objective reality and so on, you know, the way we actually do history.5 None of us do history without any basis in the area at all, from first principles, so the real issue with ideal types is whether one can identify the ones one uses or not! Do you know why you think what you think, can you argue it? and so on.

Having thus cleared some ground in which a concept of feudalism might stand, Chris argues that in fact there are three, and that really most of the trouble has come from people confusing them and using one’s inapplicability to disprove another. He separates them out as follows:

  1. Marxist feudalism (because this is Chris after all): the feudal mode of production in which peasants own and operate the means of production but lords control it. The advantage of this is that it brings the 80% of medieval society who didn’t write or ride chargers into the picture and reminds us that it all comes down to who feeds whom at some level; the downside is that it really doesn’t cover much else and frequently doesn’t describe how people are actually related when for many other reasons we’d want to call their society feudal. For example, a Catalan free peasant paying rent to a lord but otherwise independent in the 1030s is in a society where feudal oaths are the organisational basis of pretty much all power relations; but for a Marxist he isn’t himself embedded in the feudal mode, so that breaks quite easily when you try and make it do more than it can cover.
  2. Exactly opposite, the juridical sense which says that really, the only thing you can call feudal is relations centred around fiefs, that is what others might usually call ‘feudo-vassalic relations’ so as to separate it cleanly from the whole big shebang; a lord and a follower in a relation of mutual benefit where the follower gets to hold land from the lord ‘in fief’ or ‘in fee’ in exchange for service and loyalty. The problem with this is self-evidently the opposite one, that it misses out the peasants and anything not to do with the military organisation of society, and thus misses really rather a lot, though many would argue that the rest isn’t ‘feudal’, thus setting themselves at complete cross-purposes with the Marxists…
  3. Finally, the Marc Bloch version, what Georges Duby called, translated from the French, ‘the feudal imaginary’. This is the big-picture version of Poly & Bournazel’s Feudal Transformation and also of course of Bloch’s own Feudal Society, in which everything is built up from the juridical version to extend through the whole of medieval society, its literary production, its self-image, its self-justifications and legends, its economy and culture, its religion (Jesus as Lord and lord) and the whole lot really.6 The obvious problem with this is that it is, again, an ideal type; I’ve argued elsewhere and many have before me too that this just never happened all at once, and if this is the real definition nowhere was ever ‘feudal’. Chris, having already defended ideal types, says that that doesn’t matter because it gives a big picture view that encompasses both (1) and (2) and leaves you feeling as if you can see the society better. We know it’s wrong, in detail, but it’s helpful, even if by now mainly to critique.

I am usually persuaded by Chris to an extent, except mainly where he justifies an argument with something like, “because aristocrats/peasants are like that”. (And indeed, one of the great beauties of the Settimane series is that they also publish some version of the discussion, so you get Chris having a very high-level exchange of compliments with Dominique Barthélemy that includes him saying, “As you know well, some historians cannot argue their way out of a paper bag” in print where it can be found and cited (p. 50), which amuses me.) So here I think he quite rightly distinguishes between some concepts which have been wrongly identified together, and makes an entertaining and persuasive pitch for continuing to talk about feudalism, which can basically be summarised as ‘we already are, so we may as well admit it’. And I do use the word freely in a way that would cause some of my colleagues to start uneasily, mainly because in my area I can point you at upwards of a hundred feudal oaths and contracts which are, among other things, almost the earliest written examples of a Romance language but that also make a pretty good case for admitting that in Catalonia there was a feudal system, even if it didn’t necessarily reach everywhere and include everything.7 But, in the end, the basic problem is this: it being a good thing to think with doesn’t alter the fact that it makes you think in terms of one thing (or here, three that are one; Chris draws the Trinitarian analogy himself in the discussion). And what was going on wasn’t one thing, but lots all at once. So although Chris may not be, I remain confused and unconvinced, but now by Brown and him alike.


1. Elizabeth A. R. Brown, “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe” in American Historical Review Vol. 79 (Washington DC 1974), pp. 1063-1088, repr. in Lester K. Little & Barbara H. Rosenwein (eds), Debating the Middle Ages: issues and readings (Oxford 1998), pp. 148-169.

2. Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994).

3. Eadem, Kings and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300 (Oxford 1984, 2nd edn. 1997).

4. Chris Wickham, “Le forme del feudalesimo” 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. 15-46 with discussion pp. 47-51.

5. That is, assuming that you accept that there was an objective reality, which I do even if everyone in it perceived it differently. Let’s not have that argument again just now.

6. Referring to Marc Bloch, La Société Féodale (Paris 1949), transl. L. A. Manyon as Feudal Society (Chicago 1961); to Georges Duby, Les Trois Ordres, ou, l’imaginaire du féodalisme (Paris 1980), transl. Arthur Goldhammer as The Three Orders: feudal society imagined (Chicago 1980); and to Jean-Pierre Poly & Eric Bournazel, La Mutation Féodale, Xe-XIIe siècles, transl. Caroline Higgit as The Feudal Transformation, 900-1200 (New York City 1983), 2nd edn. in French 1991.

7. Now covered at length in English by Adam J. Kosto, Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: power, order and the written word, 1000-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th series 51 (Cambridge 2001), which does not entirely replace Michel Zimmermann, “Aux origines de Catalogne féodale : les serments non datés du règne de Ramon Berenguer Ier” in Jaume Portella i Comas (ed.), La Formació i Expansió del Feudalisme Català: actes del col·loqui organitzat pel Col·legi Universitari de Girona (8-11 de gener de 1985). Homenatge a Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, Estudi General: revista del Col·legi Universitari de Girona, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona nos. 5-6 (Girona 1986), pp. 109-151, with Catalan summary p. 523, Castilian summary p. 531 & English summary p. 557. On the linguistic importance, you can see Joan Bastardas, “El català vers l’any 1000” in Immaculada 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. 495-513 with Catalan résumé p. 495 & French & Provencal résumés & English abstract p. 514.