Robert Dees

title.none: Algazi, Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren (Dees)

identifier.other: baj9928.9812.011 98.12.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Robert Dees, UCLA,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Algazi, Gadi. Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren im spaeten Mittelalter: Herrschaft, Gegenseitigkeit und Sprachgebrauch. Historische Studien, Vol 17. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1996. Pp. 281. $68.00. ISBN: 3-593-35596-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.12.11

Algazi, Gadi. Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren im spaeten Mittelalter: Herrschaft, Gegenseitigkeit und Sprachgebrauch. Historische Studien, Vol 17. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1996. Pp. 281. $68.00. ISBN: 3-593-35596-5.

Reviewed by:

Robert Dees

Mutually Beneficial or Predatory Lordship? Gadi Algazi Answers Otto Brunner's Land and Lordship

Gadi Algazi's Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren im spaeten Mittelalter is a ground-breaking study into the character of the feud and lord-peasant relations in the Middle Ages.[[1]] It is also a devastating critique of Otto Brunner's Land and Lordship,[[2]] the text which for fifty years has stood as the most influential in the field.

Schutz und Schirm

The "Schutz und Schirm" ("protection and safeguard") doctrine is the cornerstone of a conception of medieval lord-peasant relations as "The reciprocal relationship between lord and subject peasant [that] involved a whole set of rights and obligations on both sides," Brunner wrote, the peasants' dues being offered "in exchange for the continuous protection that the lord provided."[[3]] Seigneury (Grundherrschaft) presupposed, according to Brunner, the right to use force to defend the lord's domain, "against an actual attack, in the 'combat' of a lawsuit, or by waging a feud; in any case he was using the legitimate force implied by his fights of protection and safeguard [Schutz und Schirm]."[[4]] "Central to the seigneury were the ideas of protection, homage, fidelity, and aid," Brunner asserted; "Homage (Huld) and fidelity (Treue) constituted a mutual relationship, predicated on law, within which conflicts between lord and subject played themselves out."[[5]]

Gadi Algazi starts his study by analysing a range of medieval documents to explore what terms such as Schutz und Schirm meant in the context in which they were used. These documents make clear, Algazi argues, that a more objective reading of these sources show that the "protection" that the peasants had to pay for -- whether they wanted it or not -- was protection not by the lord from an outside force, but protection from further predations or threats by the lord himself. He shows that the meanings of the words at times varied and shifted, but any expectation of the lord protecting the peasants from an outside threat is absent from the text.[[6]]

In one example, the peasants explain -- in the form of a village custumal (Weistum) -- that the "protection" arrangement they entered into was done only under duress by the lord. They paid the lord unwillingly and only to be "protected" from the threat of attack from him.[[7]]

Algazi then systematically checks the sources Brunner cited in support of his argument on Schutz und Schirm. In every case Algazi finds that Brunner tendentiously misread the document, tore a quote out of context, or simply invented his interpretation. For example, Brunner claimed that "Allgaeu peasants repudiate the protection of their lord the abbot of Kempten and choose the count of Montfort as their lord protector (1415, 1462)."[[8]] Algazi points out that in this case, as in many others in the long history of conflicts with the Kempten monastery, the issue was not the abbots' failure to protect the peasants from outside attack, but peasants defending themselves against systematic attacks by the abbots themselves -- through naked force, forced oaths, and falsified documents -- on the peasants' traditional rights.[[9]]

Interpreting a case of peasant rebellion, Brunner wrote,The Carinthian uprising of 1477, for example, was the direct result of a Turkish attack of that year. When lords withdrew to their castles and left their peasants at the mercy of the invaders, the peasants banded together -- first against the Turks, but then against the lords who had failed to protect them.[[10]]Algazi points out that in the source Brunner cited, the peasants nowhere refer to a duty of their lords to protect them. On the contrary, these peasants banded together to defend themselves against the Turkish invasion and to follow the example of the Swiss in getting rid of their lords altogether: "sy wolten sich nach der trewlosen Sweytzer gewonhayten halten [they wanted to abide by the ways of the unfaithful Swiss]." [[11]]

Brunner claimed that even the Peasant War of 1525 was caused by the lords' abusing their duty of protection, but that such "conflicts between lord and subject played themselves out" within the framework of the "mutual relationship."[[12]] Algazi explains that if this were true, we should expect to find somewhere among the thousands of surviving peasant petitions the demand that the lords live up to this putative duty. This demand appears nowhere, however. (One might add that as part of working out Brunner's "mutual relationship," in 1525 the lords' "protection" consisted of slaughtering some 100,000 peasants in the process of forcing the peasants back into the subservient position they were rebelling against.)

