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Naming peasants: litigation, memory, and rural society in late thirteenth century castile.


Concentrando mis esfuerzos en una fuente especifica--un conflicto entre el monasterio de San Salvador de Ona y el concejo municipal de Frias--deseo ofrecer una lectura meticulosa de este documento y examinar una serie de cuestiones. Primero, mi intencion es revisitar algunos de los temas que ya he explorado en algunas de mis previas investigaciones y cuestionar la importancia historica de inventarios, listas de objetos o individuos (en este caso, el proceso judicial objeto de esta investigacion); y, aun mas importante, analizar lo que detalladas listas de labradores (con sus nombres, edades, lugar de residencia, etc.) nos permiten ver de aspectos del pasado en general y de la vida de los campesinos en particular. Segundo, ?hasta que punto el conflicto entre el monasterio y el concejo de Frias nos ofrece evidencias de la crisis de finales de la Edad Media y de la concepcion del espacio en la region de Frias? Finalmente, ?cual es la posibilidad de explorar la relacion entre memoria y documentacion escrita?


San Salvador de Ona--municipio de Frias--pleito--memoria--documentacion escrita


By focusing on one specific source, a lengthy litigation between the ancient monastery of San Salvador de Ona and the municipal council of Frias, I wish to provide a close reading of the evidence and focus on several specific aspects. First, I want to return to some themes I have already discussed in some of my previous works and explore what the itemizing of the material world and the naming of peasants meant for contemporaries. What are the methodological possibilities of such un approach and, far more important, what a close examination of lists of peasant names may yield for our understanding of the past in general and the peasants' past in particular? Second, to what extent this litigation reflects aspects of the looming late medieval crisis and, thus, what does the inventory of villages tell us about the crisis and about notions of space in the region of Frias? And, finally, what is the relationship between memory and written record?


San Salvador de Ona--municipal council of Frias--litigation--memory--written documentation


Almost two decades ago, in my Crisis and Continuity: Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile, I sought purposely to identify as many peasants as possible and to list their names in the index (1). For all of us who work on the peasantry, farmers, or rustics--the chose of a specific term for this social category depending on one's ideological learnings--the question of identifying peasants, notas a social group but as individuals, presents a serious challenge. Maria Estela Gonzalez de Fauve, to whom this article is dedicated, pioneered this process of naming peasants and bringing them into the historical record. Her La orden premonstratense en Espana. El monasterio de Santa Maria de Aguilar de Campoo (siglos XI-XV) is a model of the close reading of the extant documentation and of the study of a monastic domain. But it is also, though her edition and publication of the monastery's extant documentation (above all a register of monastic rents ca. 1300), a vivid effort to bring to our attention the often neglected peasant lives (2). Either because of the paucity of sources for individual peasants throughout continental Europe (England being always an exception), or because when their names appear it may be a single instance, an ephemeral trace in the historical record, we tend to discuss rural life and the peasantry without identifying them as individual historical agents. Sometimes, as was the case in my aforementioned book, I had access to a source--an early fourteenth-century census of dues owed by peasants to the monastery of Santa Maria la Real de Aguilar de Campoo (in the arca of Palencia)--which listed more than five hundred peasants by name, and which had been already studied and deployed in her research by Gonzalez de Fauve. Sometimes, I was able to partially reconstruct kin groups, but essentially most of the information was on how much they owed Santa Maria la Real. In doing so, one could establish some sense of what the social strata in each village looked like (by providing a hierarchy of payments that likely corresponded to the size of individual holdings) and by identifying peasants of family groups holding monastic lands in different location (3). Having said that, I welcome, once again, the opportunity to attempt to reconstruct the peasant population of a remote corner of Castile, and bring their names, or at least some of their names into the historical record. In doing so, I, once again, follow the trail made by another distinguished historian of Castilian medieval rural life, Isabel Alfonso Anton. She has, as a co-author, already examined in detail the document that I explore below (4). My comments and findings are therefore mostly a gloss and a series of small addition to Isabel Alfonso Anton's magisterial work.

Nonetheless, although going over well trodden ground, I wish also to undertake this task, that is providing a close reading of this particular documents, by placing it into a different analytical approach. Naming, or lists of names, whether in tax records, inventories of property, or lists of witnesses, as is the case in the document I examine here, is part of a larger and far more encompassing cultural process which I have described as the itemizing of the world.

