A Source Book for Medieval Economic History

By Roy C. Cave; Herbert H. Coulson | Go to book overview

SECTION II
PRIVATE PROPERTY

Introduction

During the medieval period, as today, no clear distinction was drawn in popular thinking between private property as a set of rights and claims over wealth, and wealth itself. In the civilized world of ancient times private property in both movables and immovables was so well established as to be an institution. The barbarians, however, are said to have had a clearer conception of private property in movables such as cattle than in land. The institution of private property in both commodities and land was nevertheless steadily extended still further over Europe during the course of the Middle Ages, its various forms meanwhile undergoing some change. There was a shift from ownership of slaves to rights to the services of serfs; allodial tenures were displaced by feudal holdings; benefices were supplanted by fiefs; and the right to revenues from tolls and taxes was frequently bought or sold as private property.


1. Tangibles and Intangibles

The Romans had a highly developed sense of private property. They distinguished between tangibles, e.g., lands and slaves, and intangibles, e.g., rights and privileges, and they also drew a distinction between ownership, or private property, and the usufruct of that which was owned. The communal idea of property was more common after the barbarian invasions.

Source: The Institutes of Justinian, translated by Thomas Cooper, p. 87 ( J. S. Voorhies, New York, 1852). -- A.D. 5 33).

Moreover some things are corporeal others incorporeal. Things corporeal are tangible: as, lands, slaves, vestments, gold, silver, and

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