In addition to refuting Brunner's use of the documents, Algazi reviews numerous additional sources to show that in reality peasants sought protection not by their lords, but from their lords' violence and sexual predations.[[14]]

Since the doctrine of Schutz und Schirm was "canonized" in the nineteenth century, Algazi argues, the terms are all but mandatory in the indexes of major collections of medieval sources. Reviewing these references, however, Algazi writes that the reader is struck by how few references to Schutz und Schirm there really are, and a check of those that do appear reveals that even these provide little or no support for the idea that the lords had a positive duty to protect peasants from outside threat or that peasants looked to their lords for such protection.[[15]]

Algazi concludes that there is no support in the documents for Brunner's conception of a lord-peasant "mutual relationship."[[16]] "Precisely in those sources that are supposed to attest to lordship as a mutual relationship, we repeatedly encounter examples of overpowering and violent force."[[17]]

Brunner on the Feud

Otto Brunner stated that the feud was "a fundamental principle of medieval political action." The feud serves as his "point of departure for discovering the fundamental concepts on which a constitutional history of the Middle Ages must be based."[[18]] Brunner's thesis was a direct attack on liberal historiography, which viewed the feud as an anarchic disruption in the political evolution of the modern Rechtsstaat.[[19]] Brunner began his study by laying out what he claimed are the "basic concepts" involved in the "essential nature of the feud." These he listed as friendship, enmity, vengeance, atonement, and peace. He added that "the idea of retribution . . . also confronts us in the judicial sphere."[[20]] Although his study was primarily of late medieval feud, these "basic concepts," Brunner asserted, "can only be understood in the context of the early Germanic world,"[[22]] that of friendship based on kinship, which he believed "undoubtedly governed Germanic thought."[[23]]

He argued that feuding was carried out "in accordance with strictly defined rules of procedure, all within limits stipulated by the law of the feud,"[[24]] and were not "merely an abuse of power based on 'the law of the fist.'"[[25]] Brunner lists as aspects of the legitimate feud:

(1) A legitimate feud depended above all on a "just claim." Waging a feud without legal grounds was "willful," and "plunder" -- hence illegitimate.[[26]] (2) A legal complaint was often a prerequisite to a feud.[[27]] (3) A legitimate feud in the medieval period of Brunner's study could be waged only by those fully entitled to bear arms, which meant mounted knights. Feuds waged by burghers and peasants beyond blood vengeance avenging murder were strictly forbidden.[[28]] (4) A formal challenge was always required.[[29]] (5) In earlier times, revenge was by far the leading motive for feuding, but by the late Middle Ages, "the essence of feuding was . . . plundering and burning." Other legitimate means of conducting a feud included killing, taking prisoners, forced contributions, and exacting tribute.[[30]]

Excluded from the feud, most importantly, were the homes of the nobles participating in the feud. "Fearful as [feuds] were, with their plundering of livestock and burning of villages . . . the feuder might not attack the house of his opponent."[[31]] In addition, no legitimate feud could be conducted against a fellow clan member.[[32]] Attempts were made to exclude other categories of people and goods from the purview of the feud, but "these restrictions . . . were often ignored," Brunner acknowledged.[[33]]

Although plundering and burning were the "essence" and the main ways of conducting feuds, Brunner insisted that these were the means, not the objective. Behind feuding, Brunner argued, lay not the law of the fist, but "one of the strongest moral impulses of all social life, the individual's passionate sense of Right."[[34]] Critique

Brunner's thesis can be challenged on at least two levels. (1) Numerous internal contradictions and weaknesses are apparent from simply reading Brunner's text. (2) Algazi's review of the documents finds that Brunner's own sources do not support his argument.

