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Factions and Vengeance in Renaissance Italy. A Review Article

  • Daniel Lord Smail (a1)
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1 See White, Stephen D., “Feuding and Peace-Making in the Touraine around the Year 1100,” Traditio, 42 (1986), 196-9, 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), xiii-xiv.

2 For example, Miller, William Ian, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland (Chicago, 1990), 5. “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), 3536.

4 The bibliography is immense. Early works in European history include Brunner, Heinrich, Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1906); Pollock, Frederick and Maitland, F. W., The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (Cambridge, 1896); and Maitland, F. W., The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland (Cambridge, 1911). 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), 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), ch. 2; also useful are Ganshof, F. L., Frankish Institutions under Charlemagne, Bryce, and Lyon, Mary, trans. (Providence, R.I., 1968), and Fichtenau, Heinrich, The Carolingian Empire, Munz, Peter, trans. (Oxford, 1957). On evolutionary interpretations of jurisprudence, see Cherry, Richard, Lectures on the Growth of Criminal Law in Ancient Communities (New York, 1890), 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, 1475.

5 Evans-Pritchard, E. E., The Nuer, a Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford, 1947); Gluckman, Max, “The Peace in the Feud,” Past and Present, 8 (1955), 114; see also Black-Michaud, Jacob, Cohesive Force: Feud in the Mediterranean and the Middle East (Oxford, 1975) 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). 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), 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), 1107–33.

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); 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), 2859.

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). 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); 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), 295301. 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), 727–36; Roberts, Simon, Order and Dispute: An Introduction to Legal Anthropology (Oxford, 1979); Just, Peter, “History, Power, Ideology, and Culture: Current Directions in the Anthropology of Law,” Law and Society Review, 26:2 (1992), 373411.

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

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), 151–2.

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).

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), 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), 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); Brown, Keith M., Bloodfeud in Scotland, 1573–1625: Violence, Justice, and Politics in an Early Modern Society (Edinburgh, 1986); and Wormald, Jenny, “Bloodfeud, Kindred and Government in Early Modern Scotland,” Past and Present, 87 (1980), 5497.

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), 773–95.

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