The character and composition of the estates of minor landlords in early fourteenth century England. Professor Bruce M. S. Campbell (The Queen’s University of Belfast)

A wide spectrum of individuals and institutions enjoyed lordship over land in the early fourteenth century, but examinations of income levels, estate management, and tenurial relations have been almost exclusively confined to the great lords, whether lay or ecclesiastical. Together, the earls and barons constituted the nobility; their ecclesiastical counterparts were the archbishops, bishops, and greater and lesser monasteries. Collectively, these were the thousand greatest landlords in the land. Nevertheless, lesser lay and ecclesiastical landlords (1,100-1,500 knights, 9,000-10,000 lesser gentry, 11,000 rectors, vicars, and lesser clergy) had a marginally greater stake in the nation’s landed wealth. Individually, with some conspicuous exceptions, they may have been far poorer than noble, episcopal, and conventual landlords but in aggregate they received a greater share of total rural incomes. Yet numerous as were such lesser landlords and great as were their aggregate property holdings, their estates have attracted relatively little systematic historical attention, especially in the period before the Black Death. Not only is this a serious gap in knowledge but it results in a distorted view of the countryside and of landlord-tenant relations within it.

To attribute this historiographic neglect to a dearth of surviving sources is to misrepresent the problem. Lords of single manors and glebes may not have required the elaborate administrative and accounting structures that were such an indispensable feature of the estates of their socio-economic superiors, but some isolated manorial accounts and extents and a great many charters and feet of fines do survive for these small estates. Rather, it is the lack of a corpus of estate records that has tended to deter historical enquiry. Nor are conventional manorial records the only available sources. Legal records, especially pleas of debt, can shed much light on this often very indebted class of landlord and are a prime candidate for prosopographic analysis. Most revealing of all, however, are the great surveys of the Crown: the 1279 Hundred Rolls, the inquisitiones post mortem (IPMs), and the nonae

rolls of 1340-41. Only the last two are wholly national in both their coverage and survival. The IPMs record the property holdings of lay tenants-in-chief of the Crown and the nonae rolls record parish incomes, including in many cases the value and composition of the glebe. Combining information from these two sources provides a unique insight into both lay and ecclesiastical minor landlords.

Between 1300 and 1349 the IPMs record 600 knightly estates and 700 held by members of the lesser gentry as tenants-in-chief. This information provides the basis for a comparison of the value and composition of gentry, knightly, baronial, and comital estates in the first half of the fourteenth century. Socio-property relations on small estates emerge as significantly different from those on large and bear out the conclusions drawn by E. A. Kosminsky from the more reliable but geographically far less comprehensive coverage of the 1279 Hundred Roll returns. Evidently, landlord-tenant relations were least feudalised on the innumerable estates of minor landlords. Already by the early fourteenth century the typical tenant on a gentry estate was a freeman rather than a serf.

How these minor lay estates compared with the great number of glebe estates belonging to the Church (their nearest ecclesiastical counterpart) can be ascertained from the 1340-41 nonae rolls. The rolls record (sometimes partial) income figures for the rectors and/or vicars of 7,000 parishes in all but four counties of England. For half of these parishes complete income figures are available. The income levels of rectors were comparable to those of the lesser gentry but with the difference that tithes and fees for religious duties together made up approximately 85 per cent of rectoral income, with the glebe contributing the remaining 15 per cent. As with minor lay estates, the demesne usually constituted the single most valuable component of the glebe and it, too, was relatively poorly provided with a dependent customary labour force. Services appear as an element of the glebe estate in only 4 per cent of parishes and income from rents and services accounted for just 20 per cent of glebe revenues. The profile of glebe estates thus provides a useful corrective to the picture normally portrayed of highly feudalised Church estates.

Gaspar Feliu

Descripción de la evolución de las estructuras agrarias y los contratos de cultivo con especial atención a la diversidad de estructuras y contratos y a la doble dependencia señorial i alodial. El aspecto más destacado es la generalización del contrato enfitéutico, que ofrece seguridad y posibilidades de progreso al campesinado, aunque para algunos campesinos significa también la imposición de la servidumbre. Se indica también la importancia de la Peste Negra en la evolución de los contratos y en el inicio de las luchas por la libertad del campesinado.

