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Forum LockedProperty ownership in Medieval Europe

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Eondt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Property ownership in Medieval Europe
    Posted: 15-Jan-2007 at 03:07
Hi all.
 
I waws thinking about the concept of owning land in the middle ages. I know that Lords got granted or inherited land through titles (hence the modern term title-deed). How did things work in urban centres though? If you owned a shop and house in a city, did you ever own the land that you occupied or was there an annual "rent" that needed to be paid to some city authority that allowed you to occupy the building?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jan-2007 at 05:57
In England you never 'owned' the land, and you still don't[1]. When I was living in England, as the 'freehold owner' of the house I held it 'in socage of the Queen'.
 
The 'freehold' bit just meant I didn't have to pay rent - or do service - for it.
 
There were lots of other ways of holding land from the sovereign in the feudal period (many of which still persisted into the early 20th century, when the system was simplified) but you never actually owned the land.
 
(As a result of course, if you live in England and you strike oil under 'your' land, tough! It belongs to the Queen.)
 
[1] Unless of course you happen to be the Queen Cool
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Raider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2007 at 03:22
In Medieval Hungary "you" couldn't own a land, only your clan could. If somebody was granted land by  the king, he had to share it with its kinsmen, expect if he had separeted his wealth and created a new branch before the donation.
 
In Hungary unlike feudal countries the kings donated full properties and not possessions with feudal obligations. With the missing feudal ties the kings' power based on their patriarchal supremacy (early period) and the royal rights (later period).


Edited by Raider - 26-Jan-2007 at 06:50
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2007 at 04:04
Depends very much on the country. In Sweden, the majority of the population was free farmers who owned their own land. The nobility as such - there was no feudal system - consisted merely of wealthy farmers who owned more land than the others. There was not much of any urban centres at all.

Edited by Styrbiorn - 26-Jan-2007 at 04:06
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Joinville Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2007 at 05:12
Well, southern France, Italy etc. weren't feudalistic either. Roman Law property legislation survived for a long time in many places in the west.

It's like in northern France (incl. Normady, England, German Rhineland) feudalism meant landed nobles living on huge estates in the country, with relatively little urbanisation. These estates were kept together through the principle of primogenitur (everything to the first born son).

In the south, by the Med, you got a class of nobles living in cities and major estates broken up all the time, in fact incerasingly fractured over time, as Roman inheritance laws require stuff to be divided up.
The nobles become city dwellers not that different from the wealthy merchant class on the rise since they don't have the option of withdrawing to their country estates. The troubadour culture down south was actually shared by nobles and affluent commoners alike. That's the kind of situation you can get when you have situations like the example of an occitan knight during the Albigensian crusade whose estate was 1/200th of the Marseilles city wall.

Anyway, in northen Italy this eventually developed into the classic city-state situation (by fighting off their nominal overlord the Holy Roman emperor, with Papal blessing). In southern France feudalism was instead imposed from the outside through conquest by the north French.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Feb-2007 at 23:39
I don't know the legal system was reliable enough to be debated in Medieval times. The powerful and wealthy owned the land, gave some to peasants as a rent, and get as much profit as possible before simply confisicating the land for someone else to rent. Even if some kind of legal system existed, many peasants were victimized since they could not read the laws written and cannot defend himself... and even if he did, he's most likely to be killed by the landlords' personal armies. Such thing continued until Napoleon wrote Civil Code, which was more enforced and was fair law compared to the darks times of Medieval Age... where their true sickening history is overshadowed by knights in shiny armor.
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote King John Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 00:14
Pekau I truely hope that your post was written in jest. I do not mean to belittle you but you couldn't be further from the actual truth. In the Medieval period the legal system in places was reliable enough to be debated. For instance in England there definetly was enough of a legal system to be debated. There were certain protections - at least in England - that were built into these legal systems to protect the lesser men; such protections can be seen in the institution of distraint. This institution is dealt with in great deal in John Hudson's book "Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England."