Brunner set his argument in the framework of the "legal," "legitimate" feud, claiming that feuds that do not abide by the "strict" "rules" and "law" of the feud are illegitimate. He then grounded his rationale for the feud in this legal framework. "The feud was not the expression of an atavistic drive for revenge and destruction, but a battle for Right. That is why feuds had to be waged within certain legal bounds if they were to be considered legitimate."[[35]]

But who decides what is "legal"? A "legal" framework implies the existence of a superior force capable of implementing some set of rules. The medieval "feud" survived, however, precisely in those areas of Europe where the latter was missing--and the feud was among the first things suppressed when legal frameworks were established.[[36]]

Whether the "rules" of the feud were generally recognized is also questionable. For each of the "legal" requirements that Brunner argued were necessary for a feud to be legitimate, Brunner's own evidence shows that in practice, these formal requirements had little meaning. After listing a preliminary legal complaint as a prerequisite for a lawful feud, for example, Brunner conceded that "the extent to which this actually took place . . . has not been established." The problem, it appears, is that "the sources make no mention of such preliminary complaints."[[37]]

Contestants generally disputed the legitimacy of their opponents' feuds, and "legitimacy" was in fact simply imposed by the victor. The Austrian estates under Ulrich von Eitzing, for example, rebelled in the mid-fifteenth century against their territorial lord, the emperor. The pope supported the emperor. Far from recognizing the legitimacy of their complaint, the pope denounced the rebels using terms such as revolt, usurp, conspire, rebel, and high treason. The "illegitimacy" of the estates' cause proved to be irrelevant, however. "Two views of Right were in conflict," Brunner told the reader, "and since the pope's admonishments were ignored, only arms could decide the outcome. In the end Ulrich von Eitzing and his followers won, and the emperor was forced to recognize them." Brunner ultimately acknowledged, in his discussion of "The Feud in Practice and Law," that since there was no higher legal authority to make such a determination, the legitimacy of a feud "would ultimately be made by the victor, who could claim that a captured enemy had acted willfully."

Brunner's examples undercut even his attempt to distinguish "legitimate" feuding (i.e. for "Right") from mere brigandage for plunder. He listed cases of mercenaries conducting "feuds" to recover back pay, occupying castles and cities and seizing sources of revenue, such as custom duties. "The most dangerous situation of all, however, came about when noble lords in the land also commanded troops of hired soldiers," Brunner wrote, "combining feudal rights over fortresses and lordships with the financing and disposition of mercenaries. A good number of men rose to become powerful lords in this way, and acquired enormous property. . . . Given the fiscal needs of the late-medieval state on the one side, and the power of these lords on the other, military conflicts were inevitable," Brunner concluded, without in any way implying illegitimacy on the part of such rising powers.[[40]]

The "Right" that Brunner argued is at the heart of feuding is also never defined, leaving the impression that each lord could decide this for himself. Brunner further argued that the feud was "where might and right came together."[[41]] Thus it would appear that the only real rule was "might makes right" -- any use of force, by any lord, for any reason, was legitimate. The legalistic framework in which Brunner couched his "feud" begins to look like nothing more than a rationalization for the noble monopoly on violence that had little or no practical effect on the actual practice of feuding.

Brunner's claim that the basis of the feud was the individual's passionate sense of Right is further undercut by its inherent assumption (since by definition peasants could not legitimately feud) that the vast majority of the individuals in society -- the peasants -- had no such legitimate "passionate sense" -- a prejudice frequently disproved by recurrent uprisings.

Algazi on the Feud

Algazi argues that in the late Middle Ages, the feud was an estate privilege of the nobility, a noble monopoly on violence that had as its principal effect the maintenance of estate boundaries between nobles, on the one hand, and peasants and burghers on the other.[[42]] It was lords who created the violence from which "protection" was then needed, protection that, because of the noble monopoly on violence, could only be had from the very lords who were responsible for creating the violence in the first place. Although feuds were conducted by and technically against other lords, it was peasants who were primarily affected.[[43]] Peasants, however, were prevented from defending themselves by lords.

