2018 Volume 127 Issue 10 Pages 1-30
Since the middle of the 20th century, French medievalists have been interested in the economic relationships between city and countryside, while the French research has tended to neglect the political aspect of urban-rural relations. By utilizing the rich archives of the city of Béziers and the village of Vendres(Hérault), the author of the present article aims to contribute to this latter aspect focusing on the latter half of the 14th century.
The urban elites of Béziers--that is, those citizens in charge of municipal functions--showed their presence to the villagers of Vendres in diverse ways, including 1. royal officers of Béziers, 2. holders of ad hoc functions of a judicial or administrative nature, 3. collectors of royal subsidies and local/regional taxes in Biterrois, 4. consuls of Béziers, 5. moneylenders, buyers of wheat or of the right to levy property tax or income tax, 6. those who give personal aid or advice and 7. advocates/consultants. In roles 1 and 2, they exercised decision-making in judicial and administrative matters; in role 3 and 5, decision-making in financial matters, offering either monetary aid or investing in profit-making ventures; in role 4, assisting or directing the consuls of Vendres and in roles 6 and 7, giving aid and advice to those consuls. Landowners and lawyers are recruited in roles 1 and 2, businessmen in roles 3 and 5, and lawyers in role 7. In other words, the urban elites of Béziers had superiority over the leaders of Vendres, in terms of the economic, intellectual and political capital, by means of which, they both commanded and protected the village community, depending on the situation.
In order to cope with the difficult circumstances caused by the Hundred Years’ War, Vendres did not rely on the military protection of external powers, but chose to reinforce its self-defense capabilities instead. However, outside the military/defense domain, the village relied on the protection of the ruling elites of Béziers. While the governmental regime was changing from seigneury to monarchical state, the role of protector of village communities was no longer played by the seigneurs, but neither was the king yet involved; rather, it was the urban elites who filled the void for the time being.