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The Consumption of Justice

Emotions, Publicity, and Legal Culture in Marseille, 1264–1423

by Daniel Lord Smail

Publication Year: 2013

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the ideas and practices of justice in Europe underwent significant change as procedures were transformed and criminal and civil caseloads grew apace. Drawing on the rich judicial records of Marseille from the years 1264 to 1423, especially records of civil litigation, this book approaches the courts of law from the perspective of the users of the courts (the consumers of justice) and explains why men and women chose to invest resources in the law.

Daniel Lord Smail shows that the courts were quickly adopted as a public stage on which litigants could take revenge on their enemies. Even as the new legal system served the interest of royal or communal authority, it also provided the consumers of justice with a way to broadcast their hatreds and social sanctions to a wider audience and negotiate their own community standing in the process. The emotions that had driven bloodfeuds and other forms of customary vengeance thus never went away, and instead were fully incorporated into the new procedures.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-6

List of Tables

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pp. vi-7

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pp. vii-ix

Lawsuits are much the same the world over: underneath the tedious procedures, masked by the legal form demanded by the law, lie enmity, spite, aggravation, and the desire to avenge. Reading lawsuits leaves one with a rather jaundiced view of humankind. This opportunity to acknowledge all...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. x-11

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A Note on Usage

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pp. xi-xii

The vernacular language of late medieval Marseille was a form of Provencal that incorporated a number of loan words from Latin and French. Latin was the most common language of record, though notaries of the court sometimes chose to leave insults and certain phrases in witness...

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pp. 1-28

Troubles began for the shoemaker Antoni d'Ays in the early 1330s when his wife, Douselina, left him and left Marseille too.1 Several years after her departure, at Antoni's prompting, the judge of the palace court wrote a stern letter ordering her to return to her husband. She, or someone writing...

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1. Using The Courts

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pp. 29-88

Until 1348, Marseille consisted of three politically distinct jurisdictions, namely the upper or episcopal city, the small jurisdiction known as the Praepositura that surrounded the cathedral of La Major, and the lower or viscountal city. In the late twelfth century, the lower city...

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2. Structures of Hatred

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pp. 89-132

If love and friendship formed the warp of Marseille's basic social fabric, hatred and animosity supplied the woof. Such competitive tension is built into all societies.1 "Groups are in competition with one another for power and resources,"...

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3. The Pursuit of Debt

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pp. 133-159

Economics and enmities often generate overlapping metaphorical fields. In many human societies, the bloodfeud and the vendetta, as sets of exchanges between two parties, are metaphorically configured according to the language and practice of the gift and the counter-gift. "Gifts have been given to...

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4. Body and Bona

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pp. 160-206

The system of coercion and sanction as it was practiced in fourteenth-century Marseille was built around the simple principle that whereas people were mobile their property was not. It was easy for a person to escape the law. Outside the walls of the city, the jurisdiction of the courts ended at the...

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5. The Public Archive

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pp. 207-241

Judges of Marseille's court of inquest went to great lengths to uncover the facts in cases of homicide and serious assault. They conducted preliminary interviews in an effort to identify the likely suspect, fingered the blades used, and took the depositions of expert medical witnesses. The facts in place, judges then embedded...

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pp. 242-246

T o adopt the perspective of the user of the courts of law in late medieval Europe is to see aspects of the medieval practice of law that one normally does not see. The role of emotions in records of civil litigation and criminal prosecution from late medieval Marseille is a case in point. On the whole, procedural manuals and other normative legal sources such as law codes and statutes have little to say about the emotions, and the normal bureaucratic practice of eliding emotions from all types of records more or less ensures that ...

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Appendix: The Nature and Format of the Record

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pp. 247-258

The archives of the city of Marseille hold a remarkable series of judicial registers from the city's secular courts during the later middle ages. Though most of the original registers have perished, enough have survived for us to be able to extrapolate the original size of court caseloads. Over the course...


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pp. 259-269


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pp. 271-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780801468780
E-ISBN-10: 0801468787
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801478888
Print-ISBN-10: 080147888X

Page Count: 292
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1