Algazi roots his argument in the social and economic context of the late Middle Ages. By this time, he points out, the manorial system had broken down. Peasants were economically self-sufficient and organized into villages. Lords stood outside the production process. (In fact, by the late Middle Ages, lords not only stood outside the production process, but in many areas outside the day-to-day administrative and judicial life of the village as well.) Left to their own devices, peasants could and apparently often did "forget" what the lords considered to be their proper station in life. Lords thus had to devise strategies in order to maintain their privileged position in society. These included ritualized "reminders" of peasant obligations, in the form of village custumals.

More importantly, for purposes of the present discussion, lords created a condition of permanent violence which both preserved and reproduced the conditions necessary for the lords' existence. Algazi summarizes his argument as follows:(a) an unorganized monopoly of the lordly estate exists based mainly on violence; (b) to advance their interests, the lords conduct feuds against each other, in which mostly peasants are affected; (c) the lords' feuds (re)produce a need for protection on the part of the peasants; (d) under condition (a) the need for protection leads to (renewed) subjection of the peasants to the lords; (e) the subjection to the lords (1) is coupled with the exclusion of the peasants from the possibility of defending themselves, and (2) the lords obtain in the form of rents and obligations the material means necessary for the lordly possession of the main means of violence, and thereby they reproduce the monopoly of a lordly estate on the main forms of violence (a). The pursuance of self-interest by the feud-waging lords (b) reproduces thereby their own preconditions (a).[[47]]Algazi goes on to point out that it was precisely the uncoordinated nature of so-called "feudal anarchy" that permitted individual lords to present themselves as protectors against outside dangers. It was the feudal version of the "invisible hand."

Algazi argues that whereas the sources do not support Brunner's conception of lord-peasant relations, the view that wars were caused by lords and were waged primarily against the poor was widespread in the Middle Ages. This was true both from the viewpoint of those who lamented the effects of this warfare and from those who supported it as a necessary strategy to maintain the nobility.[[49]] He provides several examples of the idea that violence was consciously seen as a necessary social pedagogy to keep the peasants in the condition the lords wanted. For example, Aujourdh'huy toutes les guerres sont contre les povres gens laboureurs, contre les biens et meubles qu'ils ont.[Today all wars are against the poor laboring people, against their holdings and goods.]Honore Bouvet, Arbre des Batailles (ca. 1386-1390)[[50]]Office de cheualier est de maintenir terre car pour la paour que les gens du peuple ont des cheualier ils labeurent et cultiuent les terres pour poeur et craincte destre destruicts.[The office of the knight is to control the countryside, since the people work because of the fear they have of the knights, and culivate the land because they are afraid of being annihiliated.]Raymon Llull, Libre qui es de l'ordre de cavalleria (Book on the order of the knighthood), ca. 1280[[51]]The above quote provides a very different view of lord-peasant relations to that presented by Brunner of a mutually beneficial relationship based on a willing exchange of services.[D]um rusticorum habitacula lares et ordea magalia pergule predia, cauule domus et tuguria per singulos annos iubileos deuastantur: aut igne consumuntur, denudantur, spoliantur et exuuntur.[The peasants' nature calls for particularly harsh and appropriate countermeasures: So every jubilee year their little houses, huts, and fields should be plundered, wasted, and burned down.]Felix Hemmerli, De nobilitate et rusticitate dialogus, mid-15th century[[52]]Baeuerliches Volk, am besten im Leid, am schlechtesten in der Freude.[Peasant folk, best in suffering, worst in happiness.]Medieval saying[[53]]Here the idea of violence as a form of social pedagogy is introduced. The "peasants' nature," or even peasant happiness, is seen as a threat to the lords' social position, to be dealt with harshly.Duke: Die paurn und die stet wurden zu reich Liess wir sie sitzen frideleich.[The peasant and the town would get too rich If we left them in peace.]Knight: Solt es allweg frid beleiben Die paurn wuerden den Adel vertreiben, Sie wuerden hinten nach so gail, Sie machten uns puerg und stet fail Der paur will als purger gan, Der purger als der edelman. Daruemb mag uns der Krieg gefrumen, Das sie nit über uns kumen.[If there were always peace The peasants would drive out the nobles They would get so uppity They would sell off our castles and towns. The peasant wants to be like a burgher, The burgher like a nobleman. For this reason let war benefit us So that they not rise above us.]Anonymous Fasching play from late 15th century[[54]]Here again, the rising social demands of the peasants and the burghers are presented as a threat to the nobles' social position. Through this and other examples Algazi showed that the idea existed among medieval writers that feuds were aimed at least indirectly at peasant and burgher social demands.[[55]]

