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374ReviewsLa corónica 32.1, 2003 Kagay, DonaldJ. The Customs of Catalonia between Lords and Vassals by the Barcelona Canon, Pere Albert: A Practical Guide to Castle Feudalism in Medieval Spain. Medieval àf Renaissance Texts and Studies 243. Tempe: Arizona Centerfor Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002. xliv + 87 pages. ISBN 0-86698-285-X Donald Kagay has performed a great service to medievalists by this translation of Pere Albert's Commemoracions, a work dating from around 1240 that describes the customary law of Cataluña regarding fiefs and jurisdiction over castles. In a work of 56 brief sections Pere Albert attempts to discern what rights castellans and lords have in cases of disputes, multiple loyalties, partitioned lordships, inheritance, and other complexities resulting from the necessity of granting castles to subordinates who are not mere servants but can claim (and more importantly put into effect) a degree of autonomy. As Kagay discusses in his introduction, such questions and texts that deal with them are vital for understanding what used simply to be referred to as "feudalism" but which now is a somewhat more complicated matter. Historians disagree about how characteristic feudalism was of medieval society, or whether it even makes sense to apply this abstract term (invented centuries after the close of the Middle Ages) to what now seems to be a shifting system of military relations considerably less formal and stable than once assumed. Pere Albert was a canon of the cathedral chapter of Barcelona and a confidante of the great king of Aragón and Cataluña, James (Jaume) I. This work reflects an understanding of contemporary law, but has the advantage of being a practical compendium that at least purports to describe customs as they are rather than stemming from any prescriptive or a priori theory. While the Commemoracions cannot be used as an accurate sociology of Catalan feudal relations, it states succinctly the norms thought to govern them, showing how contemporaries thought fiefs and castles should work in one part of Iberia. The same qualities of practicality make this particular legal text, however , a bit less important as an example of the assimilation of Roman law or as an attempt to reconcile nascent state central authority with customs favoring noble military independence. In his introduction and commentary Kagay situates the work of Pere Albert in the context of these developments, but the text is fairly reticent with regard to Roman law, contenting itself with pointing out places in which Catalan custom seems to be reinforced by elementary principles of Roman law, but making no attempt at a sustained argument about royal power. Indeed the work has no introductory statement of purLa corónica 32.1 (Fall, 2003): 374-76 Reviews375 pose, not even the pseudo-historical mise-en-scène claimed by its predecessor , the Usatges of Barcelona (translated by Kagay: The 'Usatges' of Barcelona: the Fundamental Law of Catalonia, 1994). The relationship of Pere Albert's Commemoracions to the Usatges is also tricky. The Usatges purport to be a series of practices promulgated by Count Ramón Berenguer I and Queen Almodis in the mid-eleventh century, but most of the compendium dates from a century later. Pere Albert refers to it occasionally, but in no sense is his work explicitly commenting on or even based on the Usatges. It is more an expansion of solutions to particular problems, especially those raised by the defense of castles. Its pragmatic specialization, useful for understanding how military power was divided, limits its use as a marker in the history of legal thought or the comparative history of feudalism. Any translation into English has to make difficult decisions about the meaning of technical terms and Kagay does this quite well although he doesn't usually explain what is involved or the implications of his interpretations . Translating homines as "vassals" tends to blur the distinction between the higher vasallus and his subordinates. Rendering solidus as "liege" has its merits, but is clearly used in a different sense for non-noble bonds between lord and man. Inevitably there are a few errors. Chapter 35 (page 33), for example, omits the diocese of Girona in defining which ecclesiastical divisions make up Old...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 374-376
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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