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Introduction: law courts, contracts and rural society in Europe, 1200–1600


Private contracts of many different kinds were at the heart of the rural economy in medieval and early modern Europe. This article considers some of the key issues involved in the study of those contracts, and of the institutions that facilitated their registration and enforcement. Drawing on examples from medieval England as well as the articles in this special issue of the journal, it is argued that complex and effective ‘public-order’ structures for contract registration and enforcement – principally various kinds of law court – were ubiquitous in European villages and small towns in this era.

Introduction: Tribunaux, contrats et société rurale en Europe, 1200–1600

A travers toute l'Europe médiévale et moderne, on trouve des contrats privés de toutes sortes au cœur de l’économie rurale. Cet article examine certaines des questions clés que l’étude de ces contrats soulève, tout autant que celles que pose l’étude des institutions qui facilitaient l'enregistrement et la mise en application de ces contrats. Considérant à la fois le cas de l'Angleterre médiévale et les articles du présent numéro spécial de Continuity and Change, nous soutenons qu'il existait, dans toute cette Europe médiévale et moderne, et ce dans les villages comme dans les petites villes, des structures complexes et efficaces de maintien de « l'ordre public » qui veillaient, de façon omniprésente, à l'enregistrement des contrats et à leur exécution, à savoir principalement divers types de tribunaux.

Einführung: Gerichte, Verträge und ländliche Gesellschaft in Europa, 1200–1600

Private Verträge unterschiedlichster Art gehören zum Kernbestand der ländlichen Wirtschaft im mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Europa. Dieser Beitrag beleuchtet einige der zentralen Themen, die mit der Erforschung dieser Verträge und der Institutionen, die ihre Registrierung und Einhaltung erleichterten, zusammenhängen. Unter Bezugnahme sowohl auf Beispiele aus dem mittelalterlichen England als auch auf die übrigen Beiträge dieses Themenheftes wird die These vertreten, dass es für die Registrierung und Durchsetzung solcher Verträge überall in Europa in Dörfern und Kleinstädten komplexe und wirksame Strukturen der ‚öffentlichen Ordnung‘ gab, und zwar hauptsächlich Gerichte unterschiedlicher Art.

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Bas van Bavel , Manors and markets: economy and society in the Low Countries 500–1600 (Oxford, 2010)

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Jeremy Edwards and Sheilagh Ogilvie , ‘What lessons for economic development can we draw from the Champagne fairs?’, Explorations in Economic History 49, 2 (2012), 131–48

Jessica Goldberg , ‘Choosing and enforcing business relationships in the eleventh-century Mediterranean: reassessing the “Maghribī Traders” ’, Past and Present 216 (2012), 340

Gregory B. Milton , Market power: lordship, society and economy in medieval Catalonia (1276–1313) (New York, 2012)

E. A. Wrigley , ‘The transition to an advanced organic economy: half a millennium of English agriculture’, Economic History Review 59, 3 (2006), 435–80

Yadira González de Lara , ‘The secret of Venetian success: a public-order, reputation-based institution’, European Review of Economic History 12, 3 (2008), 247–85

Tracy Dennison , ‘Contract enforcement in Russian serf society, 1750–1860’, Economic History Review 66, 3 (2013), 715–32

S. R. Epstein , Freedom and growth: the rise of states and markets in Europe, 1300–1750 (London, 2000)

S. R. Epstein , ‘Introduction: town and country in Europe, 1300–1800’, in S. R. Epstein ed., Town and country in Europe, 1300–1800 (Cambridge, 2001), 129

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Continuity and Change
  • ISSN: 0268-4160
  • EISSN: 1469-218X
  • URL: /core/journals/continuity-and-change
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