In this context, one line from Brunner's text is of particular interest. Whereas in feuds between nobles, Brunner explained, the loser would often escape at least with his neck, "Towns were particularly inclined to treat challengers as willful plunderers to be executed if captured."[[56]] Brunner did not expand on this sentence or provide documentation, but viewed from the perspective of a war waged by nobles against the rising social demands of burghers, this comment would provide support for the view that the latter saw the nobles' violence not as a "legitimate" feud (regardless of form), but as simple plunder, to be dealt with accordingly.

Although Brunner separated his discussion of the feud from that of the doctrine of Schutz und Schirm, looked at together they can be viewed as integral aspects of lordly power and the maintenance of that power through violence, Algazi notes.

Algazi concludes that medieval lordship rested not on mutuality, but on force. He raises the question whether "the model of noble feud is possibly merely an after-the-fact rationalization for noble violence, an attempt to elevate 'plunder and burning' to a social mission, perhaps in light of growing urban and ecclesiastical criticism?"[[58]]Acknowledging that the historiography of the view of medieval mutuality is still to be written, Algazi nevertheless provides some evidence for the idea that the view of lordship based on mutuality was invented in the eighteenth century by French and German defenders of noble rights in defensive reaction to the ideas of the Enlightenment and French Revolution.[[59]]

Apparently, this is not the only time Brunner played fast and loose with the sources. Brigitte Pohl-Resl tried to use Brunner's book on the history of Vienna's finances in preparing an exhibition in Vienna on the history of the city.[[60]] She found that once again "Brunner often gives detailed data, without telling where he got them from, without citing sources or literature. He often takes sentences out of context to use them as evidence for his theories. Frequently, references to sources could not be verified."[[61]]

Brunner's Political Context

The translators' introduction to Land and Lordship lays out aspects of Otto Brunner's connection to the Nazi party and his board membership at the Reichsinstitut fuer Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands, which "was intended to mobilize the historical profession in a programmatically Nazi reconstruction of German history."[[62]]

Brunner pointed out in the conclusion to the first editions of Land und Herrschaft that "the basic political concepts of the Third Reich, leadership and national community [Fuehrung und Volksgemeinschaft; emphasis in original] can only be understood on Germanic bases. In this context, a temporally and spacially limited piece of the constitutional history of the German Middle Ages, as we have presented it here, acquires its meaning."[[63]] He proclaimed the "present-day relatedness" of his work and attacked earlier historians: "their duty now is to discover the historical foundations of the Third Reich's law and constitution."[[64]] In his polemic, Brunner argued against "projecting features of the modern state onto the Middle Ages. Rather different," he insisted, "is the attempt to trace the historical roots of the modern state in the Middle Ages -- this is quite legitimate."[[65]] He argued that "lordship was clearly an essential root of the modern state," and defined lordship by approvingly citing Max Weber, "the ability to exact obedience to a particular command."[[66]] His view of medieval (and modern) polity -- the right of the lord/leader to command -- was rationalized with the claim, which lies at the heart of his argument, that "all lordship relations rested on 'fidelity.'"[[67]]

In what John Freed called a "scissors-and-paste revision,"[[68]] much of the more flagrantly pro-Nazi terminology found in earlier versions of Land und Herrschaft was removed from the 1959 edition, upon which the English-language translation is based. The translators of the present English edition allege that "The fashionable slogans and Germanic postulates were obviously not necessary, for Land und Herrschaft retains its power even after they were removed."[[69]] They go on to write that "the National Socialist regime brought progressive, constructive changes in many fields," and that "From 1933 to 1938 a relatively decent German could support the Nazis or even become a Nazi . . . which is to say that the bestial criminality of the years after 1938 was not necessarily predictable before."[[70]] The translators apparently consider the Nazis' pre-1938 bestial criminality, although critical to what came later, to be unobjectionable. In reality, millions of "decent" (and, we might add, "ordinary" Germans, Daniel Goldhagen's recent piece of war propaganda notwithstanding[[71]]) were horrified by the Nazis, including prior to 1938, and tens of thousands paid the price for their opposition.

