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Where's Westros' Corpus Juris Civilis?

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Posted (edited)

Yes, but we know nothing about these guilds. They seem to have zero social, political and economic impact on society, judging by how little the characters think about them or interact with them.. 

We know nothing about the education of Septons and Septas, save that some priests like Meribald are illiterate, while others like Barth became Septons in order to get some education...

If Anguy had bought land... what would be his legal and social status? There isn't any free peasant or commoner landholder in the books...

Could Anguy adquire true ownership of the land, or just a lease? Are there yeomen in Westeros, or are all peasants tenants leasing a lord's land?

Knights receive land as payment for military service...Can landed knights sell a piece of their land? If a knight sells his land to another knight, does it implies a transference of feudal duties? What happens if a rich merchant buys land from a knight, does he adquire feudal duties?  (like, does he has to pay and equip men-at-arms to fulfill the military obligations of the previous owner...), or he would just have to pay taxes (like any other peasant) to that lord...?

If a knight buys land from a lord... what would be his legal status? The lord is still the lord of the land, with rights of pit and gallows... does the knight become his bannerman, with the duty to provide military assistance? Or would the lord just demand that the knight pay taxes like a commoner landholder?

If there are free peasants, what rights do they have? If a peasant buys land from a lord... could that lord or his heir just take it back? The lord is both the local ruler and judge... who is going to stop him? Could the peasant call for a higher authority?

Can a landholder or a village buy their freedom from a lord? And if they do... who has the responsability of administering justice to them now? The liege of their previous lord? The Lord Paramount? The king?

If a rich merchant were to buy a large piece of land from a great lord or from his landed knight vassals... what would be his legal and social status? 

 

Edited by Ser Lepus

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Posted (edited)
On 5/26/2019 at 11:28 AM, Ran said:

To answer my own question, apparently K.J. Parker's Colours in the Steel features "fencers-at-law" who are essentially duellists who defend or prosecute cases with swords rather than with actual law. Doesn't quite count. Otherwise, there's an amazing lack of evidence of anyone having written a fantasy legal thriller (not too surprised) or, seemingly, a medieval legal thriller. Fantasy/medieval detectives are a thing, at least.

Although, funnily enough... here's George after his podcast with the law professor saying that that (and some of the professors other works) made him realize he had a lot to think about, and jokingly suggesting he might write a legal thriller set in the Seven Kingdoms once the series is done. I think George realized that there should be an extensive apparatus, but for the purposes of ASoIaF he's not going to strain himself. Maybe a future Dunk & Egg novella will feature them stumbling into the middle of a shire court.

If you do encounter anything else of this nature feel free to share. Its something i’ve actually been interested in for a while but i’ve never seen anything of that kind either.

eta: clarity, not necessarily “fantasy legal thriller” but something that has quite a high focus on or very well developed justice system

Edited by HelenaExMachina

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On 5/26/2019 at 12:28 PM, Ran said:

To answer my own question, apparently K.J. Parker's Colours in the Steel features "fencers-at-law" who are essentially duellists who defend or prosecute cases with swords rather than with actual law. Doesn't quite count. Otherwise, there's an amazing lack of evidence of anyone having written a fantasy legal thriller (not too surprised) or, seemingly, a medieval legal thriller. Fantasy/medieval detectives are a thing, at least.

Although, funnily enough... here's George after his podcast with the law professor saying that that (and some of the professors other works) made him realize he had a lot to think about, and jokingly suggesting he might write a legal thriller set in the Seven Kingdoms once the series is done. I think George realized that there should be an extensive apparatus, but for the purposes of ASoIaF he's not going to strain himself. Maybe a future Dunk & Egg novella will feature them stumbling into the middle of a shire court.

Actually, knights for hire whose job was to act as champions in judicial duels were a thing at least in Spain, so a well-written medieval legal thriller could be quite action-filled...

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20 hours ago, Ran said:

Guilds and their guildhalls are mentioned a number of times, with Tyrion and Cersei having had beings with guild matters. Land can be purchased, as Jak-be-Lucky reveals, there have been references to education at septs, septries, and motherhouses.

