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Unjust Seizure: Conflict, Interest, and Authority in an Early Medieval Society (review)

From: Parergon
Volume 21, Number 1, January 2004
pp. 163-165 | 10.1353/pgn.2004.0033

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Reviews 163 Parergon 21.1 (2004) The inclusion of footnotes in the Introduction would have been helpful (along the lines of, for example, the TEAMS book on peasants). While some parts of the Introduction are simply general background on the features and definitions of medieval monasticism, there are other sections where the argument is more specific and pointed. Given that this is a book explicitly for students, it is a shame that the opportunity was missed to model the use of footnoting for explicit argument. Some more precise referencing might also give students a better sense of where different scholars sit on different debates, particularly given that the list of suggested further readings at the end of the book is unannotated. The book has a helpful glossary at the end, where economic, agricultural, and religious terms are defined. The suggestions for further reading points out a fairly small but nonetheless good selection of books and articles. Students who were new to the study of female monasticism would find these suggestions enough to set them on their way in research although, again, some annotations would make the list easier for beginners to use. Interestingly, the reading list focuses on nuns in general, rather than on the Cistercian order specifically, thus reflecting the view that when it comes to medieval women’s religious lives there were just as many similarities between monastic orders as there were differences. Elizabeth Freeman School of History and Classics University of Tasmania Brown, Warren, Unjust Seizure: Conflict, Interest, and Authority in an Early Medieval Society, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 2001; cloth; pp. xvi, 224; RRP £25.95; ISBN 0-8014-3790-3. This book’s virtue is that it sets out to investigate aspects of what it meant to be conquered in the early Middle Ages. Brown examines the reactions of the land-holding nobility of Bavaria to their incorporation into the Carolingian empire, following Charlemagne’s take-over of the region in 787. To do this he exploits some hundred-odd charters preserved as part of a chartulary seven times that size by the cathedral of Freising. The majority of the ‘unjust seizures’ invoked in the title involve the church of Freising protecting its claims to property, and documenting successes in the charters. Well-known to German and Austrian scholars, this impressive source is little used in Anglophone scholarship; Brown provides a service in drawing attention to its contents. 164 Reviews Parergon 21.1 (2004) Nominally a duchy under the Merovingian monarchs of Gaul, Bavaria was one of the peripheral regions of Francia which had long since become effectively autonomous, ruled by the Agilolfing dynasty of dukes. Their failure to acknowledge Carolingian overlordship precipitated Charlemagne’s characteristically effective military reaction. ‘Direct’ royal rule was imposed in the form of royal appointments of secular and ecclesiastic office holders, and visitations of the Carolingian missi, roving royal agents who acted something like ombudsmen to ensure that regional governors acted in accordance with Charlemagne’s centrist ideals. Brown frames his study of Bavarian reactions to this take-over in terms of anthropological models of dispute settlement and of conqueror-conquered interaction. His work is thus a continuation of recent scholarship in medieval conflict resolution (e.g. Wendy Davies and Paul Fouracre [ed.], The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe [Cambridge, 1986]). Carolingian rule is viewed not with regard to its administrative structure, but in the light of its incorporation , in turn, into the social dynamics of Bavarian noble society (inevitably the only class which has a voice in the historical record of this period). The lengthy first chapter seeks to establish ‘norms’ of dispute settlement within the region in the eighth century, prior to Carolingian annexation. The subsequent, slimmer chapters then compare dispute settlement procedures during the eight decades of effective Carolingian rule of Bavaria to 854. To Brown, pre-Carolingian patterns of conflict resolution – through feud and violence, ducal intervention, and especially episcopal negotiation – were potentially cut across by Charlemagne’s centrist ambitions and intent to impose royally-constituted judicial assemblies and ‘officeholding authority figures’ as agents of mediation and judgement. But it will surprise no one familiar with current anthropological models to learn that...