John W. Baldwin

title.none: Aurell, Actes de la famille Porcelet, 972-1320 (John W. Baldwin)

identifier.other: baj9928.0210.019 02.10.19

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John W. Baldwin, Johns Hopkins University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Aurell, Martin, ed. Actes de la famille Porcelet, 972-1320. Collection de documents inedits sur l'histoire de France. Section d'histoire et philogie des civilisations medievales. Paris: Comite des Travaux historiques et scientifiques, 2001. Pp. lxvi, 732. EUR 69.00. ISBN: 2-7355-0446-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.10.19

Aurell, Martin, ed. Actes de la famille Porcelet, 972-1320. Collection de documents inedits sur l'histoire de France. Section d'histoire et philogie des civilisations medievales. Paris: Comite des Travaux historiques et scientifiques, 2001. Pp. lxvi, 732. EUR 69.00. ISBN: 2-7355-0446-8.

Reviewed by:

John W. Baldwin
Johns Hopkins University

Among the younger generation of medieval historians in France, Martin Aurell is certainly one of the most productive and versatile. As professor at Poitiers he is presently active in animating, organizing, and publishing a series of colloquia on the Plantagenets in France. In 1989 he brought out "La vielle et l'epee: Troubadours et politique en Provence au XIIIe siecle," which, in my opinion, is one of the most successful readings of poetry in a political context to have appeared in medieval literary criticism. His opus magnum is "Les noces du comte: Mariage et pouvoir en Catalogne (785-1213)" (1995) that demonstrates how the counts of Barcelona constructed their political position through marriage alliances that naturally depended largely on the conformity of their wives and daughters. But, of course, as a beginning medievalist, Martin Aurell was required to write a doctoral thesis, which he published as Une famille de la noblesse provencale au moyen age: Les Porcelet (1986). This monograph traces the rise to prominence and the subsequent decline of the Porcelets, an urban family of lesser significance from Arles who competed with more established Arlesian families, such as the Baux. The success of the Porcelets (that occurred between 1190 and 1210) and their later demise was largely due to close connections to the successive counts of Provence from the houses of Barcelona and Anjou. This study of a single Provencal family is one of the first of its kind. Its closest comparison is furnished by the thesis of the American Edwin Smyrl, "La famille des Baux" (1968) whose life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident on the eve of his doctoral defense. As is customary, Aurell's thesis was accompanied by "pieces justificatives," a collection of 606 acts of the family, which the present volume now makes available to the scholarly public.

Editing according to the exacting standards of the Comite des travaux historiques, Aurell has collected every act that mentions the name of a member of the Porcelet family from 972 to 1320, even when they appear only as witnesses. Numbering now 637 acts, 274 are printed in full. Those that merely mention the name are summarized along with the full details of the document's provenance. Although this collection now allows scholars to read for themselves the texts mentioned in the thesis, it is doubtful that they will be able to change the major outlines and conclusion's of Aurell's monograph. The copious indices of names of persons and places will enable quick access to specific material. Equally important, an extensive subject index, organized mainly by Latin terminology, will encourage scholars to formulate wide-ranging and new questions according to their interests in institutions, juridical procedures, social status etc. Most historians will recognize that this volume is a "collection factice," not made by the Porcelet family, but by Martin Aurell himself from a wide range of sources and with little help from modern "erudites." Keeping this condition in mind, they will appreciate Aurell's extensive introduction to the sources. He has analysed the acts according to chronology (the decade 1190-1210 witnessed a highpoint), transmission (originals, 29%, copies in cartularies 31%, secular princes, 6%; and public notaries, 3%), publication of hitherto unedited acts (mainly after 1170), and the judicial nature of the act (donation, sale, judgment, inquest, seigniorial tax etc.) Of greatest importance, in my opinion, are the "fonds" or sources that preserved these acts. Two-thirds, according to Aurell's count, were ecclesiastical, one quarter, from secular princes. The cartularies and archives of the ecclesiastical houses therefore served as floodlights sweeping across the countryside, occasionally picking up traces of the Porcelets. First was the great cartulary of Saint-Victor of Marseilles. If it had been destroyed, there would be little trace of the Porcelets in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Then came the cartularies and archives of the military orders of the Hospitalers and Templars of Saint-Gilles, followed by the cartularies of the cathedral chapter and the church of Trinquetaille at Arles. Not until the thirteenth century do the archives of the counts of Barcelona become important; not until the 1260s, those of the Angevin counts, which were subsequently destroyed in the bombings of 1943. Public notaries do not appear until the end of the thirteenth century. In other words, the history of the Porcelets, for the most part, is not oriented to the family's point of view but rests on documents selected and preserved by the clergy. Even when the counts did recognize the Porcelets' service, they likewise followed their own particular agenda. The notaries, who might have been more susceptible to the family's wishes, appear late. Medieval historians have long been aware of this situation, but, accepting it as inevitable, they have not factored it into their conclusions. An act or charter is not a pure, unmediated document. It was written, selected and preserved mainly by churchmen. All were redacted in the Latin of the clergy; not one in Provencal, the language of the laity, unless it has escaped me. Since the medieval historian is hostage to this situation, it is her/his task to seek to understand how ecclesiastics have shaped our knowledge of the lay world: what we can know; what we cannot know; what questions we can ask; and not ask. Until these issues are faced directly, our conclusions remain incomplete. Martin Aurell's collection of documentation for the family of Porcelet offers us an excellent terrain for exercising these analytical skills in compensating for the ecclesiastical bias of our sources. In our age, when the time-consuming and patient skills of the Maurist editor are poorly rewarded, we are indeed grateful to him for providing us with this splendid corpus of documentation.