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Connections in the Minds of Contemporaries

A late legal text connected some of these phenomena, as Oschinsky noted.[1] Around 1290—1300, a sometime resident of the Fleet prison in London compiled a large legal handbook that both revised and enhanced Bractons earlier treatise and included much other material, including from the manorial manuals Seneschauncy (for stewards) and Husbandry (for the lord’s manorial auditors). This intentionally practical handbook dealt with charters and statutes; personal, criminal, real, and mixed actions; and other administrative material. It could be called Fleta, its author suggested, after its place of composition.[2]

Book 2 of Fleta deals with civil personal actions and runs through (amongst other things) descriptions of different types of court (caps. 1—3), household officers of the king’s court, the Exchequer and its officers (caps. 4—33), aspects of the Common

Bench (caps. 34—9), forest law (caps. 39—40), and mesne processes (cap. 50). The discussion circles around various legal questions arising from contractual and quasi-contractual problems such as debt (caps. 56—64), then focuses for several chapters on how to deal with sheriffs’ wrongdoings (caps. 67—9). From here it associatively moves on to the wrongdoings of bailiffs and the idea of debt caught up in their transgressions and works through the various writs of account associated with bailiffs (cap. 70). Book 2 then makes one final pivot and turns to address questions of manorial and agricultural management in general, profit, and how to get the most out of various manorial servants, ranging from dairymaids to auditors (caps. 71—88).

Fleta thus associates the action of account and the agricultural developments of the second half of the thirteenth century. But Fleta comes long after the action of account has tried to bolt the door behind the absconding bailiff. Fleta is too late to prove any early causal relationship between these things.

One very early text, however, suggesting a causal connection between these phenomena in contemporaries’ minds, is the so-called Leges Henrici Primi (before c. 1108). As noted (p. 41), it has been convincingly argued that the Leges Henrici Primi is not a hopeless jumble, but a text produced by a hundred bailiff relating to hundred and other local courts. It remained a ‘live’ text consulted and used in the twelfth century (hence the cross-purpose interpolations and rubrics that have encouraged readers to reckon it an amateurish mess). So understood the Leges Henrici Primis coherence is apparent.[3]

If the Leges Henrici Primi is a ‘live’ early twelfth-century text related to hundred and seigneurial courts (therefore addressing courts that Glanvill does not), its considered comments in cap. 56. 1—7 on lord-lease-farmer-prepositus relationships are especially interesting.[4] This section discusses what to do when a dispute arises (con- trouersia oriatur) ‘between someone and his lease-farmer who is not also his man’ (inter aliquem et firmarium suum quo non etiam sit homo suus). ‘Not his man’ seems to mean that he does not ‘have the lease-farm as a fee and that he has not done homage for it, whether he resides there or not’ (emphasis added).[5] [6] At least, this is the sort of the person the Leges immediately discuss in contradistinction to the homo just discussed. In case of a dispute a person with a fee and in homage will simply satisfy (satisfaciat) his lord on any dispute in the lord’s court (curia domini).196 For the lease-farmer without homage any dispute ‘will be dealt with on that manor’— presumably the manor court (sit in ipso manerio). These are passages concerned with clarifying where and how disputes are settled, and what lease-farmers’ liabilities are to their lord or landlord. It is notable that immediately after this discussion the Leges offers an itemized audit list of what should be evaluated when the manor is ‘returned’ (in redditione). Attention then shifts to complaints about the reeve. The reeve may have damaged the tenancy and the lessee wish to accuse him at this end-of-lease inquiry (remember Robert of Chilton):

If someone should complain that the reeve has taken something from him injuriously, he should be heard in that same manor or in his lord’s court, just as a reeve should reply to his subjects [subditis suis]. If he has resigned his reeveship and is with another lord, whoever will speak in this way about the reeve [i.e. accuse him] will come to the reeve’s [current] hundred court.[7]

The logic of the sequence is: lord-tenant relationships ^ disputes and liabilities between lords and tenants and the relevant courts ^ accounts and inquiries into leased farms at the end of lease ^ complaints about reeves ^ what to do with retrospective complaints when the reeve has moved on and is no longer liable to the lord under whom he committed the offences. There is a lively interest in the problems of getting tenants (including those who have not done homage) to account for their management of lease-land and its state on return. Associated with this is a concern with the accountability of aprepositus and the problems of pinning him in a court when his office may have expired and he is serving under another lord.[8] In the early twelfth century the Leges Henrici Primi are worried about how to get tenants to account for the state of land at lease. They even offer a sketch of the inquiry that should follow at the end of a lease (see p. 70). With this they connect the question of the prepositus’s accountability and the problem his mobility poses for his legal liability. There is no action of account here. But there is an active intelligence bringing together those manorial dynamics that the action of account would later coalesce and address.

The Mirror of Justices should be recalled here, since it brings law, maths, and love between lords and bailiffs together. The relevant passage is at the end of the chapter De Contract. If the legalistically contractual way of thinking was not applicable throughout our period, the seigneurial problem sounds very similar to that envisaged in the Leges Henrici Primi.

As for a contract for a baillia [baille] and the administration of another’s goods and money, it is perfectly permissible for anyone [i.e. a land-lord] to dispose of his goods wisely or foolishly waste them as he sees fit, and so everyone should have such bailiffs and administrators as it seems will well preserve each fee. And if he is damaged by some stupid or bad servant, he [the land-lord] can put this rightly down to his own stupid contract, in so far as he did not take sufficient surety for complete loyalty and discretion, and so the contrary: since against him who has nothing the law gives nothing for recovery, nor any remedy beyond vengeance. If however there should be some such bailiff who will not render any loyal account to his lord, he can be chased down by a writ of account—which is a mixed action—if he has anything by which he can be made justiciable. And ifhe should not be distrainable nor hold a fee, and flees his lord, and will not render an account, for such disobedience the action stands mixed for the personal trespass.[9] [10] [11]

  • [1] Walter of Henley, 73.
  • [2] Fleta, ed. H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, 3 vols. SS 72, 89, 99 (1955—84), ii. 3. Thisedition remains incomplete since vol. i, an introduction, notes, and indices, was never published.Volume ii contains the prologue and books 1—2 of the treatise, vol. iii books 3—4, vol. iv books 5—6.The medieval author’s hope that readers would augment the text by correcting their own copies wentapparently unfulfilled. It survives in only BL Cotton MS Julius B.viii. Some passages are also to befound in Cotton MS Nero See David J. Seipp, ‘Fleta (fl. 1290—1300)’, ODNB.
  • [3] Karn, ‘Rethinking the Leges Henrici Primi.
  • [4] Even disposing of the rubric ‘De firma tenenda’, ‘cap. 56’ retains its coherence. See Karn,‘Rethinking the Leges Henrici Primi, 200-4, 211-14.
  • [5] LHP, cap. 56.2. On homage by free men for property see Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: TheMedieval Evidence Reinterpreted (Oxford, 1994), 370-3.
  • [6] por terms, Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals, 323^, 353-8.
  • [7] LHP, cap. 56. 4-5.
  • [8] Britton perhaps implies that one reason behind the later action of account was the desire tosolve the question of where a former bailiff should be liable to account. Britton, ed. Francis MorganNichols, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1865), i. 176.
  • [9] Mirror of Justices 76. The question of what the bailiff owns is, again, central.
  • [10] Scott L. Waugh, ‘Tenure to Contract: Lordship and Clientage in Thirteenth Century England’, EHR 101 (1986), 811-39 at 828-32.
  • [11] Waugh, ‘Tenure to Contract’, 828.
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