This book examines the peasant political action in 13th century, by evaluating the actions and especially the political use of words: words used both as testimony in conflicts of powers and when negotiating the community’s status with local lords. Texts of different nature are therefore studied: franchises, judicial conflicts and testimonies; they are collected inside a wide but well defined area (South-Central Piedmont), so as to capture the various peasant political interventions and the procedures leading to the production of charters and texts.
That’s a line of research still not fully developed for this historical period. Peasant political practices have been in fact, for a long time, a central feature of historical studies, which have shown that the rural society in middle ages and in modern times is not only a passive object of lordly political actions, but an actor of local politics, equipped with specific goals and strong enough to reach them. But it’s only for the late middle ages and modern times – thanks to a richer source system - that a specific interest for words and speeches produced inside peasant society has been developed, by integrating the analysis of political practices and speeches.
The book intends to show that this kind of analysis offers great opportunities also for previous periods, especially between the 12th and 13th centuries, when conflicts between different lords and compromises between lords and communities allow the local society to act on a political level with words and speeches: talking to the lord (while negotiating) and for the lord (while witnessing). These words tell us about peasant political actions, but they are actions themselves, because they are used to modify local political structures.
PARTE ONE Words of agreement – 1. A tool of local politics – 2. Places and gestures – 3. Fidelity and its contents – 4. The tools of control – 5. Individual and collective resources – 6. From resources to fiscal withdrawal – 7. Dynamics of withdrawal: the building of collective payments – 8. Beyond the land: routes and trade – 9. Designing diversity
PART TWO The signs of control – 1. Questioning and answering – 2. “Quid est baronia?”: Savoy principality and local powers – 3. Abuse and protection: the church of Casale Monferrato after the 1215 destruction – 4. Powers and witnesses
PART THREE Paths of political action, between individuals and communities – 1. Marking off the territory – 2. Villages and churches – 3. Withdrawal, requisition and robbery – 4. A different withdrawal? The uncertain territoriality of tithes – 5. Marking off society: residence and rights
CONCLUSIONS Talking to the lord, talking for the lord