Wednesday 12 April 2023
14.00 - 16.00
Navigating the Normative and Juridical Framework in the Burgundian and Habsburg Low Countries
Tom De Waele :
“To avoid all further lawsuits and difficulties”: Conflict, Dialogue and Pragmatic Strategies in Seigneuries of Burgundian and Habsburg Flanders
Klaas Van Gelder
Tom De Waele
In the late medieval Flemish countryside, lords at the head of a seigneurie possessed judicial and fiscal rights over the inhabitants of their estate. The exploitation and misuse of such power and surplus-extraction by lords and their officers is extensively and deservedly highlighted by historians. The agency of peasants has ... (Show more)
In the late medieval Flemish countryside, lords at the head of a seigneurie possessed judicial and fiscal rights over the inhabitants of their estate. The exploitation and misuse of such power and surplus-extraction by lords and their officers is extensively and deservedly highlighted by historians. The agency of peasants has also been investigated, though mostly from a top-down perspective, by investigating ordinances and/or lawsuits. One of the well-known strategies for Flemish country-dwellers was buying citizenship from neighbouring towns (outburghership or buitenpoorterschap). Not all peasants could afford citizen rights however, nor was it always a watertight status, as the abundance of conflict between lords and citizens shows [Dombrecht, 2014 & Martyn, 2005].
While the focus on (juridical) conflict between lords and peasants is a relevant perspective, it is not the only possible scope for historical research. Not all disputes were settled in court. In addition, the procedure and/or aftermath of court rulings could be the starting point of further dialogue between parties to negotiate more agreeable terms. Furthermore, inhabitants of the late medieval and early modern seigneurie used a wide range of strategies to evade their fiscal obligations. Ironically, we only have knowledge of tax evasion practices when the tax-payer failed such endeavours. Keeping quiet about property transactions for example was, if discovered, three times as expensive as simply paying the due tax. In such cases, the tax was imposed, as well as a fine worth double the owed sum.
The research strategy and paper I propose aims to supplement the current study of seigneurial lordship and seigneurial surplus-extraction, by reconstructing the arsenal of conflict and dialogue options between lords and peasants as much as possible. Explicitly focussing on this subject allows to combine a diverse amount of source material, which are rarely utilized in a complementary fashion. While the perspective of seigneurial lordship is dominant in seigneurial accounts, correspondence and charters, a more bottom-up approach is allowed by studying sources on jurisprudence. Notes of lawyers on cases concerning seigneurial rights can contain extensive studies of the interests of peasants, recording court rulings in favour of the farmer as well [Gransagne, 2015 & Cazals, 2018]. We seem to discern a more and more pragmatic evolution in the use of courts and informal negotiations, whereby lords chose compromise over expensive lawsuits. A lord for example intervened after a dispute between his bailiff and the town brewers, proposing new measures to sell and attribute brewing rights in order to “avoid all further lawsuits and difficulties”.
The results from this research and paper will provide historians with a more complete toolset and perspective to approach their own case studies with a better understanding of the possibility of available sources, as well as the possible relationships and strategies upheld by lords, seigneurial officers as well as the subjects of seigneurial rule. (Show less)
Adam Hall :
Navigating Conflicts: Legal and Diplomatic Means of Managing Privateering and Ship Seizures in Burgundian-Habsburg Flanders and Holland-Zeeland (1440-1545)
The premodern world can be typified as one fraught with dangers to commerce: information asymmetry, moral hazard, violence. Yet historians and archaeologists consistently observe vibrant and even long-distanced trading networks throughout history. Merchants clearly found ways to mitigate the risks that doing long-distance trade entailed. This paper conducts a comparative ... (Show more)
The premodern world can be typified as one fraught with dangers to commerce: information asymmetry, moral hazard, violence. Yet historians and archaeologists consistently observe vibrant and even long-distanced trading networks throughout history. Merchants clearly found ways to mitigate the risks that doing long-distance trade entailed. This paper conducts a comparative exercise of the use of legal and diplomatic avenues of conflict management and resolution for the heavily-commercialised counties of Burgundian-Habsburg Flanders and Holland-Zeeland between 1440 and 1545. The period under study encompasses the shifting of commercial fortunes in the Low Countries, a concentrated and continued presence of Hanseatic merchants in Bruges and its environs, as well as several (proxy) conflicts between the Hanseatic League and Holland in particular. It therefore constitutes a prime opportunity to study the presence of Hanseatic merchants in the region and their commercial dealings with locals over time, and the pitfalls the two encountered when dealing with each other. I study several cases of commercial conflicts brought before the highest court of appeals in the Low Countries, the Great Council, against verdicts and judgments from various ‘lower’ courts such as the Council of Flanders and the Court of Holland, or city jurisdictions. I supplement these with insights from diplomatic records such as the ‘Handelingen van de Leden en van de Staten van Vlaanderen’ for Flanders and the ‘Dagvaarten’ for Holland-Zeeland. Specifically, I look at instances of privateering and ship seizures involving Flemings, Hollanders, and their counterparts from the Hanseatic League. Strategies of litigation and diplomacy are thus analysed for the same type of conflict, across two counties, involving similar ‘antagonists’, to discern the evolution of strategies at a time of territorial consolidation and institutional centralisation in the Low Countries. Consequently, the article seeks to contribute to our understanding of how merchants in the Low Countries navigated the murky waters of privateering and safeguards while squaring judicial strategies with diplomatic efforts, all with the singular aim of conducting trade. (Show less)