 

Land purchase would require a minimal land registrar for both economic and sovereign reasons. From what it seems Westros had no doomsday books and no one is quite sure (not even lords) on how many commoners they do have. Borders are also set more by locations than coordinates (the stone mill being a border). 

I think there must be restriction on transfer of property rights or the paramount lords would have eaten up most of the small houses by now. The emperor of the holy roman empire or the kings of France and England had estates all through out their territory due to land buying and residual inheritance. Westrosi big houses seem to restrict themselves (and the crown appears uninterested in owning lands by itself which is weird yet again). 

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Posted (edited)

There doubtless are, though besides knowing that commoners can purchase land, lords can sell lands, as apparently the impoverished Westerlings have been doing for years. The term "royal demesne" has been used for the crownlands, as well. 

Edited by Ran

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It is important to notice that both subinfeudation sale and substitution sale are possible.

In England, subinfeudation was banned, and only substitution allowed, by Quia Emptores in 1290.

In Scotland, subinfeudation stayed legal till 2000.

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I read an interesting journal article once, about the fact that historians were able to see trends in land sales in medieval England which matched periods of good harvests (fewer sales) and bad harvests (more sales). There was a lot of land changing hands, generally small sub-divisions of plots but in fairly robust numbers.

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8 minutes ago, Ran said:

I read an interesting journal article once, about the fact that historians were able to see trends in land sales in medieval England which matched periods of good harvests (fewer sales) and bad harvests (more sales). There was a lot of land changing hands, generally small sub-divisions of plots but in fairly robust numbers.

May explain how the Freys got so powerful. With their second revenue stream from the bridge they'd have an excess funds in winter time and may have been able to purchase neighbouring lands when other Houses were struggling with the lack of harvests.  

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On 5/27/2019 at 10:35 AM, Lion of the West said:

Just because they had their own traditions don't mean those traditions were as developed or, essentially, as good ideas and traditions about justice that were formulated elsewhere.

The problem with Westeros is that to my knowledge it has never had anything other than monarchy and feudalism. As well as either a religion concerned with mysticism or an intellectually narrow religion (not counting the Drowned God as I don't know if they engage in any intellectual activity to any serious degree). In both worldy and ecclesiastical spheres there don't seem to have been much about intellectual freedom, or need, to formulate more advanced ideas about justice than "King/God/Lord says this, end of discussion." Valyria was to my knowledge a republic and incorporated many different peoples, cults of gods and so on into a common framework and keep their emprie running for a very long time. Just like the Roman, and other Italic, republic(s) and many city states in Greece would adopt more sophisticated, judging from the two examples we know best in Rome and Athens, ideas about law and discuss what is justice and why it is so,

I know that there were laws, but there seems never to have been a rule of law, hence those laws are of secondary nature of a ruler's opinion. Not a great judicial soil to grow ideas from. And if I recall there have been people criticising how few cities there are in Westeros. Most likely that is because trade isn't as flourashing as it was in medieval Europe due to the arbitrary nature of the justice system and the violent nature of the political system.

I am totally convinced that the Valyrians had a far more developed, coherent and essentially better system and idea about justice and laws than Westeros probably ever had so far in its history. Even with some Targaryen efforts to get the system into a better shape.

Republics don't last long without becoming explicit oligarchies, and city states are trash.

Without guns, monarchy and feudalism are the default.

The Freehold was quite explicitly just the richest and most powerful families pissing in the wind, not going to war with each other, and drinking the wealth of a continent, and smashing everybody who threatened their debaucherous wealth factory.

The Freehold's justice system was likely even less developed, since slaves have no rights, and every oligarchy ever endeavors to eliminate and crush nascent middle classes.

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On 5/28/2019 at 8:14 AM, hnv said:

Land purchase would require a minimal land registrar for both economic and sovereign reasons. From what it seems Westros had no doomsday books and no one is quite sure (not even lords) on how many commoners they do have. Borders are also set more by locations than coordinates (the stone mill being a border). 

I think there must be restriction on transfer of property rights or the paramount lords would have eaten up most of the small houses by now. The emperor of the holy roman empire or the kings of France and England had estates all through out their territory due to land buying and residual inheritance. Westrosi big houses seem to restrict themselves (and the crown appears uninterested in owning lands by itself which is weird yet again). 