In a sniping critique of Algazi's work, Howard Kaminsky alleges that Algazi's "reduction of lordship to mere Gewalt implies a reduction of society to base class war, with the normal collaborative mentality on both sides reduced to false consciousness."[[72]] This conceals the fact that Algazi effectively shows that Brunner's sources provide no evidence of this alleged "normal collaborative mentality" on either side. Algazi does provide documentation of precisely the opposite --that the lord's consciousness was anything but collaborative, as the above examples illustrate.

Algazi disagrees that the terminological changes in later editions changed Brunner's basic argument. Having argued that Brunner's view of medieval society is not based in medieval sources, Algazi then finds that much of Brunner's perspective on society and even some of the formulations and terminology are firmly rooted in the writings of certain key Nazi ideologues (to whom Brunner gives full credit, citing them even in the most recent edition).

According to Algazi, Nazi juridical theorists, above all Carl Schmitt, counterposed "konkrete Ordnungsdenken [concrete order thinking]" to other views of society as a descriptive concept that sought to unite contradictory perspectives, rejecting groupings such as classes or estates in favor of "concrete orders" such as "Volk," "family," "work-place community," "officialdom," or "army." In Brunner's work, lordship is abstracted from the violent reality by reducing it to its "essence," which exists in "fundamental concepts" such as "Treu und Huld," or "Schutz und Schirm."[[73]] Algazi points out that although the term "concrete order" is removed in some places, it remains in the conclusion of the most recent German-language edition. (Curiously, this formulation vanishes in the English-language translation.[[74]])

Algazi also traces Brunner's conception of lordship to ideas prevalent in Germany in the 1930s, pointing out the implication for Brunner's thesis of Carl Schmitt's use of "Schutzherr" and "Protectorat," terms pregnant with meaning for Slovakia, Moravia, Bohemia, and other areas of Central Europe at the time.[[75]] When a people fears for the trouble and risks of political existence, then another people will be found who will take from them this trouble, taking on "protection from outside enemies" and thereby, political lordship. The lord protector then determines who the enemy is. It is on the basis of this principle that not only the feudal order rests of lord and vassal, leader and follower, protector and client . . . there is not super- and subordination, no real legitimacy or legality without the connection between protection and obedience. The protego ergo obligo [I protect, therefore I command] is the cogito ergo sum of the state, and a state doctrine that does not make this sentence systematically known remains an inadequate fragment. In foreign policy and intra-state relations, the elementary correctness of this protection-and-obedience axiom is even more clear: diverse types of protectorate under international law, the hegemonic league of states or federal state, protective and guarantee treaties find therein their simplest formulation.[[76]]Algazi argues that just as medieval documents must be interpreted in the context of the social relations and meanings of their times, so too must Brunner's book. Substituting one word for another does not alter the basic structure of the argument. It is, Algazi argues, "highly questionable" that light terminological corrections can remove the Schutz und Schirm doctrine from its embedding in concrete order thinking, but that "precisely this assumption underlies the process of 'popularizing' and 'canonizing' of Brunner in the post-war period. Brunner's 'Volksgeschichte' cannot retroactively be transformed into a 'structural history' with one trick,"[[77]] Algazi writes.

He concludes, It remains unclear how such terminological corrections can be equated with a conceptual reorientation. After all, they change nothing in the argument nor in the structure of the book as a whole. Even in Brunner's own book the words owe their meaning to their usage and discursive contexts. Their meaning does not change when one word is replaced by another, such as when in 1956 'Volksgeschichte' is replaced by 'Strukturgeschichte.'[[78]]The late nineteenth-century bourgeois-liberal historians tailored their interpretation of the middle ages to the political needs of their time. This provided Brunner with an easy target, which he effectively discredited. But in the place of the liberal model he did nothing more than to erect a new model, equally tailored to the political needs of his time and allegiance. Brunner provided Nazi views on "leadership" and "national community" with a pedigree stretching back into the mists of early German history. The importance of this is clear if the reader recalls the events in Germany from 1918-33, when open -- then simmering -- civil war rent Germany. A key aspect of Nazi rule, especially in the early years, was breaking down by force, violence, terror, concentration camps (which opened in 1933, not 1938) -- i.e., by bestial criminality -- and also by indoctrination the separate class consciousness that these events reflected and reproduced, replacing it with the nationalist "Volks" consciousness necessary to wage war. "The feud was as integral to medieval political life as war is to the modern state and international law," Brunner wrote. Brunner's Land und Herrschaft was an important piece of this propaganda. Algazi's critique is a thorough, convincing, and welcome response.

