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Factions and Vengeance in Renaissance Italy. A Review Article

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

Daniel Lord Smail
Fordham University


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CSSH Discussion
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 1996

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1 See White, Stephen D., “Feuding and Peace-Making in the Touraine around the Year 1100,” Traditio, 42 (1986), 196-9CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for a discussion of dictionary definitions. And is it wise to categorically exclude (as Emrys Peters does) all responses to homicide vengeance, even if that vengeance is exacted by the state? See Peters, E. L., “Foreword,” to Black-Michaud, Jacob, Cohesive Force: Feud in the Mediterranean and the Middle East (New York, 1975)Google Scholar, xiii-xiv.

2 For example, Miller, William Ian, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland (Chicago, 1990), 5CrossRefGoogle Scholar. “Medieval Iceland… was a society without any coercive state apparatus; it had only a weak sense of lordship, yet at the same time it had a highly developed legal system with courts and elaborate rules of procedure and equally elaborate rules of substantive law. But there was no provision for public enforcement of the law; it was up to the aggrieved party to see that his wrongs were righted and execute the judgements he obtained on his own behalf.”

3 As the Germanic nations of the early Middle Ages knew so well. On the payment of money compensation for crime, see inter alia the introduction to The Laws of the Salian Franks, Drew, Katherine Fischer, trans. (Philadelphia, 1991), 3536Google Scholar.

4 The bibliography is immense. Early works in European history include Brunner, Heinrich, Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1906)Google Scholar; Pollock, Frederick and Maitland, F. W., The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (Cambridge, 1896)Google Scholar; and Maitland, F. W., The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland (Cambridge, 1911)Google Scholar. See also Petit-Dutaillis, Charles, Documents nouveaux sur les moeurs populates et le droit de vengeance dans les Pays-Bas au XVe siècle (Paris, 1908)Google Scholar, which includes commentary and a brief orientation to the large contemporary bibliography (pp. 39ff); see also Bertha Surtees Phillpotts, Kindred and Clan in the Middle Ages and After: A Study in the Sociology of the Teutonic Races (1913, Reprint, New York, 1974). For a more recent orientation to the nineteenth-century bibliography, see Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., The Long-Haired Kings and Other Studies in Frankish History (New York, 1962)Google Scholar, ch. 2; also useful are Ganshof, F. L., Frankish Institutions under Charlemagne, Bryce, and Lyon, Mary, trans. (Providence, R.I., 1968)Google Scholar, and Fichtenau, Heinrich, The Carolingian Empire, Munz, Peter, trans. (Oxford, 1957)Google Scholar. On evolutionary interpretations of jurisprudence, see Cherry, Richard, Lectures on the Growth of Criminal Law in Ancient Communities (New York, 1890)Google Scholar, and the comments on Cherry in Otterbein, Keith F. and Otterbein, Charlotte Swanson, “An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth: A Cross-Cultural Study of Feuding,” American Anthropologist, 67:6 (1965), 1470, 1475CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Evans-Pritchard, E. E., The Nuer, a Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford, 1947)Google Scholar; Gluckman, Max, “The Peace in the Feud,” Past and Present, 8 (1955), 114CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Black-Michaud, Jacob, Cohesive Force: Feud in the Mediterranean and the Middle East (Oxford, 1975)Google Scholar and its useful bibliographic discussion. See also the recent and helpful collection by Khoury, Philip S. and Kostiner, Joseph, eds., Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East (Berkeley, 1990)Google Scholar. For some insights on the history of law and anthropology, see Moore, Sally Falk, “Legal Liability and Evolutionary Interpretation: Some Aspects of Strict Liability, Self-Help, and Collective Responsibility,” in Law as Process: An Anthropological Approach (London, 1978)Google Scholar, and Geary, Patrick J., “Vivre en conflit dans une France sans Etat: typologie des mecanismes de reglement des conflits (1050–1200),” Annales E.S.C., 41 (1986), 1107–33Google Scholar.

6 Medieval historical interest in vengeance had not died out in the intervening years, see Maugain, Gabriel, Moeurs italiennes de la Renaissance: La vengeance (Paris, 1935)Google Scholar; Julius Goebel, Felony and Misdemeanor: a Study in the History of Criminal Law (1937; Reprint, Philadelphia, 1976); Otto Brunner, Land and Lordship: Structures of Governance in Medieval Austria, Howard Kaminsky and James Van Horn Melton, trans. (1939; Reprint, Philadelphia, 1992).

