SEMINAR X: Aquitaine during the Reign of Duke William V (993-1030) (Lent, Week 8)

In this seminar we look at the so-called 'Feudal Revolution' in western Frankia. In the west, in contrast to the East, royal authority was hollowed out with sudden rapidity from the 880s onwards, the principle beneficiaries (at least in the short term) being the greatest of the magnates - the so-called 'territorial princes'. Moreover, with the collapse of royal authority developments at the lower levels of the social order come to the fore in the written record, and what we find is a world in which 'private' warfare and the brutal exploitation of the peasantry seems to have been widespread. In this tutorial we will look at three documents which illustrate this development. All three documents shed light, in differing ways, on the reign of William V, the count of Poitiers and duke of Aquitaine (993-1030). They illuminate the increasingly intense struggles that were taking place between the duke and his greater vassals and neighbours.

  1. The first document is an extract from the Chronicle of Adémar of Chabannes. An Aquitainian by birth, Adémar was a monk at the monastery of St Cybard in Angoulême (to the south of Poitiers). He completed his Chronicle in or soon after 1028, while Duke William was still alive, and his account celebrates his reign in traditional terms.
  2. The second document takes the form of a Conventum or 'Agreement'. It is a record of William's dealings with a powerful castellan, Hugh IV, lord of Lusignan. It was probably drawn up on Hugh's orders being a long and one-sided account of his grievances against William. It is preserved as one of three documents appended to a late eleventh-century copy of Adémar's Chronicle (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 5927). A unique survival for the 1020s (such documents occur in significant numbers only from the second half of the century), it provides a very different view of Duke William from the account offered by Adémar.
  3. The third document is a famous letter about the nature of 'fealty', written for William V by Fulbert, bishop of Chartres (1006-28). An inspirational figure in the rise of the scholastic movement in northern France, Fulbert was widely regarded as a leading intellectual at this time. This letter is thought to have been composed between September 1020 and June 1021, when Duke William was attempting to attract Fulbert to his court. Historians have often wondered whether William was looking to Fulbert for ideological support in his struggle with castellans such as Hugh IV. But if so, what kind of support did Fulbert actually offer him?

The extracts may be downloaded from the Hist213 LUVLE site.

Mandatory Preparation

You are asked to read all three documents and to consider the following questions as part of your preparation for the seminar:

  1. What do the documents set out below reveal about the problems facing William V, duke of Aquitaine (993-1030), and the policies he adopted in order to solve them?
  2. What do the documents reveal about the aims and methods of Hugh IV, the lord of Lusignan?
  3. What roles did (i) castles, (ii) marriages, (iii) feudal custom and (iv) public law play in conflicts between rulers and lords in eleventh-century Aquitaine?
  4. Why does Fulbert begin by listing six things which the vassal must not do to his lord?
  5. How would you characterise the society revealed by these documents? How does it differ from that over which the Merovingian kings presided in the sixth and seventh centuries?

Strongly Recommended Reading

  1. Martindale, J., Status, Authority and Regional Power, Aquitaine and France, 9th to 12th Centuries (Aldershot, 1997). MTR.J. This collection of essays includes four articles on the 'Agreement between William, count of the Aquitainians and Hugh the "Commander of a Thousand"'. One is an edition of the original document which includes a better translation of the text than the online version (on this website) and another is a useful essay called 'Dispute Settlement and Orality in the Conventum inter Guillelmum Aquitanorum comitem et Hugonem Chiliarchum: A Postscript to the Edition of 1969'.
  2. White, S. D., 'A Crisis of Fidelity in c.1000', in I. Alfonso, H. Kennedy and J. Escalona (eds.), Building Legitimacy: Political Discourses and Forms of Legitimacy in Medieval Societies, The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500, 53 (Leiden, 2004), pp. 27-49. MBS7. This essay contains a brief, but telling discussion of the Conventum and of Fulbert's Letter.

