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Relevance of the Conference Theme: Authority and Property in the Medieval Town

Benyovsky Latin, Irena
Relevance of the Conference Theme: Authority and Property in the Medieval Town // Grad hrvatskog srednjovjekovlja: vlast i vlasništvo
Zagre, Hrvatska, 2010. (plenarno, nije recenziran, sažetak, ostalo)

Relevance of the Conference Theme: Authority and Property in the Medieval Town

Benyovsky Latin, Irena

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, sažetak, ostalo

Grad hrvatskog srednjovjekovlja: vlast i vlasništvo / - , 2010

Grad hrvatskog srednjovjekovlja: vlast i vlasništvo

Mjesto i datum
Zagre, Hrvatska, 15-16.11.2010

Vrsta sudjelovanja

Vrsta recenzije
Nije recenziran

Ključne riječi
Authority; Property; Medieval Town

The question of land tenure has always been an intriguing question for European historians, especially medievalists. The practices concerning properties were complex in the Middle Ages, and the information that has been preserved in sources is scarce. The meanings of concepts such as ownership and lease have changed radically between then and today. There were no strict distinctions between types of ownership as in the Roman period. In most cases institutions, groups and individuals were invested with powers over property. Thus they had the right to dispose with land rather than the exclusive right to a section of land. Therefore, in addition to the full ownership, there were many forms of “quasi-ownerships”, for instance, long-term right to property, rights of immovable asset owners located on other party’s land. Most medieval documents have not preserved the information about types of ownership. Many of them describe atypical tenure situations that do not necessarily expose the way that property rights really functioned in every day life. Even for the Central Middle Ages it is possible that what a text may imply may never have happened. Some documents can convey false sense of power that institutions or individuals had over land. Our perspective of the relationship between authorities and urban communities may be distorted, because most preserved sources are of urban origins and so may present a unilateral image of the past. Urban land was attractive because of the urban crafts and trade, and also presented considerable economic capital and investment. The state and towns were tightly linked and depended on each other for their development and progress. Jurisdiction or control over towns was the essential indicator of political power and a proof of allegiance. But what jurisdiction really meant in terms of ownership? Could the town’s rights of ownership be divided into political dominion and private ownership? Certainly, the levels to which the central authority could influence tenure relationships differed. This influence was defined by legislative privileges that towns enjoyed, as well as the real political power of the authority. A remote ruler, in some cases, had little influence ; consequently, freedoms enjoyed by the town were more substantial. In other cases authorities realized their jurisdiction by using constitutional means, for instance by influencing communal governmental bodies and councils. The urban space, of course, existed in the legal and administrative framework of a certain community, within which the mode of urban development was regulated by the statutes. Yet, in the Central Middle Ages much of the urban land was divided among the wealthiest and most influential groups and individuals. Although communal authorities did not interfere into the property rights, except where ‘public interest’ was concerned, some communal regulations on urban planning, hereditary law, or matters of citizenship had considerable impact on urban dynamics and property rights. Communal control over the city space depended on the local administration and the political effectiveness of the institutions. In any case, urban plots were much more than the space to use or upon which to erect a building. Individuals, institutions and corporations favoured investments into urban lands. Their motives included social and family structure and position. In the medieval town, the relationship between owning urban real estate and enjoying civic rights was firm, so the main criterion of citizenship was the ownership of the real estate. The church property in town was under a different jurisdiction. It comprised the property of the bishop, chapter and religious orders. The level of the church autonomy within the town, the size of the space it controlled and its jurisdiction within the urban space, often depended on local circumstances. Indeed, many questions open up when we delve deeper into studying the relationship between authority and property: relationship between different types of property such as public and private, church and secular, or two private properties. A change of ownership within the urban space also indicates the emergence of new social and political elements, or of a transfer of power. The position and the size of property are also relevant pieces of information as well as duration of tenure. The formation of urban space is a highly intricate process informed by multiple factors and subject to constant physical change. Therefore we cannot focus on a single legal subject, institution, corporation or individual. These questions are not easy to solve for the medieval period, for which, as I have already mentioned, we lack accessible and reliable sources, and the terminology is insufficiently systematic. Research requires a complex as well as multifaceted approach: serial study of different types of documents concerning urban real estate ; producing a database ; checking documents from later periods ; acquainting oneself with the results of related disciplines. Urban space may be approached from different vantage points: geographical, social, economic, archaeological, urban, as well as (and it is the best way) a combination of all of these.

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Projekt / tema
019-0190610-0590 - Grad hrvatskog srednjovjekovlja: društvene strukture, topografija, urbani život (Irena Benyovsky Latin, )

Hrvatski institut za povijest, Zagreb

Autor s matičnim brojem:
Irena Benyovsky Latin, (219806)