Several years ago, in my book From Heaven to Earth, I argued that Castile witnessed dramatic transformations in its system of values during the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries (5). These transformations--what may be broadly called, to borrow the Annales E.S.C.'s terminology from more than two decades ago, mentalite--if considered in unison with wider demographic and political changes, shaped the course of Castilian history, and by implication that of Spanish history, for centuries to come (6).

Itemizing the world

Underpinning my arguments about these changes in Castile's system of values were what I described as new concerns with the careful drawing of territorial boundaries, consolidation of property, legal transformations, new ways of thinking about the afterlife, and the emergence of close links between family, property, and salvation. One additional element or interpretative category was the growing number of inventories, tax lists, censuses, accounting procedures, and other written evidence of a process that, for lack of a better term, I describe as attempts at itemizing the world (7). Although such developments have a long history in the medieval West, often pre-dating the twelfth century, these written instruments of accountability, written memorialization of material objects, and/or seignorial rights seem suddenly to proliferate in the new climate of the central Middle Ages.

In these pages I wish to return to those processes of itemization and naming to explore in greater detail, and with a far more extensive example, what the methodological possibilities of such an approach may be and, far more important, what a close examination of lists of peasant names may yield for our understanding of the past in general and the peasants' past in particular. At the same time, by focusing on one specific source, a lengthy litigation over contested jurisdiction between the ancient monastery of San Salvador de Ona and the municipal council of Frias, I hope to provide further evidence as to what "itemizing the world" meant in the Castilian realm where disputes over land and rights often took place (8).

The vagueness of an earlier age when describing donations, boundaries, seignorial rights, and other important aspects of material life gave way, in a short span of years shortly after 1180, to careful listings of peasants, clear and precise descriptions of boundaries, ecclesiastical rents, inventories of property, and the like. Indeed, it may be argued that there had been many instances in previous centuries of careful attention to listings or to the itemizing of the world. Necrologies are the best example of this enduring yearning for individual remembrance and salvation. That, in turn, led to elaborate listing of individuals to be remembered in prayer and to the careful preservation of these records in monastic holdings. List of properties, rights, and peasants, hundreds of them in the well known case of the Polyptyque of the abbey of Saint Germain des Pres (early ninth century) seem to weaken my argument for a sea change in the manner in which possession, rights, obligations, and dependant tenants were remembered in the late twelfth century and afterwards (9).

Against such evidence, I would argue that necrologies occupy a unique space in the spectrum of itemization. Necrologies were, and still are, part of sacred negotiations for prayer and remembrance. As such, they are fairly removed from the transactions of the material world. Although inscription in the list of prayers for the dead were often preceded by material transactions and donations, these lists in themselves aimed at securing the soul's place after death. As to the polyptyques and other such instruments, the one from Saint Germain des Pres is rightly famous because it was exceptional. The point here is that what marks a significant change throughout the West in the period running roughly between the 1180s and 1350s is the proliferation of these written inventories and, far more significant, that they were most often drawn, certainly in Castile, in the vernacular. Most of all, and this represents a significant change, is that they were almost exclusively concerned with the material world (10). One of the most salient aspects of this entire transformation is that the memorialization in writing of records of ownership and seignorial rights referred not to the life to come, but sought to fix the material world as it was at a particular moment in time.

In the same vein, another development within this tendency towards itemizing the world is that such activity reflected vividly on cultural transformations. Inventories, litigations that included elaborate lists of rights or privileges, and other such instruments often provide evidence for the interplay between a lively oral culture, articulated through oral testimonies and inquests, and the world of written records. Although this tension endured as a significant part of Castile's (and Spain's) cultural landscape--as it did in other regions of the medieval West--it was precisely in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries that the co-existence of these two ways of memorializing and recording the past enjoyed center stage. The question is of course how do all these general statements played out in the real world.