Agreed, and the Paramounts must strongly enforce these guarantees, on both themselves and higher nobility and landed knights, or else the system breaks down.

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21 hours ago, Vashon said:

Republics don't last long without becoming explicit oligarchies, and city states are trash.

Without guns, monarchy and feudalism are the default.

The Freehold was quite explicitly just the richest and most powerful families pissing in the wind, not going to war with each other, and drinking the wealth of a continent, and smashing everybody who threatened their debaucherous wealth factory.

The Freehold's justice system was likely even less developed, since slaves have no rights, and every oligarchy ever endeavors to eliminate and crush nascent middle classes.

Define "long". Is it centuries? Millennia?

And city states are not trash. They fullfill their purpose very well, I'd say.

You can make a case that monarchy is a default, although it has nothing to do with the presence or the lack of guns, but I think that you don't understand what feudalism is. But I will assume that what you're trying to say is delegation of power and responsibilty to subordinates, which by the way is happening today as well. Every attempt at total central control has to my knowledge failed greatly.

Yet even so the Freehold for example managed the mingling of many cults and lack of religious strife. Just that is something to admire with it.

The Freehold's justice system was more likely very elaborate  due to the fact that they could keep many families with dragons in once place and they didn't, to my knowledge, tear the Freehold apart in the way that Westerosi feudal lords seems to be doing to Westeros.

Slavery is naturally a horrific thing and I didn't claim that the Freehold was a equalitarian paradise. Only that I have no doubt that it had a more advanced concept of law and justice than the Westeros version with the king/god/lord says what justice is, and that's the end of it.

I've never heard that every oligarchy seeks to destroy middle classes. I assume that you bases this on the modern world for I have not encountered such a view so far while reading history.

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On 5/28/2019 at 4:14 PM, hnv said:

Land purchase would require a minimal land registrar for both economic and sovereign reasons.

No. England was somewhat unusual in outright banning land sale from 12th to 13th century.

On 5/28/2019 at 4:14 PM, hnv said:

From what it seems Westros had no doomsday books

It seems they have something. How does Stannis get his knowledge of the forces of every house in Westeros, which is expressly mentioned? While completely unaware of existence of mountain clans?

A likely hypothesis is a tax list to which he in his central government job of Master of Ships has access and which he has perused and memorized. It is common for medieval tax lists to not contain express mentions of those excempt, so if Starks at some point got a tax break for mountain clans, they´d be quietly dropped from tax list, but while the charter of exemption would have been written, it would not have been filed together with the tax lists, or noticed by Stannis.

On 5/28/2019 at 4:14 PM, hnv said:

I think there must be restriction on transfer of property rights or the paramount lords would have eaten up most of the small houses by now. The emperor of the holy roman empire or the kings of France and England had estates all through out their territory due to land buying and residual inheritance. Westrosi big houses seem to restrict themselves (and the crown appears uninterested in owning lands by itself which is weird yet again). 

In Europe, William the Bastard reserved 17 % of England to himself. His heirs did NOT eat up their barons - rather the Crown bled Crown lands over centuries. Henry VIII Dissolved the monasteries and wound up with 35 % of England. He then could not find competent and honest managers for his windfall and sold three-quarters of it by fire sale, getting just one third of the cash value. Elizabeth, in 1558, inherited just 10 % of England. She was famously stingy... but Stuarts failed to get adequate profits off the Crown lands and were forced to sell most of the rest. By 1640, Crown was left with mere 2 % of England.

 

In North, we see that Starks found White Harbour an unprofitable pain in the ass. Gave it away to several kinsmen and bannermen. Eventually Lord Borrell tells us Stark "took Manderly gold" - i. e. Manderlies bought it.

How many hands? How many dragons does it make?

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On 5/31/2019 at 12:35 AM, Vashon said:

Republics don't last long without becoming explicit oligarchies, and city states are trash.

As @Lion of the West said, "don't last long" must be defined; there have been city states that lasted many centuries. On "republics" - I'm not sure everybody here talks about the same, then talking about a republic.

On 5/31/2019 at 12:35 AM, Vashon said:

Without guns, monarchy and feudalism are the default.

