Philip Daileader

title.none: Viader, L'Andorre du IXe au XIVe siecle (Philip Daileader)

identifier.other: baj9928.0410.016 04.10.16

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Philip Daileader, The College of William and Mary,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Viader, Roland. L'Andorre du IXe au XIVe siecle: Montagne, feodalite et communautes. Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2003. Pp. 440. ISBN: $48.00 2-85816-652-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.10.16

Viader, Roland. L'Andorre du IXe au XIVe siecle: Montagne, feodalite et communautes. Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2003. Pp. 440. ISBN: $48.00 2-85816-652-8.

Reviewed by:

Philip Daileader
The College of William and Mary

A tiny, archaic, fairy-tale-ish mountain principality that is a mecca for shoppers looking to buy DVD players, cameras, and other consumer goods duty free: such is the strange image of Andorra today. An independent state located in the Pyrenees whose modern population is well under 100,000 people and whose co-rulers are still nominally the president of France and the bishop of Urgell, Andorra might seem to be nothing more than a historical oddity, unsuitable for investigation by historians hoping to produce work of broad import. Roland Viader, nevertheless, is a serious historian trained by Pierre Bonnassie, whose La Catalogne du milieu du Xe a la fin du XIe siecle: croissance et mutations d'une societe, published in 1975-1976, remains a formidable presence in Catalonian and Occitanian medieval history. Bonnassie supervised the thesis from which the present book grew, and Viader's L'Andorre lives up to the high standards set by Bonnassie and his other students.

Viader makes his impressive scholarship accessible to those unfamiliar with Andorran history. His introductory essay acquaints readers with Andorra's geographical complexities and historiographical traditions. It also provides an exemplary discussion of the source material with which Viader works--any graduate student, especially one interested in Catalonian and southern French history, would do well to look at Viader's discussion of his sources and to regard it as a model worthy of emulation. Viader notes that, considering the chronological span of his book, his documents (approximately 600 for six centuries) are not many. The chronological distribution of his documents is uneven and what one would expect: about 20 documents for the ninth and tenth centuries, about 40 for the eleventh, and about 160 for the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with the remainder (more than half of the total) coming from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Until the end of the thirteenth century, most of Viader's sources hail from the episcopal archive at Urgell, but after 1300, 90 percent of his source material comes from the holdings of Andorran families such as those of the Casa Marti and the Casa Serola. The Latinity of his documents changes as well, as his scribes tended to write a relatively pure Latin in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries but drew heavily on vernacular vocabulary in the thirteenth century. Nonetheless Viader finds something to celebrate in this tricky source material. Compared to that of other Pyrenean regions, Andorra's documentation is ample, and the diversity of his documents compensates for their paucity. While nine tenths of his documents are either charters or notarial records, Viader has at his disposal an array of acts: donations, convenientiae and other agreements, arbitrations, oaths, wills, capbreus (a type of land survey), and privileges, among others.

Andorra per se is not Viader's main interest. The author's preface states that Viader had already identified the issues that he wanted to address in his research before he became interested in the history of Andorra, a history about which he knew "nearly nothing" when he first undertook this project (8). Those issues are lordship and community, each of which is the focus of one of the book's two parts. Part I, Six siecles des dominations, treats lordship in five chapters. Chapters one and two introduce readers to the counts of Urgell, the monastery of Tavernoles, the bishops of Urgell, the comtors of Caboet, the viscounts of Castelbon, and the counts of Foix, all of whom had rights of lordship in Andorra during the period under consideration. Viader reconstructs how these lords acquired their rights of lordship and traces the waxing and waning of their power amid turbulent Andorran politics. Chapter three, L'architecture des dominations, examines the legal and social context within which those lords operated. Chapters four and five assess the severity of lordship in Andorra; the first of these chapters treats seigniorial exactions levied on agricultural and pastoral activities, while the second addresses rights of justice, levies on trade, and so forth.

Viader's examination of lordship in Andorra reveals that the tithe was by far the most widespread and significant form of seigniorial levy, and that lordship fell more heavily on agricultural than on pastoral activities. His most important contention, however, relates to the chronology and severity of lordship in Andorra. To a certain extent, the chronology of change in Andorra parallels the chronology that Bonnassie has described for the rest of Catalonia. From the ninth to roughly the middle of the eleventh century, a few high-ranking lords held seigniorial power in Andorra. During the period of "the feudal transition" from about the year 1000 to 1133, the local aristocracy changed structurally as a result of a proliferation of feudal ties, armed retinues, and violence, which came at the expense of comital authority. Seigniorial rights became increasingly confused and contested.