Litigation, Memory, and Writing in Northern Castile

Although in the past I have offered ample documentary evidence for this process of itemization, I wish to turn in these pages to a lengthy document or, better yet, to series of interconnected documents. Between 25 April 1280 and 2 April 1281, the monastery of San Salvador de Ona in northern Castile and the municipal council of Frias, a small town in the same region, engaged in a protracted and costly litigation over rights to specific locations, jurisdiction over the peasants inhabiting those areas, and over the taxes the peasants paid, or had failed to pay, to either of the contending parties claiming exclusive rights to these peasant dues. The acts of this long arbitration cum trial were drawn on or around 7 July 1280 (it would have been impossible for any scribe to write down all the proceedings on one day, and 7 July must have been the date in which the document was completed), though, as noted above, the final putative outcome did not occur until April of the following year. What we have extant is the inquest ordered by the Infante Don Sancho and the many depositions presented to three arbitrators named by the Infante or his agents. What we also have are the bitter arguments and counter arguments advanced by the two parties engaged in litigation. Altogether the evidence presented, the testimony of peasant, clerical, and noble witnesses, the copying and recopying of earlier royal privileges that had been granted to either the monastery of Ona or to the municipal council of Frias were deployed by both the municipal council of Frias and the Monastery of Ona as proof of their rights to the disputed lands. This part of the litigation covers more than 100 pages in the printed edition. Paul Freedman, reviewing the particular volume where this document appears for Speeulum, called the 1280 account "heroic." It is truly so. And the printed version is the typical tip of the iceberg. At almost every turn of the case, Ona's legal representative or that of Frias' or both demanded (demandamos traslado) copies of the proceedings and depositions. Since requests for written transcripts of every aspect of the litigation occurred with great frequency, such requests would have generated a mountain of documents that could have easily increased the number of pages that are now extant tenfold (11).

In addition, the published version includes numerous references to documents from an earlier period that are not included in the edition of this arbitration but which were present in the original and of which copies were made for both parties. They are noted by the editor and easily traceable to earlier pages in the same volume. Faced with such redundancy of proof, one can only bemoan the number of innocent sheep and lambs that gave up their lives in the pursuit of legal preciseness, justice, and the written word's irresistible empire. Far more important for us here than the demise of long forgotten livestock is that this long arbitration opens a window into the legal and cultural world of late thirteenth century Castile. A close reading and glossing of these hundred plus pages, though most of it is repetitive, would require a monographic study covering far more pages than the original source. In this short piece and following Alfonso Anton and Jular Perez-Alfaro's account of the dispute, I can only highlight some salient points and emphasize those aspects of the document that resonate with the wish of contemporaries to itemize the material world. For one, the shrill emphasis on writing the past, the clash of individual and collective oral remembrances with the authority of documents, and the nagging requests for transcripts serve as vivid reminders that the itemization of the world was, and is, to reiterate the point, deeply bound with writing. Thus in the pages I have left, I wish to limit my discussion to three specific points: 1) to what extent this litigation reflects aspects of the looming late medieval crisis and what does the inventory of villages tell us about the crisis and about space in the region of Frias; 2) the itemizing of people, specifically peasants; 3) the relationship between memory and written record.

I shall be negligent, however, to proceed without at least mentioning other possible avenues of inquiry that this particular document raises and that, because of the limitations of space, I can only suggest for the enterprising efforts of some historian in the future. To do justice to this rich source, one would need to place it within a comparative perspective. Not only comparisons with similar arbitrations that took place in Castile are pertinent, but a comparative perspective with other regions in medieval Europe may be useful in drawing wider research and methodological questions. In this respect, Italy, where similar conflicts often took place, may be an ideal place to explore similarities and differences. One should think also of archeology as a useful way to reconstruct the nature of place in the region. A far more important inquiry would be one in which one could try to reconstruct peasant attitudes towards the presence in their villages of royal functionaries and arbitrators, and how the written word, the presence of scribes, and the drawing of such extensive documents in situ affected the power dynamics within the village. In many respects, these legal procedures, backed by the power of the written word, reinscribed a certain order in villages throughout the region of Ona and Frias. All these issues, I fear, must be postponed at present for lack of space. They are all worth of further research. Allow me instead to return to the three points that I wish to gloss in greater detail.

San Salvador de Ona, Frias, the crisis of late medieval Castile, and the itemizing of place

