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look! another thought about charters!

30 May, 2011

hmmm. So you have a charter. Actually, you have lots of charters. And the editor of the charters has given them titles according to the names of the people who make the donation (or whatever). This makes sense… except that a lot of the donations appear to be made by trustees, who are merely passing along someone else’s donation, as it were. So legally, they are the donors. Functionally, though, they sort of aren’t, in the sense that monastic donations are normally made in the hopes that someone’s sins will be remediated (although I came across one today that actually uses pro absolutione peccatorum). The trustee is just a middle man whose job is to fulfill someone else’s wishes (or to grant permission, depending on the sort of trustee it is).

Add to that the fact that there are two different sorts of trusteeship, as far as I can tell (and is manu potestativa really a livery of seisin in the C9th and C10th?) and it makes for interesting reading. Except that I can’t recall having read anything in particular that splits out donors of origin from donors who are trustees (and especially donors who are trustees whose relationships to the donors of origin are unclear, except when noted or when they are counts or other officials).

I have actually read my way through Bresslau, and Beumann, and Ewig, and any number of other godsawful German paperweights designed to tell us about such things, and I don’t remember seeing much discussion of this — but then there is a soporific quality to such reading…

So, hivemind, can you think offhand of anything that clearly articulates what we mean by ‘donor’ and if it takes into account donations made by trustees? More specifically, can you think of anything that talks about such things pre-11th (or even 10th) century and Frankish?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 May, 2011 8:20 pm

    In my Metz book I suggested that charters might well be misleading in depicting who did the real donating in early medieval society as they (usually) only record the last, formal, public stage of what might have been a long process with a lot of informal influence by people who didn't attend the public gatherings at the culmination of the discussions.

  2. 30 May, 2011 10:50 pm

    Ah — probably I should read that, then 🙂 Thanks. How was that received? it seems completely sensible given what I am seeing at Fulda. Or indeed, it seems perfectly sensible, full stop. This leads to another question — not necessarily for you, just in general — why do people ask others to act for them, and is there any way to identify the various reasons? That is (and this is part of my longer-term project), is it because they can't act for themselves at public assemblies? Because they aren't anywhere near where the assembly is held? both? neither?For example, many people tell me (and this is the reason for the dread paper I'm writing for Leeds) that women couldn't do things that the documents seem to indicate they did. How much of how we read and use charters is based on such assumptions?

  3. 31 May, 2011 3:11 am

    Hmm, I know nothing about charters or the 10th century, but I'd be awfully wary of anyone telling me "women couldn't do the things the documents seem to indicate they did." If our only evidence is documents, and documents say women did, then their evidence is what exactly? I've been tracing 11th and 12th century women's stories throughout every major source, looking for the similarities and differences. Finding the same event written in similar manners over three or four prominent writers makes me tend to believe the core of the story – and I'm tired of being told "they couldn't have done that, they were women!" Well, dood, it seems they did. Sorry, just my rant. (I'm more interested in the differences and what they tell us about gender, thought, etc etc, just throwing this out there.)

  4. 6 June, 2011 12:11 am

    Gah, why couldn't I think of this when you asked the question elsewhere? Actually, yes, I can think of something about donation specifically, though more practice-driven than theory-driven as is my wont: there was a big set of conference organised through the Écold française de Rome, which came out in at least one case as:Les transferts patrimoniaux en Europe occidentale, VIIIe-Xe siècle (I). Actes de la table ronde de Rome, 6, 7 et 8 mai 1999, which is Mélanges de l'ÉFR 111.2 (Rome 1999) and is therefore online here. Especially, there is a handy paper about precariae by Laurent Feller you might find useful there. There were two more volumes later, one specifically about wills (F. Bougard, C. La Rocca & R. le Jan (edd.), Sauver son âme et se perpetuer. Transmission du patrimoine et mémoire au haut moyen âge, Collection de l'ÉFR 351 (Rome 2005) and one on dowries (F. Bougard, L. Feller & R. le Jan (edd.), Dots et douaires dans le haut moyen âge, Collection de l'ÉFR 295 (Rome 2002) but those are not online as far as I know (the references I have to stuff in the former look as if it might be helpful to you also, however). I have read the MEFR volume, in fact I read MI's copy, and lots of it was useful to me, especially Ross Balzaretti's paper, but I think you would obviously want to start with the Franz Staab one… Almost all French though I'm afraid.I do in fact know why I didn't think of this: it's because I answered the previous one at work where my copy of Wendy Davies's Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007) isn't, and now I'm at home so was able to fish it off the shelf, it suddenly occurring to me that it might be relevant, and the 2005 volume in which she has a paper is about the first thing she mentions. That's why, but it's a poor excuse; sorry.

  5. 6 June, 2011 5:11 am

    argh — I need that book! I actually have Dots et Douaires at home at the moment, via ILL, and will order the others up either to have waiting when I get back next week or at the BL in a couple of weeks. Thanks!

  6. 6 June, 2011 2:56 pm

    No problem. I don't know how useful Wendy's book would be to you; the general concerns about donation are similar but the documentary milieu fairly different. It's not very long, at least!

  7. 7 June, 2011 1:38 pm

    Terribly cute to be rude or glib about Bresslau. But scarcely justified. The belief that because I don't read German scholarship I can do it better, even if widespread in York and Cambridge, is not always right.

  8. 8 June, 2011 5:26 am

    Sorry, Emma? I'm not sure I understand your comment.

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