Autocracy (NOT monarchy) - yes and no, as a fall-back if republics go bad; feudalism - no.

The existence or non-existence of guns is irrelevant in this.

On 5/31/2019 at 12:35 AM, Vashon said:

The Freehold was quite explicitly just the richest and most powerful families pissing in the wind, not going to war with each other, and drinking the wealth of a continent, and smashing everybody who threatened their debaucherous wealth factory.

We know too little to judge in inner mechanisms of the Freehold.

On 5/31/2019 at 12:35 AM, Vashon said:

The Freehold's justice system was likely even less developed, since slaves have no rights

Neither the existence of slavery in a society, nor the status of slaves within it's laws are an indication for the development of it's legal system. And you do know that feudalism is essentially nothing else then extending a slave-like status on the majority of the population (yes, I'm on board with the similar/identical-crowd, as are the laws of European states since the 19th century)? Peasants may have some rights "on paper" (as do slaves, even in Rome), but in feudalism this rights only hold as long as the lord does want to grant them.

On 5/31/2019 at 12:35 AM, Vashon said:

every oligarchy ever endeavors to eliminate and crush nascent middle classes.

 

On 5/31/2019 at 10:03 PM, Lion of the West said:

I've never heard that every oligarchy seeks to destroy middle classes. I assume that you bases this on the modern world for I have not encountered such a view so far while reading history.

Here @Vashon is actually right: Oligarchies/aristocracies tend to prey on the commons, and in this process the majority of the population will become poorer and have to struggle more to make a living. In the end the oligarchy will crumble (with rebellion or even civil war) and will be replaced by an autocracy with a power-base within the commons (on very few occasions it was replaced directly by democracy ;) ).

That's also why, then a republic goes bad (the oligarchic/aristocratic part is becoming to powerful, etc.pp.), the fall-back is almost always an autocracy with a power-base within the plebs (see the Principate).

And that's also why feudalism has actually only ever existed for a longer time/came into existence in states/regions with a strong aristocracy/oligarchy, few cities, a weak central government (if existing) relying on this aristocracy and only weak ancient traditions.

Note however, that on the other side the remembrance of polykephalic, tribal traditions can also slow down the implementation of feudalism, or weaken it's final form (see: England, Saxonia - in Westeros this would be the mountain clans, I suppose?).

But even with such existing traditions saving you from feudalism for centuries, it is no 100% security to not end with one of the most strict and brutal forms of feudalism ever (czaristic Russia).

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Czarist Russia went so hard because it was the only way they had to control such a vast and, at the time, underpopulated land. They had to raise men and resources in order to fight their eternal wars against Steppe Raiders, Muslims, Muslim Steppe Raiders, Polish Incursions and Interventions, and Swedish Fucking Shits.

The introducton of harder and more slavocratic serfdom was to keep track of people and to tax them, and to fill in the borders. I guess people forget the reason that land was only sparsely settled with few cities. Too vast to efficiently tax free people, who can just up and leave, and vulnerable to whomever comes out of the Steppes from the South and East. They didn't conquer the Kiev Borderlands(Ukraine) and Kazahkstan just for better farming and grazing, but for security. 

Russian style Czardom is impossible and unneeded in Planetos, nowhere is big enough and remote enough while also being a perpetual battleground. Even the boyars wouldn't have implemented the system if they didn't have to, they would have much preferred the cheaper and more economic forms of feudalism, and the serfs only tolerated it because the real perpetual existential threat from all directions. And even then, they only mostly put up with it, there were more than a few serf revolts centered around the Free Cossacks. 

Its quite notable that the system only came crashing down when there was a perception shift towards understanding the wars and the losses as wars of choice and not wars of necessity. 

 

As far as slavery in Planetos goes, it really looks more like the chattel slavery of the USA pre Civil War than Roman style slavery. With only a few trace remains of manumission or such.

 

 

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On 6/2/2019 at 12:32 PM, Morte said:

Here @Vashon is actually right: Oligarchies/aristocracies tend to prey on the commons, and in this process the majority of the population will become poorer and have to struggle more to make a living. In the end the oligarchy will crumble (with rebellion or even civil war) and will be replaced by an autocracy with a power-base within the commons (on very few occasions it was replaced directly by democracy ;) ).