Chris Briggs

Much discussion of the medieval English agrarian economy focuses on evidence concerning the size of peasant landholdings, about which a good deal of evidence survives. For the period before the Black Death, much emphasis has been placed on the relatively small average size of holdings. It has often been assumed that the household cultivated the entirety of the hoding itself. Pessimistic conclusions have been drawn regarding peasant living standards. At the same time, historians are well aware of the fact that many households sublet portions of their holdings on a temporary basis. However, this subletting has not received the attention it deserves. This paper offers some remarks concerning the likely research objectives and methodological challenges of a broader research project on subletting and subtenancy.

Paolo Nanni

The late medieval times saw an enormous growth in the number and diffusion of Charitable Organizations in Tuscany. This growth marked the presence of a considerable experience, with specific characteristics: singular stories (origins, transformations, forms of governments); assistance for different social needs. These organizations can be considered an interpretative key to understand medieval society. Charitable organizations played a very important economic role as landowner and farmers by using landed properties and land management. Due to the communal governments, they can be considered similar to public enterprises, which contributed to a welfare society trough social assistance, agricultural products, land use for peasants (sharecropping, lease). Their archives keep very important documents for the history of agricultural landscape and its transformations.

Gabriella Piccinni

La mezzadria della quale si parla (mezzadria classica toscana) è una forma di organizzazione del lavoro della terra che compare in Toscana in questa forma complessa agli inizi del XIII secolo, che si diffonde in buona parte d’Italia, tanto che era ancora prevista dal Codice civile italiano del 1942 e che è stata abolita nel 1964. All’interno di questi 800 anni sono contenuti il momento della nascita, il tempo dello sviluppo, quello dell’agonia e la fine. Si cercherà di spiegare quanto questa lunga durata abbia condizionato il paesaggio agrario italiano, la famiglia e le strutture sociali.

Michael Limberger & Nicolas De Vijlder, Ghent University

The rural history of the duchy of Brabant, which included major towns as Brussels, Louvain and Antwerp, has received little attention by historians in contrast with neighboring Flanders. This can be attributed to historiographical reasons, but also to fragmentary character of the source material. A reconstruction of the structure of land holding is therefore a jigsaw puzzle of numerous loose pieces, shedding light either on freehold, fiefs, cijns – a type of copyhold -, or leasehold. Furthermore, different agrarian regions can be distinguished within Brabant, including the fairly fertile hills of Southern Brabant, near Brussels and Louvain, the barren Kempen-plateau, and the river-meadows along the river Scheldt, next to Antwerp. According to the different agrarian regions, but also other factors, such as the impact of the towns, the distribution and organization of landholding differed significantly. From the beginning of the fifteenth century on, we can also speak of the existence of an active land market: land was not only passed on among family members, but also sold or mortgaged to neighbors, religious institutions and townsmen alike. In this paper the main characteristics of landholding and land markets as well as their economic significance will be addressed: What was the role of the natural environment, the prevailing agro-system, the urban market and existing feudal-, power- and property relations in the development of landholding and the dynamic of land makets?

Montserrat Richou i Llimona (Universitat de Barcelona)

A partir del estudio de los manuales de abadesa de los años 1373, 1374, 1375 i 1377, depositados en el archivo del monasterio barcelonés de Sant Pere de les Puel·les, realizaremos una aproximación a la gestión del patrimonio agrícola de este cenobio. También observaremos el trabajo realizado en la reserva monàstica por los jornaleros y jornaleras que se contrataron en aquellos años y comentaremos la influencia de la crisis del 1374-1375 en la gestión y explotación de la reserva monàstica.

Julián Clemente & Luis Vicente Clemente (Universidad de Extremadura)

The development of common fields in Castile during the 15th century represents a key change with respect to the previous structures of both land use and property. Even though some scholars contend that such fields are a thirteenth-century creation, this research proves they were a novelty of the Late Middle Ages. Thereafter, individual decisions over private properties were replaced by a system of communal land management. By gathering cultivated areas, the system provided free access to the land and a more rational cultivation system for the peasantry, which in turn signified an increase in productivity and the optimisation of land labour. Focusing on Valencia de Alcántara as a case-study, this paper addresses some of the elements which made possible this transformation, its repercussion in the rural landscape and their social implications.

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