The conflict between the monastery of San Salvador de Ona and the municipal council of Frias turned on very specific grievances. Many of them had already been simmering for a long time. As early as 1271, the Infante Don Fernando (or Fernando de la Cerda), the soon to be deceased heir to the throne of Castile, had ordered the royal alcaldes in Burgos to carry out an inquest (a pesquisa) in the dispute between the monastery and the council of Frias over who held titles to speeific villages (the same locations disputed in 1280). Seven years later Alfonso X entered the fray, ordering his alcalde Don Marin (or Martin) of Burgos that he forwarded to hito the results of the inquest. But it was not until 1280 that both parties, Ona and Frias, named their respective representatives to argue their cases in front of a panel of royally named arbitrators (12). When the inquest finally began in earnest in April 1280, the abbot of Ona formally complained that the town of Frias had granted, and continued to grant citizenship (vecindat) in its jurisdiction to vassals of Ona. Moreover, the abbot accused the council of encouraging these vassals not to pay to the monastery those dues and obligations which they owed because of their vassalage to Ona or because these men resided in monastic lands. In addition, men of Frias, or so the monastery's representative argued, entered the monastery's woods and meadows "without reason or right" in the location of Piedralada and in many other places named in the arbitration (13). Frias' representative responded that such was not the case and that the town's citizens had the right to do those things of which it had been accused. Alfonso VIII (1158-1214), he added, had granted the lands in question to Frias as part of an exchange between the king and the monastery when Ona received the area of Mixangos in return for the contested property (14). This initial conflict expanded to include numerous other places in the region of Ona (and Fdas) and to draw, into the ever widening legal process, hundreds of peasants, parish priests, and fijosdalgo (members of the lower nobility) called to testify on behalf of one side or the other.

In many respects the long depositions involving the case--a case that at the end was to be adjudicated in favor of San Salvador of Ona--are elaborate lists or itemizing of different categories of individuals and things: lands and villages, people, usually lists of witnesses to the final decision, ancient royal grants that were often invoked as evidence by either side, and more than two hundred individuals (mostly peasants) who are listed in carefully numbered order as they gave testimony on behalf of one side or the other. But before I try to explicate some of the ways in which we can read the onset of the late medieval crisis in northern Castile, it may be useful to place this specific litigation within its appropriate social and political context (15).

The enduring jurisdictional conflict between monastery and town in the region of Ona and throughout Castile, of which this collection of documents is only an important installment, allows us to see the spreading circle of violence plaguing Castile. This is what townsmen did to vulnerable monasteries in their hinterland. They broke into the lands of ecclesiastical establishments, robbed their livestock, cut their woods, claimed their vassals and their vassals' dues as their own. Examples of this behavior for the late thirteenth century abound in the region's extant documentation and in the monasteries' endless and futile complaints to the Crown of abuses perpetrated against them by municipalities and local nobles (16). The case we are examining here however is somewhat unusual in that the monastery of Ona received some relief, albeit temporary, from Frias' predatory behavior. Yet, as we know from other cases, although towns were usually found to be at fault by royal inquests and ordered to cease in their illicit activities, they seldom relinquished their gains and, more often than not, failed to obey royal orders to do so. Certainly obeying royal orders and ceasing to use force to increase one's domain at the expense of the weak was not likely to happen in a kingdom rift with civil war and noble violence from the 1280s to the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.

The itemization of place

Here we have an opportunity to piece together an inventory of those villages over which Ona and Frias fought on issues of title to properties, rights, and the impact of the late medieval Castilian crisis, with a glimpse at the evolution of tenancies over a period of seventy years. The documents detailing the 1280-81 dispute mention numerous villages. They were either the villages and places contested or locations identified in the arbitration as boundaries, places located along important roads, residence to, or places of origin of, the large number of witnesses, arbitrators, and representatives of Ona and Frias active in the dispute. The detailed listing of places mentioned in the litigation offers us a fairly detailed verbal map of patterns of settlement around Frias and Ona. In the sense in which Daniel Smail has so brilliantly described it, this represented an "imaginary cartography" of a strategic region of northern Castile (17). What this itemizing of place does as well is to paint a static portrait of part of the Ona-Frias hinterland towards the end of the thirteenth century. But since we are fortunate to have an even more extensive survey of seignorial jurisdiction extant for 1351, the fabled Libro becerro de las behetrias, we can trace the changing evolution of village lordship over that span (18).

With most of the disputed villages located in the merindad (the equivalent of a shire) of Castilla la Vieja (Old Castile), we can trace the fate of some of these locations. By the mid-fourteenth century some of the places mentioned in the 1280-1281 litigation seemed to have disappeared, probable victims to demographic decline, the onslaught of civil war, bad weather, migration to the South, noble violence, and, finally, the plague (19). Far more interesting however is that, although the arbitrators agreed with the complaints of the monastery and restored to Ona the villages and jurisdictions under dispute in their sentence of 2 April 1281, by 1351 the monastery of San Salvador de Ona, not untypical of what happened to monastic establishments in fourteenth century Castile, saw the decisions reversed by the steady intrusion of Frias citizens and municipal jurisdiction into its lands.

