Joseph Shatzmiller

title.none: Duby, Recueil des Pancartes (Shatzmiller)

identifier.other: baj9928.0101.011 01.01.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Joseph Shatzmiller, Duke University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Duby, Georges. Recueil des pancartes de l'abbaye de Ferte-Sur-Grosne. Bibliotheque du moyen age n. 17. Bruxelles: De Boeck Universite, 2000. Pp. iv, 260. 2430 BEF. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.01.11

Duby, Georges. Recueil des pancartes de l'abbaye de Ferte-Sur-Grosne. Bibliotheque du moyen age n. 17. Bruxelles: De Boeck Universite, 2000. Pp. iv, 260. 2430 BEF. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Joseph Shatzmiller
Duke University

Is there a medievalist anywhere who did not turn to the works of Georges Duby (1919-1996) when writing or teaching? A negative answer to the question does not require much explanation: for the last fifty years were marked by the work and thinking of this momentous scholar, considered the leading authority in France and one of the most important historians of his time. Duby started his research by working on agrarian structures and regionalism--his doctoral thesis, La societe aux XIe-XIIe siecle dans la region maconnaise was published in 1953--but he did not limit himself to the study of rural history of the medieval west. This activity was followed by publishing a three-volume history of cathedrals, by devoting much energy to the story of the Cistercian order and its founder, Bernard of Claiveaux. As well as his works on the history of the nobility or that of kinship and marriage, he was one of the initiators of research into collective mental sensitivities. In 1996, months before his death, he published a three-volume series on medieval women. Duby believed that concentrating on men and their actions, while ignoring the contributions of women, was simply writing bad, and unreliable, history.

In order to become professor in a French university, the law still required in the 1950s that the candidate present a second, or 'secondary', thesis, which, for medievalists, consisted of the discovery and publishing of unknown documents. Duby discovered, in the archives of the department of Chalon- et-Loire, at Chalon, twenty-six pieces of parchment, handsomely written, which contained 268 deeds dealing with all the assets of a Cistercian abbey of "La Ferte-sur-Grosne" in the sourth of Burgundy. They cover a period of about sixty-five years, from the year 113 to 1178. These parchments ('pancartes' is the term Duby used) contained copies of deeds, mostly gifts given to the monks and the abbey. As the Cistercians had seven domains, isolated and at times quite far away from each other, each of these 'pancartes'--or several of them--dealt with deeds of only one of the seven domains. For this reason, a presentation of the parchments in a chronological order turned out to be impossible. The chronology had been quite difficult to establish; only ten of the 268 acts had dates. Duby, consulting parallel documents and displaying much ingenuity, was in a position to establish dates for practically all of them.

In most cases, the documents--some very short and others quite long--tell the story of gifts (donum is the Latin) offered to the monks by individuals or institutions. These included not only land property at times enclosed and surprisingly, at times free holdings ('allodial' is the technical term). The monks thus acquired the right of pasture, or the right to collect the land tax (the 'dime') or the tax on fruit--the famous tasca , a tax, by the way, which has, in my opinion, mid-Eastern origins. Our Cistercians were very eager to acquire mills, which left them, for their own consumption, part of the wheat they were grinding. More than devoting their efforts to work in the fields--which they did not abandon altogether--they concentrated their activity on pastoral economy, which enabled them to pay at times with leather, shoes, or even cows. While in many instances, these documents present these acquisitions as gifts stemming from pious sentiments, it is clear that some were the result of exchange or simple purchase. Moreover: some of the properties fell into their hands after stormy litigation. Until 1160, the monks would ask the diocese's bishop to threaten with excommunication anyone who would challenge the rights they had acquired.

Written by a light hand, but a very precise one, Duby did not fail to grasp the importance of his discovery for the understanding the mechanics of the feudal regime and its peculiar terminology. He also stressed its importance for realizing what had been daily life, not only of the monks, but for lay people as well. The young scholar that he was then, he provided also indices, glossaries, and listed the evidence concerning lost 'pancartes' that he found in other sources. The book became thus a wonderful work of erudition. Still the great historian had been very discreet as far as publishing and diffusing it. Only a small number of copies were produced, so that the book soon became a rarity. Most scholars who needed it had to go to a lot of trouble in order to consult it. One has therefore to thank Pierre Toubert, Jacques Dalarun, and their colleagues, editiors of the Bibliotheque du moyen age for giving us a 'second chance', so to speak, to have the book in a form untouched since 1953, when "La societe maconaise" was still in press, about to be published. . . .