Other Reading

  • Althoff, G., Family, Friends and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 2003). MBS.* For the wider political context.
  • Bachrach, B. S., State-Building in Medieval France: Studies in Early Angevin History (Aldershot, 1995). MSE. A. collection of essays that includes numerous pieces on Fulk III Nerra, count of Anjou (987-1040).
  • Barton, R. E., Lordship in the County of Maine, c.890-1160 (Woodbridge, 2004). MTB.Q.
  • Bois, G., The Transformation of the Year One Thousand: The Village of Lournand from Antiquity to Feudalism, trs. J. Birrell (Manchester, 1992). MTH.H.
  • Bonnassie, P., From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe, trs. J. Birrell (Cambridge, 1991). Collected essays, including some important pieces on castles and the origins of seigneurial lordship. MAV.H.*
  • Bouchard, C. B., Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia (Philadelphia, PA, 2001). Collected essays. MSB.H.
  • Cheyette, F. L., 'George Duby's Mâconnais: A Memoir', Journal of Medieval History, 28 (2002), 291-317. Available online through Science Direct.
  • Cheyette, F. L., Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours (Ithaca, NY, 2001). MTN.H.
  • Crouch, D., The Birth of Nobility: Constructing Aristocracy in England and France, 900-1300 (London, 2005). MVB.H.
  • Duby, G., 'The Evolution of Judicial Institutions: Burgundy in the Tenth and the Eleventh Centuries', in his The Chivalrous Society, trs. C. Postan (London, 1977), pp. 15-58. MSB.H.
  • Duby, G., 'The Nobility in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Mâconnais', trs. in F. L. Cheyette (ed.), Lordship and Community in Medieval Europe: Selected Readings (New York, 1975), pp. 137-55. MBM7.
  • Duby, G., Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West, trs. C. Postan (London, 1968). MBN.
  • Duby, G., The Early Growth of the European Economy, Warriors and Peasants from the Seventh to the Twelfth Century, trs. H. B. Clarke (London, 1974). MBN.
  • Dunbabin, J., France in the Making, 843-1180 (2nd ed., Oxford, 2000). MSD. See esp. pp. 173-6.
  • Fouracre, P. J., 'Marmoutier and its Serfs in the Eleventh Century', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 15 (2005), 29-49. Journals L6. Available online at Cambridge Journals.
  • Genicot, L., 'The Nobility in Medieval Francia: Continuity, Break, or Evolution?', trs. in F. L. Cheyette (ed.), Lordship and Community in Medieval Europe: Selected Readings (New York, 1975), pp. 128-36. MBM7.
  • James, E., The Origins of France (London, 1982), chps. 2 and esp. 8. MSB.*
  • Koziol, G. G., 'Political Culture', and Bouchard, 'Rural Economy and Society', in M. Bull, (ed.), France in the Central Middle Ages 900-1200, Short Oxford History of France (Oxford, 2002), pp. 43-76 and 77-101. Both essays go well beyond our period, but they have much of relevance to say about the tenth and early eleventh centuries. MSE.* There are copies on both 3hr and 24hr short loan.
  • Le Jan, R., 'Continuity and Change in the Tenth-Century Nobility', in A. J. Duggan (ed.), Nobles and Nobility in Medieval Europe: Concepts, Origins, Transformations (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000), pp. 53-68. MBM.
  • Le Jan, R., 'Personal Names and the Transformation of Kinship in Early Medieval Society (Sixth to Tenth Centuries)', in G. T. Beech, M. Bourin, and P. Chareille (eds), Personal Names Studies of Medieval Europe: Social Identity and Familial Structures, Studies in Medieval Culture 43 (Kalamazoo, MI, 2002), pp. 31-49. WEPd.
  • Martindale, J., 'Secular Propaganda and Aristocratic Values: The Autobiographies of Count Fulk le Rechin of Anjou and Count William of Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine', in D. Bates, J. Crick, and S. Hamilton (eds), Writing Medieval Biography, 750-1250: Essays in Honour of Professor Frank Barlow (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 143-59. MBR.
  • Meens, R., 'Sanctuary, Penance, and Dispute Settlement under Charlemagne: The Conflict between Alcuin and Theodulf or Orléans over a Sinful Cleric', Speculum, 82 (2007), 277-300. About an incident which is important for the question of what public and social life were like in the Carolingian period. Journals L6.
  • Lewis, A. R., The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718-1050 (Austin, TX, 1965). MTM.
  • Little, L. K., and B. H. Rosenwein (eds.), Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (Malden, MA, 1998), chp. 8. This chapter comprises a useful extract, translated into English, from Barthélemy's monumental work on the County of Vendôme, along with a passage from Bonnassie's work on Catalan 'feudalism'. MB7.*
  • Painter, S., 'The Lords of Lusignan in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries', Speculum, 32 (1957), 27-47. Journals L6. JSTOR. Useful for the history of the family of Hugh IV, lord of Lusignan, but is mostly focused on the period beyond that with which we are presently concerned.
  • Poly, J., and E. Bournazel, The Feudal Transformation, 900-1200, trs. C. Higgitt (New York, 1991). MSE. See esp. pp. 69-72.
  • Reuter, T., 'Debating the "Feudal Revolution"', Past and Present, 155 (1997), 177-95; rpt in T. Reuter, Medieval Polities and Modern Mentalities, ed. J. L. Nelson (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 72-99. MB.
  • Rösener, W., Peasants in the Middle Ages, trs. A. Stützer (Cambridge, 1992). MBM.
  • Southern, R. W., The Making of the Middle Ages (London, 1953) - old and an account of much besides social history, but included here because of its chapter on the 'Bonds of Society'. This remains the best discussion of medieval notions of freedom and servitude. MBM.
  • White, S. D., Re-thinking Kinship and Feudalism in Early Medieval Europe, Variorum Collected Studies 823 (Aldershot, 2006). MBT.

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