Of the thirteen villages or places in which the arbitrators and the Infante Don Sancho reasserted Ona's jurisdiction, six remained in Ona's hands (Barzina, Traspadarne, Arroyuelo, Palazuelos, Valdenubla, and Ciellaporlata). The other seven (Lozares, Ribiella, Cebolleros, Birues [Virues], Quintana Maria, aldea de Santa Maria, and Villadeveo) had become part of Frias' sprawling hinterland by 1351 and most probably a great deal earlier. In the village of Villadeveo, Ona retained just one holding. At the end, in spite of the costly litigation to prevent the town's encroachment into monastic lands, Frias had regained control of more than half of the disputed villages. In the turbulent world of late medieval northern Castile, legal decisions and royal injunctions did not curtail the ambitions of municipal councils and nobles. Mostly at the expense of ecclesiastical institutions, they sought to expand their sphere of influence, creating a sense of disorder and violence which plagued most of Castile for centuries to come.

Fijosdalgo and peasants

The listing of villages and individuals gives us also an entry into the social world of Frias and its hinterland. Such an extensive inventory, as the one I examine here, provides a glimpse into social hierarchies and introduces into the historical record the names of a large number of peasants whose agency and participation in historical processes have either not always been fully noted in the pastor have been neglected altogether. Coming from a family of peasants from Gallejones de Zamanzas, a village of behetria in northern Castile, not too far away from Frias and a region probably settled in the ninth century, I have been long interested in retrieving, as I mentioned before, as much as the documentation allows, at least the names of those faceless individuals whose backs and toil carried the burdens of other social groups. Clearly, the many peasants--their number reach into the hundreds--who were asked to give testimony or who served as witnesses to the final settlement of the dispute were most probably those prominent enough in their respective villages and holding lands from either Ona or Frias. They are identified in the document as labradores, those who till the soil. Yet, since age and a memory of land settlement and patterns of payment were also important requirements for taking an oath and giving a deposition in the arbitration, there is the possibility that the lower ranks of the peasant groups, not just well-to-do peasants, made their way into the record.

The itemizing of individuals reflect how those drawing the document(s) had a keen understanding and interest in social hierarchy. First and foremost are the kings, who are the givers of privileges and whose authority hovers over the proceedings. Then there is the Infante Don Sancho, who orders the arbitration and sanctions the final resolution of the case. The Crown and its agents ordered the inquest, named the arbitrators, and, supposedly, were expected to enforce the decision. The numerous appeals to ancient privileges reinforced the sense that the acrimonious litigation, a cover for actual real violence, occurred within a framework of order and that royal justice was to grant a fair verdict in the case. Since, as noted earlier, royal charters were often presented as evidence for the right of either Ona or Frias to hold specific villages and jurisdiction over their inhabitants, Alfonso VIII, long dead by 1280, plays a significant role in the legal maneuvering of both monastery and council.

We have the names of the three arbitrators, named by the Infante Don Sancho, as alcaldes (a judicial official) for the case. One was Don Marin (Martin) Perez, a royal alcalde in Burgos. The other two were Don Belmonte, a citizen (vecino) of Frias, and Mathe Garcia of Ona. Clearly Belmont and Mathe represented the interest of their respective locations, with the king's alcalde providing the expected objective point of view. We can trace some of these individuals to the local documentation, and, in some cases, even attempt the beginnings of short and inconclusive prosopographies (20). One should also note was disputed. Both adversaries rallied hundreds of individuals, mostly peasants, to testify in front of the arbitrators. Their testimony was recorded, copied, and re-copied again and again for the benefit of either Ona's or Frias's procurators. One must suspect that their testimony was, in spite of the many oaths taken, most often biased and unreliable, for Pedro Perez and Domingo Gonzalez continuously challenged these depositions, arguing that they either came from citizens of Filas with an interest in preserving municipal jurisdiction or from Ona's vassals, bound to the monastery by pious and economic ties. Two things are of interest here. First, the itemizing of individuals depended less on social filiation than on age and the witnesses' ability to remember. Second, the lists are drawn in a well-ordered, almost fastidious, numerical fashion. The extant documents that summarize the arbitration is cluttered with such lists, and one example will suffice here.