In Andorra, however, the feudal revolution of the long eleventh century was abortive. Between the end of the eleventh century and the middle of the thirteenth century, bishops of Urgell became the preeminent seigniorial authority in the region, acquiring the powers once held by the counts of Urgell (who formally surrendered their powers to the bishops in 1133) and striving to recuperate and to reorganize seigniorial rights in the region. The few ninth- and tenth-century attempts at building and maintaining castles in Andorra (specifically at Bragafols and Enclar) ended in those castles' destruction by the eleventh century, leaving Andorra a place where castles were "pas banaux mais bannis" (250). The absence of castles, of sizable military retinues, and of large manors contributed to a lightly felt lordship, especially in the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries. Only in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries did banal lordship emerge in Andorra as a consequence of struggles between the bishops of Urgell, on the one hand, and the viscounts of Castelbon and the counts of Foix, on the other.

Viader explains the weakness of lordship in Andorra not simply in terms of the region's geographical isolation, but also (indeed, primarily) in terms of its community structures, which are the focus of the book's second part. The Andorrans' active and, for a time, successful resistance against seigniorial encroachment is the leitmotiv unifying the three chapters that conclude the book. In chapter six, La longue vie d'un monde pre-feodal, Viader discusses how the Andorrans' control over instruments of power monopolized elsewhere by the aristocracy, such as military service, mills, and law courts, enabled the region's inhabitants to limit the burdens of lordship into the thirteenth century even as much of the rest of Catalonia succumbed to harsh aristocratic domination. Viader cites the region's inheritance laws, which preserved a Visigothic and Roman tradition of partibility, as evidence of this strong continuity with the preseigniorial past. Chapter seven discusses Andorrans' control over their local churches: their construction, the choice of the clerics who served in them, and the disposition of the tithes that supported them. This religious self-determination, too, hindered those with lordly ambitions and kept them from establishing themselves more powerfully in the region. Chapter eight picks up where chapter six left off, showing how Andorran communities responded to the strengthening of lordship in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and assessing the consequences of that strengthening (for example, the mid-thirteenth-century replacement of partible inheritance by heretament, whereby one heir received the patrimony whole.)

Viader should be commended for his scholarly caution and restraint. He explicitly refuses to quantify documents that are not suitable for quantification. He carefully explains what he means by the terms feodalite and societe feodale, which Viader uses in the sociological sense associated with Marc Bloch and Bonnassie (rather than in the Marxist economic sense or in the juridical sense associated with Francois-Louis Ganshof) as denoting "the subjection of the peasantry to a warrior aristocracy" and a "fragmentation of power which comes to be organized around fiefs and personal ties of dependence between individuals" (68). Although Viader calls his book L'Andorre du IXe au XIVe siecle, the endpoint of his book is actually 1419, when the foundations for what would eventually become the subsequent Andorran government, the Consell general, were established, and Viader sometimes draws on even later fifteenth-century material when it is relevant to his study. If anything, the book's title slightly understates the author's reach and accomplishments. This uncommon modesty reflects Viader's prudence.

I have only one mild criticism, and it is, understood rightly, really a compliment in disguise. Students who learn the historian's craft from a teacher of Pierre Bonnassie's stature should, of course, come to share that teacher's interests and to adopt that teacher's methods as they develop their own unique identities. Certainly Viader is capable of differing with Bonnassie (see, for example, page 113, where Viader discusses the typology of fiefs developed by Bonnassie), and by venturing into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Viader enters temporal territory that Bonnassie did not cover in his magnum opus. However, L'Andorre operates within parameters set by Bonnassie's earlier work, and while Viader is unusually well read in the work of French, Catalan, and Anglo-American historians, Bonnassie lurks everywhere--he is named in the text on dozens of occasions and cited, I would guess, about one hundred times. The proportion between master and disciple is not quite optimal here. I would encourage this talented historian to move out even farther from his mentor's shadow.

It would not do to end this review with criticism, no matter how gentle. Roland Viader's study of Andorra is an important contribution by a young scholar who has already accomplished much and from whom even greater things can be expected in the future. The author's scholarly virtuosity makes this book mandatory reading for all those with an interest in Pyrenean history or in the history of lordship, and I would warmly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of medieval Catalonia or the medieval Midi.