Bente Marschall :
Extra-territoriality and Legal Pluralism in Late Medieval Maastricht (15th Century)
In the Middle Ages, the ‘city’ represented a juridically divided landscape. It consisted of various religious, secular, as well as semi-religious bodies. These different bodies (or extra-territorialities) frequently possessed their own juridical framework and territory within the city. Sometimes being the cause of conflict, they could also provide opportunities for ... (Show more)
In the Middle Ages, the ‘city’ represented a juridically divided landscape. It consisted of various religious, secular, as well as semi-religious bodies. These different bodies (or extra-territorialities) frequently possessed their own juridical framework and territory within the city. Sometimes being the cause of conflict, they could also provide opportunities for different social groups. Evidence shows that town dwellers actively used political and legal pluralism to their own advantage, for instance, to try to evade taxes, to avoid legal prosecution or to choose the court fitting their interests best. In addition, the city’s juridical pluralism was also to be found in the different courts (either urban or of other authorities) applying their jurisdiction in the city’s territory.
This paper focusses on the city of Maastricht. Maastricht, being a condominium of the prince-bishop of Liège and the duke of Brabant, and harbouring two major religious chapters, consisted of a wide variety of extra-territorialities. This paper examines how Maastricht’s city dwellers could took advantage of its fragmented juridical space. It analyses the arguments they used and questions thoroughly their motivations for choosing one particular jurisdiction instead of another. The analysis will be based upon Maastricht’s courts records, which form valuable material allowing us to understand the way extra-territoriality was used by city dwellers in the late middle ages. (Show less)
Jurriaan Wink :
Beyond Courts: Resolving Commercial Conflicts through Diplomacy in the North-eastern Low Countries during the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
Those involved in trade and shipping goods in the Middle Ages were exposed to various risks. While little could be done to prevent nature’s unforgiving weather, various rules, agreements, and regulations existed to prevent human shaped problems. In theory, this institutional framework would have protected those involved in trade, allowing ... (Show more)
Those involved in trade and shipping goods in the Middle Ages were exposed to various risks. While little could be done to prevent nature’s unforgiving weather, various rules, agreements, and regulations existed to prevent human shaped problems. In theory, this institutional framework would have protected those involved in trade, allowing them to conduct business smoothly and without conflict. In reality, however, conflicts still occurred from time to time, with adverse financial consequences for those involved, especially the victims. Those involved in trade thus had to find a way to resolve their conflicts and seek restitution for losses. Several ways to resolve conflicts existed, of which a swift informal settlement might have been the ideal solution. In case this proved impossible, there existed a variety of legal institutions that could bring justice. In general, a victim would take their case to the court in the city of the perpetrator. Ideally, this court would settle the conflict and the victim would receive restitution in one way or another. However, what happened when a conflict could not be settled by a court? What if the city of the perpetrator outright refused to resolve a case? What if a victim could not take their case to that court because travelling was deemed too dangerous? How could a victim mitigate financial misfortune in such instances?
This paper will explore the options those involved in trade had if a conflict could not be (immediately) settled by a court. It will do so by focusing on cases related to citizens of the cities of Utrecht, Kampen, and Zutphen (located in the north-eastern Low Countries) during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Existing literature on the north-eastern Low Countries has shown that the Hanseatic League could provide support when courts failed to settle cases. This paper will focus on another option those involved in trade had in such instances. It will argue that diplomatic correspondence by urban, regional, and central authorities on behalf of their trading subjects could play an important role. Moreover, this paper will study whether diplomacy was only seen as a last resort by those involved in trade, or whether it could also be used to speed up or even circumvent lengthy legal procedures. As such, it will study whether diplomatic correspondence related to commercial conflicts can be seen as an extension of the institutional legal framework of the (north-eastern) Low Countries. By focusing on the cities of Utrecht, Kampen, and Zutphen during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it will be possible to study whether differences existed between various principalities as well as whether changes occurred over time. (Show less)