On 18 September 1280, Domingo Gonzalez and Pedro Perez, after administering an oath to the witnesses, called for their testimonies and counter testimonies. Their statements were rationally organized by age. Those who were old enough and could remember events that had taken place fifty years before came first. They were followed by those whose memory went back forty, thirty, twenty years, and so forth. Within each temporal category, the witnesses were identified by name and number. For example, Don Belmonte de Frias, the eighteenth witness, said that:
   he remembered [who held the lordship] from forty years ago and into
   the present day, and that he knew this by seeing, and hearing it
   and from sabidurias (general wisdom or knowledge) that [he knew]
   the six holdings (solares) in Quintana Maria, and all the holdings
   in Lozares, Birues, Villadeveo, Arroyuelo, Traspadarne, Palezuelos,
   except for two uncultivated holdings, that they (meaning Ona's
   procurator and witnesses) said were of Ona, plus nine holdings in
   Ciellaportala and in Ribiella, that all of these holdings he saw
   from forty years ago to the present to be in the citizenship
   (vezindat) of Frias, except that they paid infurcion to Ona (22).

Such testimonies, repeated often throughout the document, with each person testifying arranged by social class, ability to remember the distant past, and given a specific number in the lists of depositions speak volumes as to the process of itemization that, together with other changes in the system of values, transformed the social and cultural landscape of Castile in the thirteenth century.

Witnesses to the final judgment

The other list is composed of those who witnessed the final adjudication of the case. One must assume that most of those serving as witnesses in the final settlement may have not included too many of Frias' partisans. Seldom do the names of those testifying on Frias' behalf in the earlier portion of the arbitration--and that included fijosdalgo, clerics, and peasants (labradores)--appear in the final lists of those witnessing, and thus assenting and guaranteeing, Ona's victory. In the final list of witnesses, one can see the manner in which social hierarchies were rendered in the process of itemization. The emphasis on status here is far sharper than in other sections of the document. Witnesses to the settle ment were drawn exclusively from the thirteen locations under dispute, and thus expected probably to be part in the enforcement of the arbitrators decision in favor of Ona. Altogether sixteen fijosdalgo--who were always listed first within each village and identified by rank--served as witnesses, with eleven of them appearing in several of the locations. For example, Ferran Ivanez de Lordan's name appears as witness for eleven villages, while Dia (Domingo) Sanchez de Lordan (probably a relative) does so eight times. Clearly, and in a pattern replicated in the Becerro de las behetrias and elsewhere in the medieval West, nobles held fragmented rights and collected peasant dues throughout a vast territory: in this particular case in Ona's and Frias' hinterland. The lower nobility, which in this particular example also included a woman, Maria Sanchez, as one of the noble witnesses for Birues, was always listed first in the itemizing of witnesses. Their place in the documentation reified their social prestige and dominante, as for example in:
   Testigos de Lozares, hijosdalgo: Domigo Sanchez de Lorden e Ferran
   Ivanez, e Pedro Fernandez e Francisco, Pedro Martinez, Roy
   Martinez, su hermano, Gonzalo Lopez, fijo de Don Lope, Roy Pardo,
   Pedro Lopez, su hermano, Roy Perez de Sancta Maria. And of
   labradores: Don Ivanez, el clerigo, Don Juanez de Bascuenuelos, Don
   Domingo, el elerigo, Pedro Martinez, Don Juan Garcia de Lomana

Ten fijosdalgo appear among those witnessing the settlement in the village of Lozares and only five labradores. Clearly few, if any, of the noblemen listed as witnesses lived in Lozares. Their large number, here and serving as witnesses in other villages, remind us, once again, of the fragmented territorial jurisdiction and rights that were part and parcel of the organization of northern Castile's landscape. One may also deduce that the lower nobility held influence in Lozares which they did not enjoy as much in any of the other twelve villages with the exception of Palazuelos. In most other cases, the number of peasant witnesses always surpassed that of noblemen.

Altogether sixty four labradores are listed with three names recurring twice. These were peasants living in villages near each other and perhaps an indication that they held land in two different villages, also a common pattern in the region. Those sixty four individuals included seven clerics. One must conclude that they were rural clerics, barely undistinguishable from their parishioners. One woman, Maria Garciez de Basconuelos, a neighbor of Birues, also witnessed the final settlement. Seventeen labradores are identified by the descriptive title of Don, indicating, as it did for peasants given depositions, that they held some higher social and economic status within their respective village communities. Four of these labradores or peasants identified as Don were clerics.

