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The Western Economy: Revival or Revolution? - Documents

Document # 6

Pope Innocent III:

License to Venice to Trade With The Saracens, 1198

Besides the indulgence we have promised to those going at their own expense to the east, and besides the favor of apostolic protection granted to those helping that country, we have renewed the decree of the Lateran council which excommunicated those who presume to give arms, iron, or wood to the Saracens for their galleys, and which excommunicated those who act as helmsmen on their galleys and dhows, and which at the same time decreed that they should be deprived of their property for their transgressions by the secular arm and by the consuls of the cities, and that, if caught, they become the slaves of their captors. Following the example of Pope Gregory, our predecessor of pious memory, we have placed under sentence of excommunication all those who in future consort with the Saracens, directly or indirectly, or who attempt to give or send aid to them by sea, as long as the war be tween them and us shall last.

But our beloved sons Andreas Donatus and Benedict Grilion, your messengers, recently came to the apostolic see and were at pains to explain to us that by this decree your city was suffering no small loss, for she is not devoted to agriculture but rather to shipping and to commerce. We, therefore, induced by the paternal affection we have for you, and commanding you under pain of anathema not to aid the Saracens by selling or giving to them or exchanging with them iron, flax, pitch, pointed stakes, ropes, arms, helmets, ships, and boards, or unfinished wood, do permit for the present, until we issue further orders, the taking of goods, other than those mentioned, to Egypt and Babylon, whenever necessary. We hope that in consideration of this kindness you will bear in mind the aiding of Jerusalem, taking care not to abuse the apostolic decree, for there is no doubt that whosoever violates his conscience in evading this order will incur the anger of God.

Source: From: J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1855), Vol. CCXIV, p. 493, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 104-105.

Document # 7

Manumission of a Villein, 1278

In the 13th century. As the economy became monetized, serfdom - a formal legal state of bondage - tended to give way to more variable arrangements. This is an example of a document of manumission in 1278, from the records of the abbey of Peterborough.

To all the faithful of Christ to whom the present writing shall come, Richard by the divine permission abbot of Peterborough and the Convent of the same place, eternal greeting in the Lord. Let all know that we have manumitted and liberated from all yoke of servitude William, the son of Richard of Wythington whom previously we have held as our born bondman, with his whole progeny and all his chattels, so that neither we nor our successors shall be able to require or exact any right or claim in the said William, his progeny, or his chattel. But the same William with his whole progeny and all his chattels will remain free and quit and without disturbance, exaction, or any claim on the part of us or our successors by reason of any servitude, forever. We will moreover and concede that he and his heirs shall hold the messuages, land, rents, and meadows in Wythington which his ancestors held from us and our predecessors, by giving and performing the fine which is called merchet for giving his daughter in marriage, and tallage from year to year according to our will,-that he shall have and hold these for the fuiture from us and our successors freely, quietly, peacefully, and hereditarily, by paying thence to us and our successors yearly 40s. sterling, at the four terms of the year, namely; at St. John the Baptist's day, 10s., at Michaelmas, 10s., at Christmas, 10s., and at Easter, 10s., for all service, exaction, custom, and secular demand; saving to its nevertheless attendance at our court of Castre every three weeks, wardship and relief, and outside service of our lord the king, when they shall happen. And if it shall happen that the said William or his heirs shall die at any time without an heir, the said messuage, land, rents, and meadows with their appurtenances shall return fully and completely to us and our successors. Nor will it be allowed to the said William or his heirs the said messuages, land, rents, meadows, or any part of them to give, sell, alienate, mortgage, or in any way encumber by which the said messuage, land, rents, and meadows should not return to us and our successors in the form declared above. But if this should occur later their deed shall be declared null and what is thus alienated shall come to us and our successors. In testimony of which duplicate seals are appended to this writing, formed as a chirograph, for the sake of greater security. These being witnesses, etc. Given at Borough for the love of lord Robert of good memory, once abbot, our predecessor and maternal uncle of the said William, and at the instance of the good man brother Hugh of Mutton, relative of the said abbot Robert; A.D. 1278, on the eve of Pentecost.

Source: J. H. Robinson, trans. University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897]. Voll III: 5, pp.31-32

Document # 8

Giovanni Villani's Florence

Since we have described the income and expenditure of the commune of Florence during this period [ca. 1338], it seems fitting to mention other important features of our city so that our successors in later times can be aware of any rise or decline in the condition and power of our city, and so that the wise and worthy citizens who rule in future times can advance its condition and power through the record and example of this chronicle. Careful investigation has established that at that time there were in Florence approximately 25,000 men capable of bearing arms, ages fifteen to seventy, all citizens, of which 1,500 were noble and powerful citizens required as Grandi to post the customary guarantees. There were then around seventy-five fully-equipped knights. We find of course that before the government of the "second people," which is still in power, there were more than 250 knights, but after the people began its rule the Grandi had neither the status nor the authority they formerly enjoyed.

We learn from the taxes collected at the gates that around 5,900,000 gallons of wine entered Florence yearly, and in times of abundance there would be around 1,120,000 gallons more.

The city required approximately 4,000 oxen and calves, 60,000 sheep, 20,000 goats and 30,000 pigs annually.

During the month of July 4,000 loads of melons came through the San Friano gate and were distributed throughout the city.

During this period the following offices in Florence, each of which administered justice and had the right to torture, were held by foreigners: The podestà; the captain and defender of the people and the guilds; the executor of the ordinances of justice; the captain of the guard or conservator of the people, who had more power than the others (though all four of the offices just mentioned could administer punishment); the judge handling civil justice and appeals; the judge in charge of taxes; the official concerned with female ornamentation; the official concerned with the merchants; the official concerned with the Lana guild; the ecclesiastical officials; the court of the bishop of Florence; the court of the bishop of Fiesole; the inquisitor; and other dignitaries of our city which should not be left unmentioned if those who come after us are to be properly informed. Within the walls, Florence was laid out and built up well, with many lovely houses. At that time construction went on continually and techniques were improved in order to make the buildings comfortable and luxurious. Examples of every sort of improvement were imported from abroad. Cathedrals, churches for friars of every order, and magnificent monasteries were built.

Beyond this, there was no citizen, Popolano or Grande, who had not built or was not building a large and rich estate in the countryside, with an expensive mansion and other buildings even better than those in the city. Each one of them was sinning in this respect, and they were considered mad for their inordinate expenditure. It was such a marvelous thing to see that most foreigners unfamiliar with Florence thought, when they came from abroad, that the sumptuous buildings and beautiful palaces occupying a three-mile area around the city were a part of the city itself, in the manner of Rome, to say nothing of the sumptuous palaces, towers, courts and walled gardens farther from the city, which would have been called castles in any other territory. In short, it was determined that, within a six-mile radius of Florence, there were more than twice the number of sumptuous and noble mansions found in Florence itself. And with this we have said enough about the situation in Florence.

Source: Translation by David Burr.