Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain

Article excerpt

Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). xvi + 244 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-928340-8. £67.00.

Wendy Davies's study focuses on documents that record the transfer of property in tenth-century Christian Spain. The tenth century, she argues, is particularly important because it was a time during which written documents began to proliferate, allowing historians to start to piece together a model of rural society. Davies uses this material to investigate how gift-giving served to structure relationships in this society. In her first chapter she addresses a number of historiographical debates, both in the Spanish context, such as those concerning 'repopulation' and 'feudalization', and in the larger European context, such as the studies of gift-giving by Stephen White, Barbara Rosenwein, and Patrick Geary. In her systematic examination of donation charters, Davies is able to reconstruct a remarkably complete and varied analysis of what property meant for the people of this period, how it was divided and inherited, who donated what and for what reason, and how these donations reflected the basic social and class structures of tenth-century northern Spanish society. In addition to analysing the types of donations given and the actors involved, Davies examines the language used in the charters. She cautions the reader against dismissing the language as 'formulaic': although tenth-century scribes did use set formulae, they had a large array from which to choose. The decision to use one formula over another, to depart from the formula, or to draft an elaborate or simple document was a conscious one and responded to the specific needs at hand. The language thus reflected the status and the motivations of the actors involved in the donations.

Davies argues that land passed from the poor to the rich in exchange for food and clothing in times of scarcity. …

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