7 See Stephen White, “Feuding and Peace-Making,” 258, note 252, for a thorough and up-todate bibliographic survey of recent studies of the feud. I have discussed some of the subsequent literature in my Common Violence: Vengeance and Inquisition in Medieval Marseille,” Past and Present, 151 (1996), 2859CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 The widely cited book by Black-Michaud, Cohesive Force, is the paradigm example. The recent disillusionment with structure seems to have killed any interest on the part of anthropologists in studying the feud: I know of no major anthropological works after Christopher Boehm, Blood Revenge: The Anthropology of Feuding in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies (Lawrence, KN, 1984)Google Scholar. Among historians, the sources used do not always lend themselves to a diachronic perspective. To take an example, Miller offers some speculations in Bloodtaking and Peacemaking on why the restraints typical of saga Iceland decayed in the thirteenth century; but, since the forces behind this transformation also seem to have brought an end to saga-writing, it is difficult to study this transformation. White, in “Feuding and Peace-Making,” does suggest (p. 259,1 paraphrase his argument here) that the declining influence of matrilateral ties in upperclass kinship in the eleventh and twelfth centuries may well have exacerbated feuding by limiting structural intermediaries; but in general his presentation does not try to situate feuding in a diachronic perspective. The best historical or processual analysis of the feud can be found in Wilson's, Stephen masterly Feuding, Conflict and Banditry in Nineteenth-Century Corsica (Cambridge, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also the comments of Marya Petrusewicz in a review of this book, Corsica: Old Vendetta and the Modern State,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 21:2 (1990), 295301Google Scholar. On the anthropology of process and its relevance to social-legal history, see inter alia Moore, Law as Process; Idem., Explaining the Present: Theoretical Dilemmas in Processual Ethnography,” American Ethnologist, 14 (1987), 727–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Roberts, Simon, Order and Dispute: An Introduction to Legal Anthropology (Oxford, 1979)Google Scholar; Just, Peter, “History, Power, Ideology, and Culture: Current Directions in the Anthropology of Law,” Law and Society Review, 26:2 (1992), 373411CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 The work of Joseph R. Strayer is typical of this perspective. See his On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State (Princeton, 1970)Google Scholar.

10 For some sense of contemporary French perspectives on Italian practices, see Chiffoleau, Jacques, Les justices du pape: Délinquance et criminalité dans la région d'Avignon au quatorzième siècle (Paris, 1984), 151–2Google Scholar.

11 On this, see Miller, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking, 210ff.

12 See, for example, Lansing, Carol L., The Florentine Magnates: Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune (Princeton, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Raggio is a co-director of Quaderni Storici, the journal sponsored by the school. Muir, in collaboration with the American historian, Guido Ruggiero, has been promoting Quaderni Storici in the English-speaking world through such publications as Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe (Baltimore, 1991)Google Scholar, a collection of articles translated from the journal.

14 Both align themselves with the approach of Federico Chabod and Giorgio Chittolini; on this, see especially Mad Blood Stirring, 49–50.

15 Raggio, Faide et parentele, 93, 101.

16 Ibid., 72.

17 See, for example, the map on page 92.

18 Mad Blood Stirring, 17.

19 Ibid., 47.

20 As Raggio himself points out in a footnote to the work on African political systems by Fortes and Evans-Pritchard; see Faide et parentele, xxvi, note 36.

21 As he argues throughout the introduction. See especially page xix: “judicial practice and the organization and administration of justice were the most significant manifestations of statebuilding (as was probably true in every early modern society).”

22 Ibid., xvii, and also ch. 1, especially 18; see also Mad Blood Stirring, 50, 67.

23 See the many index entries in Mad Blood Stirring to “Dogs: corpses eaten by, symbolism of,” and so on (p. 384).

24 Ibid., p. xxix. See also a similar argument made by Davis, Natalie Zemon in Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, 1987)Google Scholar, 36/f.

25 For example, Mad Blood Stirring, 282, but the argument is made throughout Chapter 8 and the conclusion.

26 For example, pp. 229, 278.

27 Ibid., p. 277.

28 Raggio himself cites the relevance of world-systems theory to his work; see Faide et parentele, xxiv, note 35. In addition to Miller, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking, and Wilson, Feuding, Conflict, and Banditry, see Jane, and Schneider, Peter, Culture and Political Economy in Western Sicily (New York, 1976)Google Scholar; Brown, Keith M., Bloodfeud in Scotland, 1573–1625: Violence, Justice, and Politics in an Early Modern Society (Edinburgh, 1986)Google Scholar; and Wormald, Jenny, “Bloodfeud, Kindred and Government in Early Modern Scotland,” Past and Present, 87 (1980), 5497CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 See, for example, Figure 6 on page 92 of Faide et parentele; the figure plots the houses or buildings owned by family members and reveals the close proximity of most family holdings.

30 Ibid., ch. 4.

31 Ibid., p. 153.

32 Raggio provides an illuminating example of this on pp. 92–93.

33 Ibid., pp. 156–7.

34 Ibid., p. 176.

35 Mad Blood Stirring, for example, pp. xxiv-xxv and pp. 85–86ff.

36 Ibid., p. 78.

37 Ibid., p. 89.

38 Ibid., p. 96–97.

39 Mad Blood Stirring, 54.

40 See Miller, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking, 210ff and passim.

41 As argued so effectively by David D. Bien in many of his works.

42 For the idea of collective responsibility in Faide et parentele, see, for example, p. 20.

43 Mad Blood Stirring, 52.

44 See Wilson, Feuding, Conflict, and Banditry.

45 The literature on banditry has grown considerably in the last few years. In addition to Wilson, see Cassia, Paul Sant, “Banditry, Myth, and Terror in Cyprus and Other Mediterranean Societies,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 35:4 (1993), 773–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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