The general Fuero of León, first appeared in the ordinances of a council held in the city by Alfonso V in 1020, allows seigneury peasants, until then bound to the land, to leave it in exchange of a prize and under certain conditions. The interpretation of these articles has been long discussed, mostly from an economistic view. Against that background, this paper proposes a new, more political explanation based on an explicitly comparative research design. Theoretically, I hypothesize that two explanatory variables mattered: (a) what was common to all early medieval christian reigns in the western regions, namely their political organization which was based on self-defence (and hence lordship), and which transformed Roman legal categories; and (b) what was specific to the Asturian and Leonese Kingdom, the sovereign's political and military goals of the Reconquista and recovery of the lost hegemony among Christian reigns, which imposes the need for men in order to repopulate. Freedom of movement as recognized to peasants (and which initiates the decline of seigneury) would represent the preparation of what would soon be the "política forera" of the Leonese kings (the concession of municipal charters of rights). In order to test this hypothesis and introduce elements of discussion on methodology, I compare the case of León of early recognition of freedom of movement with another case, similar in many aspects (self-defence), but different in what concerns the second variable here considered (the disposal of land and the need for repopulation): Catalonia, with more defined and stable borders, does not have this practically unlimited quantity of land, nor (thus) the need for attracting settlers through land-liberalizing policies.

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Marzal Yetano, Elia

The recognition of freedom of movement to seigneury peasants and the "política forera" of the Leonese kings

The general Fuero of León, first appeared in the ordinances of a council held in the city by Alfonso V in 1020, allows seigneury peasants, until then bound to the land, to leave it in exchange of a prize and under certain conditions. The interpretation of these articles has been long discussed, mostly from an economistic view. Against that background, this paper proposes a new, more political explanation based on an explicitly comparative research design. Theoretically, I hypothesize that two explanatory variables mattered: (a) what was common to all early medieval christian reigns in the western regions, namely their political organization which was based on self-defence (and hence lordship), and which transformed Roman legal categories; and (b) what was specific to the Asturian and Leonese Kingdom, the sovereign's political and military goals of the Reconquista and recovery of the lost hegemony among Christian reigns, which imposes the need for men in order to repopulate. Freedom of movement as recognized to peasants (and which initiates the decline of seigneury) would represent the preparation of what would soon be the "política forera" of the Leonese kings (the concession of municipal charters of rights). In order to test this hypothesis and introduce elements of discussion on methodology, I compare the case of León of early recognition of freedom of movement with another case, similar in many aspects (self-defence), but different in what concerns the second variable here considered (the disposal of land and the need for repopulation): Catalonia, with more defined and stable borders, does not have this practically unlimited quantity of land, nor (thus) the need for attracting settlers through land-liberalizing policies.
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The recognition of freedom of movement to seigneury peasants and the "política forera" of the Leonese kings
Marzal Yetano, Elia
2012 ESCLH Conference
European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH)
La Haya (Netherlands), 09/07/2012 - 10/07/2012

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