‘Who, Whom?’

‘Who, whom?’ lies at the root of Holt’s questions in this chapter’s epigraph. In all the classes of officers treated here there was a tricky balance to be found between

Miskawayhs Tahdhib al-Akhlaq, trans. Constantine K. Zurayk (Beirut, 1968). See M. Arkouns entry on Miskawayh in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, ed. H. A. R. Gibb et al., 12 vols. (Leiden, 1960—2009), accessed online.

  • 15 Manzalaoui, ‘The Pseudo-Aristotelian “Kitab Sirr al-asrar” ’, 164—5. The text is edited as al-Hikmah al-khalidah: Javidan khirad, ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman Badaw! (al-Qahirah, 1952) and excerpted in An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, i. From Zoroaster to Umar Khayyam, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mehdi Aminrazavi (Oxford, 1999), 326—55.
  • 16 Michael Prestwich, Documents Illustrating the Crisis of 1297—1298 in England, CS 4th ser. 24 (1980), 28—30 (sceptical of Roman law’s relevance tout court)'; G. L. Harriss, King, Parliament and Public Finance in Medieval England to 1369 (Oxford, 1975), 61—3 (arguing for learned law’s relevance); Maddicott, Origins of the English Parliament, 176—7 (a middle way but where the legal ideas are not indispensable). Cf., mutatis mutandis, Andrew Lewis, ‘On Not Expecting the Spanish Inquisition: The Uses of Comparative Legal History’, Current Legal Problems 57 (2004).
  • 17 Robert Bartlett, Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal (Oxford, 1986), 154.

autonomy and authority on the one side, and obedience and effectiveness on the other. A powerful, authoritative figure risked being too autonomous of the power that had appointed him. A more junior, more obedient, less prepossessing figure risked being simply ineffective, captured by local interests.[1] ‘Who, whom?’ was a see-saw. Holt’s focus was on officers particularly close to or appointed by the king. One argument of this study is that over the course of the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries, across a wide spectrum, his questions were focused and augmented by very practical answers specifically preoccupied with lesser (mediocres) officials’ accountability (‘Who, how, for what?’).

More widely ‘Who, whom?’ has been a basic guiding question throughout this analysis. ‘Kto kogo? when applied to those in power and authority is a question of how and whether holding to account goes down or ‘simply’ up. Are those above liable to justify themselves to those below, and how, and for what? It might be put in particular historiographical frames. Walter Ullmann’s theories of government is one that has not been discussed so far. For Ullmann, medieval political thought was ‘to a very large extent a history of the conflicts between these two theories of government’, where the ascending (‘populist’) model derived its legitimacy and origin from the people, while the descending (‘hierocratic’) model derived it from the highest powers. There is some similarity of concern between ‘down/up’ accountability and Ullmann’s conception of ascending or descending political legitimacy. The particular shape of Ullmann’s interpretation is sufficiently problematic, however, for it to be unclear whether reassembling it would serve a useful purpose.[2] It is simpler and more useful to say that the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw a period of acute interest in the question of who it was that was liable to justify their official actions to others. Since this interest was also practical it found legal and administrative expression.

Beyond this, the general, unsurprising, drift of many of the mechanisms for holding officers to account has been that superiors hoisted their officers up to account to them: sheriffs at the Exchequer, bailiffs to their employers or through the action of account; bishops to the pope; wardens to their governing bodies; one can add podesta to their communes too. These superiors define officers’ accountability, and in so doing define offices too. Yet there is some place also for inferiors or ‘subject’ communities to yank officers down to account to them. This would be a further qualification of the utility of Ullmanns ascending/descending model. Even where complaints ‘ascend’ they are assimilated into a complaints structure that ‘descends’ from on high—at the discretion of those on high. This often occurred within the formal framework of an (inferior) official accounting to his superior official and is therefore somewhat masked. The best example of this is episcopal accountability, especially given the early and high medieval concern and effort expended on establishing the clergy—and bishops pre-eminently—as a caste apart.[3] The issue in the late twelfth/thirteenth century is not so much episcopal accountability directly to inferiors (communities, chapters) as the exposure of bishops to judicially potent rumours or scandals emerging from anywhere—and the licence of ‘promoters’ or ex officio judges to take such scandala forward into juridical arenas. Inquisitorial legislation was well aware of the institutional risks. The control retained by clerical elites in determining the reality of scandal was crucial, but the fact remained that clerics and priests were effectively open to complaints from below them within their hierarchies, and from those outside them. Here practice might be more assertive than theory.[4] The practical recommendation for this openness was the administrative reason that it would be hard to police ecclesiastical behaviour without some means for local complaints to move up church hierarchies, even bypassing senior knots in them. As Innocent III noted, papal legates might be of some use, but it is hard to envisage them as a significant bulwark force. Diocesan or provincial discipline might be of little help, especially given these units variable sizes across Christendom, and especially given that the scandalous problems might be at those levels. Infamia was therefore an enormously flexible and seemingly simple way to resolve this, while retaining ecclesiastical control of the detailed determination of inquisitorial cases. Episcopal liability to inferiors was a necessary consequence of a workable episcopal accountability to superiors.

