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The Lord/Dependant (vassal) Relationship: a case study from Aquitaine c. 1030
Journal of Medieval History (1998)
  • George T. Beech, Western Michigan University

This paper, a contribution to the current discussion on feudalism, is a study of a single, exceptionally well-documented lord/dependant (vassal) relationship from early eleventh century Aquitaine. It is based on an analysis of a 340-line narrative (Paris, BN, Lat., 5927) of a dispute between the Count of Poitiers and one of his castellans, Hugh of Lusignan. It examines successively, (1) the author's vocabulary of dependence, (2) contemporary conceptions of lordship and dependence, (3) the customary basis of this relationship; i.e. obligations, restrictions, and rights, (4) its landed, economic basis, and (5) its effectiveness. What distinguishes this narrative from the charters, legal texts, and chronicles normally used by historians of feudalism is its secular perspective and its conversational mode. The protagonists tell the story in vivid live speech, while the author reveals their inner thoughts and motivations in his third-person commentaries. Its most significant finding is that the customs commonly thought to regulate the lord/dependant relationship, fidelity, service, aids, etc., had little relevance to concrete situations in daily life. To avoid discord and violence, lord and his dependant had constantly to negotiate new agreements to deal with each crisis as it arose. The kind of relationship the two men worked out in practice depended on power, wealth, and personal qualities such as ingenuity, daring, and ruthlessness.

  • 11th century,
  • Aquitaine
Publication Date
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From Taylor & Francis Online
Citation Information
George T. Beech. "The Lord/Dependant (vassal) Relationship: a case study from Aquitaine c. 1030" Journal of Medieval History Vol. 24 (1998)
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