It is significant that while four friars from Trespadarne, probably the location of a small Mendicant house, are listed as part of a separate category from nobles and peasants, rural clergymen were lumped together with the labradores, and thus firmly placed within the rank of the peasantry. Itemization of individuals also allows us to see obvious, as well as subtle, gradations between lower nobility and those who worked the land. It also reflects the growing social distinctions within the villages and places in Ona's and Frias' hinterland.

Oral memories and written records

Here, as we come to a conclusion, I do not wish to end without commenting briefly on a point raised earlier and so clearly reiterated in the quote above, that is, the ways in which lists or inventories allow us to enter the interplay between oral memory, the written word, and history. Such statements as "I remember fifty years ago, forty years ago," and so forth were part and parcel of a legal tradition still invoked with frequency and in important cases into the early modem period (24). Such formulaic legal testimonies also alert us to the connection between new and elaborate written records, such as the one that is the topic of this article, and ah older and still vital world of oral formulas and memory. The transition from oral to written records, so well studied for England by Michael Clanchy, was far from a clear and easy transition (25). It was a working partnership in which oral and written formulas co-existed as two viable ways of knowing and recording the past. Itemizing the material world sought to render oral memory unnecessary. By recording the pastor by providing written inventories of possessions, medieval women and men grasped for the elusive ideal of creating an immutable standard for how to see the past, to possess the knowledge, clearly and in one single reading of the written record, of what were one's rights, jurisdictions, and the like.

Yet, it is very clear that in 1280s northern Castile, in the play of memory, contested as those memories ended up being, what one heard and saw as a child still played a significant role in the workings and enforcement of the law and in the maintenance of some semblance of order. At the end however and in an ironic turn, memories were turned into written words, such that, more than seven hundred years afterwards in a New World, unknown and unimaginable to Castilians in the thirteenth century, we hear the faint echoes of peasant voices, we learn of their memories. We know their names, sometimes family relations, occupations, roughly their age, and where they lived. We learn, through the exuberant desire of scribes to write down the world of matter, of these peasants' social standing, and how, long ago, they took sides on issues almost, but certainly not to us, long forgotten.


Department of History, UCLA

(1) RUIZ, T. F., Crisis and Continuity: Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

(2) GONZALEZ DE FAUVE, M. E., La orden premonstratense en Espana. El monasterio de Santa Maria de Aguilar de Campoo (siglos XI-XV), 2 vols., Aguilar de Campoo, Centro de Estudios del Romanico, 1991.

(3) RUIZ, T., Crisis and Continuity, chapter 4.

(4) ALFONSO ANTON, I. and JULAR PEREZ-ALFARO, C., "Ona contra Frias o el pleito de los cien testigos: una pesquisa en la Castilla del siglo XIII," Edad Media: revista de historia (2000); "Identidad y memoria en las pesquisas judiciales castellanas medievales," in JARA FUENTE, J. A., ALFONSO ANTON, I. y MARTIN, G. eds., Construir la identidad en la Edad Media. Poder y memoria en la Castilla de los siglos VII a XV, Cuenca, 2010; ALFONSO ANTON, I., "Exploring Difference within Rural Communities in the Northern Iberian kingdoms, 1000-1300", Past & Present, 2007, 195, suppl. 2, 87-100; and her "Lenguaje y practicas de negociar en la resolucion de conflictos en la sociedad castellano-leonesa medieval", in Negociar en la Edad Media: actas del Coloquio celebrado en Barcelona los dias 14, 15 y 16 de octubre de 2004, FERRER MALLOL, M. T. et al, eds., Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Institucion Mila y Fontanals, 2005; plus her numerous other books and articles, a list too long to include here.

(5) See RUIZ, T. F., From Heaven to Earth: The Reordering of Castilian Society in the Late Middle Ages, 1150-1350, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004.

(6) See RUIZ, T. F., Crisis and Continuity. Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile, pp. 287-324.

(7) RUIZ, T. F., From Heaven to Earth, chapter 4.

(8) The Source in question is found in OCEJA GONZALO, I., ed. Documentacion del Monasterio de San Salvador de Ona (1032-1284), in Fuentes Medievales Castellano-Leonesas. 3. Burgos, Ediciones J. M. Garrido Garrido, 1983, pp. 234-341. Hereafter Ona.

(9) The historiography on necrologies and obituaries is extensive indeed. See, for example, Death and Memory in Medieval Exeter, eds. LEPINE, D. and ORME, N., Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2003; Monumenta Germaniae historica. Necrologia Germaniae, 6 vols., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Munich, 1983; Polyptyque de l'abbe Irminon, ou, De nombrement des manses, des serfs et des revenus de l 'abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres sous le regne de Charlemagne, ed. by B. GUERARD, Imprimerie royale, Paris, 1844.

