Medieval peasants. Source: Martyrologe-Obituaire de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. BnF 12148. Source: Wikipdia

Powerful Peasants in Twelft-Century France

Were peasants in high Medieval France agents in their own lives? Or were they just subservient and downtrodden serfs? New book by Constance Brittain Bouchard explores charters and other documents from twelfth-century France to answer these questions.


Negotiation and Resistance: Peasant Agency in High Medieval France
by Constance Brittain Bouchard
Cornell University Press 2022
ISBN-10: 1501766589
ISBN-13: 978-1501766589


In Negotiation and Resistance, Constance Brittain Bouchard challenges familiar depictions of the peasantry as an undifferentiated mass of impoverished and powerless workers. Peasants in eleventh- and twelfth-century France had far more scope for action, self-determination, and resistance to oppressive treatment―that is, for agency―than they are usually credited with having.

Through innovative readings of charters and documents collected in medieval cartularies, Bouchard finds that while peasants lived hard, impoverished lives, they were able to negotiate, individually or collectively, to better their position, present cases in court, and make their own decisions about such fundamental issues as inheritance or choice of marriage partner.

Negotiation and Resistance upends the received view of this period in French history as one in which lords dealt harshly and without opposition toward subservient peasants, offering numerous examples of peasants standing up for themselves wielding often surprising power to forge their own life



Constance Brittain Bouchard is professor at Dept. of History, University of Akron and author of numerous studies af chivalric society in France in the High Middle Ages



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