Brunner was correct in arguing that noble violence, far from being an aberration, was integral to noble rule in medieval society. Algazi agrees, but counters Brunner's dressing up this violence as a social mission for "Right" that also benefited burghers and peasants. The violence, Algazi argues, was primarily directed against the burghers and peasants.

But although Algazi's direct target is Otto Brunner, the implications of his critique go much further. For the view of medieval and early modern lord-peasant relations as a mutually beneficial exchange is hardly limited to Brunner. On the contrary, it is widespread in the literature still today. Algazi's work deserves serious and wide consideration. An English-language translation would be welcome.


1. Gadi Algazi, Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren im spaeten Mittelalter: Herrschaft, Gegenseitigkeit und Sprachbegrauch (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1996). (Hereinafter cited as Algazi.)

2. Otto Brunner, Land and Lordship: Structures of Governance in Medieval Austria, translated from the fourth, revised edition. Translation and introduction by Howard Kaminsky and James Van Horn Melton (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992). (This edition hereinafter cited as Brunner.)

3. Brunner, 218.

4. Brunner, 210.

5. Brunner, 283.

6. Algazi, 20.

7. Algazi, 18, 20.

8. Brunner, 220, n. 84.

9. Algazi, 79.

10. Brunner, 286-7.

11. Algazi, 75. Algazi pointed out that this document is particularly pertinent, as the danger of "foreign invasion" was real in this border area.

12. Brunner, 283.

13. Algazi, 82ff.

14. Algazi, 65. Thomas Head and Richard Landes provide another example of a meaning of "protection" at odds with Brunner's: "[C]astellans often enough interpreted their temporal rights (advocatia et vicaria) over ecclesiastical lands as a virtual licence to plunder. As Abbo of Fleury complained, 'Those who are these days called defenders of churches [advocati] defend that which by law belongs to the church only for their own use against the authority of laws and customs. They thus inflict violence on clerics and monks, and they rob the property of churches and monasteries for their own use and profit." Thomas Head and Richard Landes, eds., The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 14-15.

15. Algazi, 178-83. Algazi points out that this does not mean that Schutz und Schirm does not appear in the documents, only that they do not have the meaning Brunner attributed to them. Algazi, 128.

16. Algazi, 92, 84.

17. Algazi, 94.

18. Brunner, 14.

19. Brunner, 97-98.

20. Brunner, 20.

21. Brunner, 14.

22. Brunner, 16.

23. Brunner, 25.

24. Brunner, 13.

25. Brunner, 14.

26. Brunner, 36.

27. Brunner, 43.

28. Brunner, 44, 55. Marc Bloch wrote that "when in the thirteenth century the nobility had finally become a hereditary body, it tended to reserve for itself . . . any form of recourse to arms. Legal doctrine and the public authorities. . . readily followed suit, partly from sympathy with the prejudices of the noble class. . . . Thus violence became a class privilege." Feudal Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), vol. 1, 127.

29. Brunner, 63-67.

30. Brunner, 28, 67-81.

31. Brunner, 212; see also 82. This is not to say that nobles never felt the consequences of feuds. In the feuds studied by Stephen White and Geoffrey Koziol, numerous knights are killed. See Stephen D. White, "Feuding and Peace-Making in the Touraine around the year 1100," in Traditio 42 (1986), 195-263; and Geoffrey Koziol, "Monks, Feuds, and the Making of Peace in Eleventh-Century Flanders," in Head and Landes, The Peace of God, 239-58.

32. Brunner, 26.

33. Brunner, 86. For example, Brunner wrote that an attempt in the twelfth century to exclude the peasantry as a whole could not be enforced. Brunner, 84.