(10) Two examples of these new aims will suffice here. See, for example, the long list of peasants (and their tribute) in an inventory of the monastery of Santa Maria de Aguilar de Campoo in Archivo Historico Nacional (hereafier AHN), Clero, carp. 1665, no. 1. Published with some small mistakes by MERCHAN FERNANDEZ, C., Sobre los origenes del regimen senorial en Castilla: El abadengo de Aguilar de Campoo (1020-1369), Malaga, Universidad de Malaga, 1982, pp. 243-65; and in GONZALEZ DE FAUVE, M. E.'s book on Santa Maria de Aguilar de Campoo cited earlier. See also Le Livre de la taille de Paris, l'an 1296, ed, MICHAELSSON, K., Goteborg, 1958, which includes long list of trades and tax payers in late thirteenth century Paris.

(11) On the request for traslados or transcripts San Salvador de Ona see Ona, p. 281 et passim. On the history of the monastery see Coleccion diplomatica de San Salvador de Ona, 2 vols., ed. DEL ALAMO, J., Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid, 1950-51; BONOUDO DE MAGNANI, M., "El monasterio de San Salvador de Ona: Economia agraria y sociedad rural", Cuadernos de Historia de Espana, vs. 51-52, pp. 42-122; on Frias see CADINANOS BARDECI, I., Frias y Medina de Pomar: (Historia y arte), Institucion Fernan Gonzalez, Burgos, 1978; VILLASANTE GOMEZ, A., Memorial de la ciudad de Frias, Tipografia de "El Monte Carmelo", Burgos, 1931.

(12) Ona, pp. 189-92, 219-20, 231-34. Here and below see ANTON, A. and PEREZ-ALFARO, J., "Ona contra Frias o el pleito de los cien testigos: una pesquisa en la Castilla del siglo XIII", Edad Media: revista de historia, 2000.

(13) Ona, p. 238.

(14) Idem.

(15) In speaking of the late medieval crisis, a topic that has been at the center of my research for more than two decades, I must acknowledge to what ah extent Julio Valdeon's pioneer work on the subject served as inspiration and guide for my own work. I owe him a great intellectual debt for which these miserly pages area very paltry exchange. See VALDEON, J., "Aspectos de la crisis castellana en la primera mitad del siglo VIX", Hispania, 111, pp. 5-24; "La crisis del siglo XIV en Castilla: Revision del problema", Revista de la Universidad de Madrid, 79, pp. 161-84.

(16) See examples of these protests (from the abbess of the monastery in Fresnillos in AHN, carpeta 225, No. 2, 3. For Gumiel de Izan, AHN, carpeta 233, No. 3, 6, 12 et passim. See also my Change and Continuity, chapters 4, 10 & 11.

(17) SMAIL, D. L., lmaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2000.

(18) Libro becerro de las behetrias. Estudio y texto critico, ed. MARTINEZ DIEZ, G., 3 vols., Leon, Centro de estudios e investigaciones "San Isidoro", 1981. The introduction is found in vol. 1, pp. 15-104. The bulk of the villages under study are found in the merindad of Old Castile in vol. 2, pp. 393-586.

(19) See RUIZ, T., Crisis and Continuity, chapters 4, 10 & 11.

(20) Martin Perez may have been alcalde in Burgos in 1258, 1259, and 1273. He owned rights to a mill in Villayuda. See Archivo de la Catedral de Burgos, vol. 70, No. 207; Archivo Municipal de Burgos, clasif. 683 and 806. Don Belmonte appears asa witness from Frias in several documents from the period. See Ona, pp. 180, 233, et passim. Mathe or Mateo Garcia may have been alcalde in Ona in 1275. See Ona, p. 200

(21) Ona, p. 337.

(22) Ona, p. 250.

(23) Ona, pp. 339-40.

(24) See for example the testimony given at a trial between Albacete and Chinchilla on a dispute over land in 1505 in Claudia Mineo's forthcoming article in Viator, "The Economy of Justice: privileges, Litigation, and the Distribution of Land in Sixteenth Century Castile".

(25) CLANCHY, M.T., From Memory to Written Record, England 1066-1307, 2nd ed., Oxford, Blackwell, 1993.
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Author:Ruiz, Teofilo F.
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Date:Jan 1, 2011
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