You don't give the medieval commoner much credit. It's amusing that you end your post with a romanticized version of the Medieval Age. A true historian of the time would know that there is more to the history and LEGAL HISTORY of the time than knights in shiny armour.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 00:51
Originally posted by King John

Pekau I truely hope that your post was written in jest. I do not mean to belittle you but you couldn't be further from the actual truth. In the Medieval period the legal system in places was reliable enough to be debated. For instance in England there definetly was enough of a legal system to be debated. There were certain protections - at least in England - that were built into these legal systems to protect the lesser men; such protections can be seen in the institution of distraint. This institution is dealt with in great deal in John Hudson's book "Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England."

You don't give the medieval commoner much credit. It's amusing that you end your post with a romanticized version of the Medieval Age. A true historian of the time would know that there is more to the history and LEGAL HISTORY of the time than knights in shiny armour.
 
Once again, I fell for popular misconception for Medieval Age's 'Dark Age'. My sincere apology, King John. I think it was the history exam that brainwashed me.
 
I agree that legal system in Britian was fairly well enforced. Although I can't be still sure about it in Eastern Europe. Is it?
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote King John Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 01:11
To be 100% honest with you Pekau I couldn't begin to answer that question. My knowledge of medieval law concentrates mostly on England with a hint of France I am remiss to say that I know very little if anything about the legal history of Eastern Europe.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Raider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 03:39
Originally posted by pekau

Originally posted by King John

Pekau I truely hope that your post was written in jest. I do not mean to belittle you but you couldn't be further from the actual truth. In the Medieval period the legal system in places was reliable enough to be debated. For instance in England there definetly was enough of a legal system to be debated. There were certain protections - at least in England - that were built into these legal systems to protect the lesser men; such protections can be seen in the institution of distraint. This institution is dealt with in great deal in John Hudson's book "Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England."

You don't give the medieval commoner much credit. It's amusing that you end your post with a romanticized version of the Medieval Age. A true historian of the time would know that there is more to the history and LEGAL HISTORY of the time than knights in shiny armour.
 
Once again, I fell for popular misconception for Medieval Age's 'Dark Age'. My sincere apology, King John. I think it was the history exam that brainwashed me.
 
I agree that legal system in Britian was fairly well enforced. Although I can't be still sure about it in Eastern Europe. Is it?
What countries do you mean when you say Eastern Europe? France? Russia? All of them is Eastern from the Brit Isles.

Edited by Raider - 07-Feb-2007 at 03:40
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 07:10
The Danelaw in Britain was organised just as meticulously as the parts under Anglo-Saxon control (though of course with differences in detail). Moreover the Anglo-Saxon system was based on concepts brought with them from the mainland, so I assume it stayed similar there.
 
I suspect the whole North Sea basin had similar traditions.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Joinville Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2007 at 15:01
The 13th century is sometimes referred to "the century of the lawyer" by medieval historians.

Legal matters were sizzling hot in the high middle ages. What you had was a patchwork of at times hard to reconcile legal traditions: Roman law, the canonic law of the church, and various Germanic legal traditions (lthe laws of the Salian Franks etc.) The situation absolutely cried out for legal professionals to beat out the dents for a smoother running of adminstration.

This was a mjor factor in the rise of medieval universities, especially in Italy. They were often primarily law schools, churning out legal professionals for the chruch and secular princes alike. Every ruler at the time recognised the need to have a killer legal team attached to their court. And Bologna was the place that produced most of the talent.

Several of the most powerful popes, Innocent III for instance, were graduates of the university of Bologna. So was Peiro della Vigna, the "logthete" and right hand man of emperor Fredrick II Hohenstaufen.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Feb-2007 at 22:29
You've been tough with Pekau who ultimately was not that far from factual evidence.

European legal systems were often fancyfull but (with the exception of England) there was a huge difference between practice and theory. In many place walking a few metres would have been enough to change jurisdiction thrice. And as if it wasn't enough tricky, all these jurisdictions were poorly enforce (if the lords' justice hadn't been shaky, the central state's legal could never have expend).