Aside from episcopal accountability there was an equitable stress on the right of anyone from a commune to complain about podesta at the end of their term of office as communal executives at sindacatio. For sheriffs, general eyres provided a similar space, as increasingly from the later thirteenth century did querelae. But as with canonical inquisitions, such secular communal enquiries were quite as likely to result in dubiously politicized allegations, as in the 1274 Hundred Roll inquiries.[5] One of Robert le Vavasur’s 1255 inquiries was initiated by the King against him through ‘various rumours’. Like romano-canonical inquiries it proceeded with ex officio judges plus jury to investigate the rumour; the judges empowered to remit it to the King.[6] Inquests of sheriffs such as that of 1258—9 were specifically designed to elicit anyone’s complaints about sheriffs, and the same was equally true in the case of

French enquetes.24 In the case of sheriffs there was, arguably until Edward I, a somewhat schizophrenic spasming from an established ‘Exchequer’ accountability that stressed fiscal returns, to another more equitable concern with accountability, and emphasizing broader measures of conduct beyond the fiscal (though the Exchequer of Pleas played a role here). Sheriffs’ contributions to England’s political divisions in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries seem largely a function both of governmental failures to provide a satisfactory synthesis of fiscality and equity. Overall, the growing sophistication of interest in officers’ accountability necessitated a softening of officers’ hierarchical imperviousness to criticism from below. The question of whether officers were dismissible in relation to such criticisms may also be seen in this context.25 In some cases the issue seems to have been principally practical (e.g. bailiffs’ reliability). In others, questions of principle complicated matters (e.g. bishops’ ‘marriage’ to their dioceses).

  • [1] See Daniel Power’s comments in ‘Guerin de Glapion, Seneschal of Normandy (1200—1201): Service and Ambition under the Plantagenet and Capetian Kings’, in Nicholas Vincent (ed.),Records, Administration and Aristocractic Society in the Anglo-Norman Realm. Papers Commemoratingthe 800th Anniversary of King Johns Loss of Normandy (Woodbridge, 2009), 153—92 esp. 153, also167—9, 178—82. Guerin’s career is particularly recoverable because of Louis’s 1247 Norman enquetes.See RHF, xxiv.1. 1—73; Charles Petit-Dutaillis, ‘Querimoniae Normannorum , in A. G. Little and F.M. Powicke (eds.), Essays in Medieval History Presented to Thomas Frederick Tout (Manchester, 1925),99-118.
  • [2] Walter Ullmann, A History of Political Thought: The Middle Ages, rev. edn. (London, 1970),12-13. For criticism see Francis Oakley, ‘Celestial Hierarchies Revisited: Walter Ullmann’s Vision ofMedieval Politics’, P&P 60 (1973), 3^8 esp. 6-10, 22^4. Oakley’s critique hinges on the anachronistic, mutually exclusive, and tendentious development of this pairing in Ullmann’s writings. Forreference to Ullmann’s approach in relation to the types of sources dealt with here, see e.g. LeonardE. Scales, ‘The Cambridgeshire Ragman Rolls’, EHR 113 (1998), 553-79 at 553.
  • [3] Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianityin the West, 350—550 AD (Princeton, NJ, 2012), pt. V, passim, esp. 517—22, 530; R. I. Moore, FirstEuropean Revolution, c.970—1215 (Oxford, 2000),passim, esp. s.v. ‘clergy’.
  • [4] 21 Philippe Buc, LAmbiguite du livre: Prince, pouvoir etpeuple dans les commentaries de la Bible auMoyen Age (Paris, 1994), 312-408, shows that while this fact might be tolerated in the field of praxis,when it came to theoria theologians generally sought to qualify it to death.
  • [5] Caroline Burt, Edward I and the Governance of England, 1272—1307 (Cambridge, 2013), 91,102-3.
  • [6] 23 CPR 1247-1258, 432.
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