History ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 5-28-1965


Excerpt from introduction:

This is a study of the social structure of Castile in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The charter witness lists of that period as edited by Júlio González were the basis for this study. Charters formed an important part of the documentation of the Middle Ages. Royal charters, in general, officially conveyed the use of a specific property to a person who agreed to accept designated responsibilities. As the possession and or use of land was a key to medieval economy, it was essential that ownership or legitimate occupation was clear to the authorities. The area concerned was described in the text of the charter and a group of the recipient's peers witnessed the act. The number of witnesses depended upon the number present and upon the number recorded by the scribe. In local charters, which were generally specific decrees issued to adjust a single problem, such as protection from illegal confiscation, the witnesses tended to be local folk, but a lord required men of his rank, with their dignity, to witness this extremely important document.

Charters can be found in all European archives. They are valuable for economic history, for biographical history of the person involved, and can be used to trace movements within states, for example, the gradual exile of the Castros from Castile during the regency of Alfonso VIII can be seen in the charters of the period. In this study, the witness lists were studied in order to determine whether or not Castile has a strict system of dignity and order which would be reflected in the presence of men who attended the kings. Such knowledge provides a good understanding of the working of the different elements in society. For example, the unstable but virile life under the contested regency is clearly reflected in the lack of order in those charters. Armed with this evidence, some intriguing possibilities can be argued.

The social history of this period is generally described in loose terms which picture it as an individualistic society of men born into castes of religious belief. The individualism is so strong that the society could not be solidified. Groups are defined as to wealth (i.e., the rico-hombre) and special position (i.e., mayordomo), but I have discovered no study upon the true rank of men within their groupings.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Josiah Cox Russell

Second Committee Member

Frank Carpenter Stuart

Third Committee Member

William Minor Dabney

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