If you take Genoa for instance. The laws were just as good as anywhere else, but as there was always a revolution going on, most likely the government would have had other things to care about than criminals. Worst, the society being very open, it was fairly easy to move to one of the colonies and disappear. It took age before a decent commercial law emerge in that trade-oriented town. Finally, the difficulty to enforce the rules were made clear by the level of piracy often practiced by Genoese basically waiting for the next revolution to come back in town.

That said Pekau, the Middle Ages ending with the Napoleon code is really an awkward statement...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Hyarmendacil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 13:36
Well, even today you don't really own land totally free without any obligations. That would entail an allodial title, and only sovereign entities (read: countries) can claim that right. The freest kind of ownership you can have is fee simple, where you have most rights over the land but the state retains some like taxation, police power, eminent domain, etc.

"Socage" in Britain now differs from fee-simple only in a few formalities. Back then in the Middle Ages, though, it differed a lot. For example, in legal terms the lord giving you land in socage is entitled to a rent as well as taxes. This rent is usually waived or ceremonial in modern socage arrangements, but it was real in the Middle Ages. You would have paid rent and tax back then--but only if the lord had the bureaucratic machinery to assess and collect the taxes. Most of the time it was the tax that didn't get collected in the Middle Ages. Just the reverse of the situation today. ;)

And that's just scratching the surface. We've talked only about socage. Don't let me prattle on about chivalric tenure, serjeanty, ecclesiastical tenure (frankalmoin?), and the like.

BTW, I've written an amateur essay on the subject, focused on Medieval England. It's meant for use by fiction writers so it's not really a good scholarly work, but it might be a good start for casual researchers:

http://l-clausewitz.livejournal.com/255493.html


Edited by Hyarmendacil - 15-Feb-2007 at 14:04
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 14:22
That's excellent and informative.
 
A couple of points regarding the post-medieval situation.
 
The Tenures Abolition Act of 1660, one of the first acts passed by Parliament after the Restoration, converted all free tenures into socage, effectively legally marking the last vestiges of feudalism in England.
 
Freehold tenures were certainly still referred to formally in title deeds as socage in the 20th century, at which point no element of rent remained (though of course the liability to tax remained), and it effectively was the same as fee simple.
 
As I recall, there was still land held in the United Kingdom by allodial right in the 20th century in some parts of the Orkneys and Shetlands, this going back to their acquisition by Scotland from Norway. Whether that is still the case - or indeed whether I remember correctly - I don't know.
 
But thanks. I've bookmarked the link.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Feb-2007 at 16:30
Originally posted by Raider

Originally posted by pekau

Originally posted by King John

Pekau I truely hope that your post was written in jest. I do not mean to belittle you but you couldn't be further from the actual truth. In the Medieval period the legal system in places was reliable enough to be debated. For instance in England there definetly was enough of a legal system to be debated. There were certain protections - at least in England - that were built into these legal systems to protect the lesser men; such protections can be seen in the institution of distraint. This institution is dealt with in great deal in John Hudson's book "Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England."

You don't give the medieval commoner much credit. It's amusing that you end your post with a romanticized version of the Medieval Age. A true historian of the time would know that there is more to the history and LEGAL HISTORY of the time than knights in shiny armour.
 
Once again, I fell for popular misconception for Medieval Age's 'Dark Age'. My sincere apology, King John. I think it was the history exam that brainwashed me.
 
I agree that legal system in Britian was fairly well enforced. Although I can't be still sure about it in Eastern Europe. Is it?
What countries do you mean when you say Eastern Europe? France? Russia? All of them is Eastern from the Brit Isles.
 
Eastern Europe is East of Europe, which included Russia, Poland, the Balkans, etc.
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Hyarmendacil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Feb-2007 at 09:42
It's still too broad an area to consider. And there's no mention of the when.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-May-2007 at 13:57
In some instances in the Frankish Kingdom there are documents of individual small land owners selling their private, and rather small plots of land to a noble, monastery, church, etc... in order to attain the protection of food rations during famines, those records indicate that there were even in feudal areas landowners who were independent, and had power of property over their lands. How many or how vast these holdings were is a matter of debate, it is hard to determine such things, especially when really mostly documents that survive would be of the individuals accepting serfdom or some other sort of relationship to a manor.
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