34. Brunner, 92. This is a theme Brunner returned to frequently; see e.g. Brunner, 24, 33, 72, 81, 121.

35. Brunner, 81; see also 73.

36. Feuds were apparently first successfully banished in the Norman states of Sicily, Normandy, and England. Brunner, 29; see also White, 200, n. 24.

37. Brunner, 43.

38. Brunner, 37.

39. Brunner, 40-41. Brunner acknowledged that the legitimacy of feuds was frequently challenged -- even among lords. Brunner, 36.

40. Brunner, 52. Other writers have commented on the difficulty in distinguishing between feuding and plunder; see e.g. White, 202.

41. Brunner, 9.

42. Algazi, 131, 146.

43. Algazi, 131-2.

44. Algazi, 135. Brunner wrote that a peasant feud was considered among the most serious of crimes. Brunner, 56.

45. Algazi, 154.

46. See e.g. Peter Blickle, "Die staatliche Funktion der Gemeinde -- Die politische Funktion des Bauern. Bemerkungen aufgrund von oberdeutschen Laendlichen Rechtsquellen," in Peter Blickle, ed., Deutsche Laendliche Rechtsquellen: Probleme und Wege der Weistumsforschung (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1977), 205-23; and Heidi Wunder, Die baeuerliche Gemeinde in Deutschland (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 47.

47. Algazi, 150.

48. Algazi, 150.

49. Algazi, 196-97.

50. Algazi, 198, n. 142.

51. Algazi, 198.

52. Algazi, 202.

53. Algazi, 199.

54. Algazi, 217. Algazi also quoted at length a 1513 play in which the character of a Swabian peasant explains that his own lord is often the cause of war, does nothing to protect his peasants in the event of war, and that life under the lord in peacetime brings no relief from violence or oppressive taxes. Algazi, 195.

55. Algazi, 221.

56. Brunner, 39.

57. Algazi, 224.

58. Algazi, 211.

59. Algazi, 234.

60. Otto Brunner, Die Finanzen der Stadt Wien von den Anfaengen bis ins 16. Jahrhundert (Studien aus dem Archiv der Stadt Wien) (Vienna: Deutscher Verlag fuer Jugend und Volk, 1929).

61. Brigitte Pohl-Resl, correspondence with the author, 12 Dec. 1997.

62. Brunner, Translators' Introduction, xv.

63. Otto Brunner, Land und Herrschaft: Grundfragen der territorialen Verfassungsgeschichte Suedostdeutschlands im Mittelalter, 3d ed. (Bruenn/Muenchen/Wien: Rudolf M. Rohrer Verlag, 1943), 526.

64. Brunner, Translators' Introduction, xx.

65. Brunner, 97.

66. Brunner, 96.

67. Brunner, 97.

68. John Freed reviewed the 1991 English-language edition in Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 69,1 (January 1994), 112.

69. Brunner, Translators' Introduction, xxxvi.

70. Brunner, Translators' Introduction, xli.

71. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners, NY: Knopf, 1996.

72. Howard Kaminsky, review of Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren, by Gadi Algazi, Speculum 73/3 (July 1998): 799-802.

73. Algazi, 111, 112.

74. "Das deutsche Land wurde als Verband landbeherrschender und land bebauender Leute verstanden, in denen die konkrete Ordnung des landrechtes gilt, das Landrecht, das mehr als eine Summe positiver Ordnungen ist. . . ." Brunner, 1959 and 1965 editions, 440. In the English-language translation, however, this is rendered: "The German Land has rather been understood as a community of men ruling the land and directing its cultivation. This community was ordered in each case by a specific territorial law (Landrecht) that was more than the sum of positive ordinance; it was rather based on a religious order, identical with 'justice,' that stood above the people whom it also obligated." Brunner, 364; see Algazi, 114, n. 58.

75. Brunner cited Schmitt repeatedly, even in the revised edition. See, e.g., Brunner, 14; 31, n. 95; 95, 96.

76. Algazi, 122-23, citing Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1933), 34-35.

77. Algazi, 115.

78. Algazi, 127.

79. Brunner, 90.