That's also why, then a republic goes bad (the oligarchic/aristocratic part is becoming to powerful, etc.pp.), the fall-back is almost always an autocracy with a power-base within the plebs (see the Principate).

And that's also why feudalism has actually only ever existed for a longer time/came into existence in states/regions with a strong aristocracy/oligarchy, few cities, a weak central government (if existing) relying on this aristocracy and only weak ancient traditions.

Note however, that on the other side the remembrance of polykephalic, tribal traditions can also slow down the implementation of feudalism, or weaken it's final form (see: England, Saxonia - in Westeros this would be the mountain clans, I suppose?).

But even with such existing traditions saving you from feudalism for centuries, it is no 100% security to not end with one of the most strict and brutal forms of feudalism ever (czaristic Russia).

I should say that when we speak about democracy and olgarchy and stuff, I take my main cues from ancient Greece (Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic) and to a lesser extent the rest of the ancient world like ancient Italy and Carthage and stuff.

As for my objection of oligarchies preying on the middle class, I understand the initial phrase to mean that the olgiarchies would purposefully go after the middle class in a way different to the working classes. So I was objecting to the idea of oligarchies in ancient times singling out the middle classes to crush beyond the other classes. Now that could well have been true, but I that's the point from where my initial answer came.

In general terms what you say about feudalism makes sense to me.

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First: Sorry for my late answer; I'm abroad this summer and can only write on the weekends.

On 6/3/2019 at 3:44 AM, Vashon said:

Czarist Russia went so hard because it was the only way they had to control such a vast and, at the time, underpopulated land. They had to raise men and resources in order to fight their eternal wars against Steppe Raiders, Muslims, Muslim Steppe Raiders, Polish Incursions and Interventions, and Swedish Fucking Shits.

The introducton of harder and more slavocratic serfdom was to keep track of people and to tax them, and to fill in the borders. I guess people forget the reason that land was only sparsely settled with few cities. Too vast to efficiently tax free people, who can just up and leave, and vulnerable to whomever comes out of the Steppes from the South and East. They didn't conquer the Kiev Borderlands(Ukraine) and Kazahkstan just for better farming and grazing, but for security.  

While your uncouth ( :D) summary of the of the Kievan Rus' is correct, the introduction of serfdom in the eastern Slavic territories started only around the year of 1601, when most of the problematic neighbours were no longer a thread.

In fact, the introduction of serfdom slowed the development of the country in general and the settlement of the Eastern territories, as the Aristocrats were more interested in driving the farmers in the fertile and civilized parts of the country into serfdom, than developing the East. And they had the deal with a lot of uprisings.

So I think the problem really was the dependence of the Czars from the aristocracy, and their inability (or maybe even unwillingness) to put them into their place. While everywhere in Europe serfdom started to fall apart with enlightenment, the self-presumed enlightened absolutistic monarch of Russia did do, well.. let's say: little and less, even if she may have liked (there were few Czars who would have liked, I'm afraid).

On 6/3/2019 at 9:50 PM, Lion of the West said:

I should say that when we speak about democracy and olgarchy and stuff, I take my main cues from ancient Greece (Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic) and to a lesser extent the rest of the ancient world like ancient Italy and Carthage and stuff.

That's good, so we are speaking about the same things, then using this categories. :)

On 6/3/2019 at 9:50 PM, Lion of the West said:

As for my objection of oligarchies preying on the middle class, I understand the initial phrase to mean that the olgiarchies would purposefully go after the middle class in a way different to the working classes. So I was objecting to the idea of oligarchies in ancient times singling out the middle classes to crush beyond the other classes. Now that could well have been true, but I that's the point from where my initial answer came.

Ah, okay. No, at least I did not mean this as a "crushing the middle class" on purpose, but more as a regularly happening thing because of clinching to and wanting to expand their status, and fighting each other for power, without noticing how much damage this is actually doing to the society as a whole.

The end of the Roman Republic, and the role the Optimates played in the spiral down, is imho the best example: Everyone believed they were fighting for the benefits of the Republic. :rolleyes:

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