Review: Joao Bernardo. Poder e Dinheiro. Do Poder Pessoal ao Estado Impessoal no Regime Senhorial, Séculos V-XV. 3 vols.
Biblioteca das Ciências do Homen. Ed. Afrontamento, Porto. 1995-2002.
By Loren Goldner
Part I. Sincronia. Estrutura Económica e Social do Sécolo VI ao Sécolo IX. 1995.
Part II. Diacronia. Conflitos Sociais do Sécolo V ao Sécolo XIV. 1997.
Part III. Sincronia. Família, Dinheiro e Estado do Sécolo XI ao Sécolo XIV. 2002.
Joao Bernardo has to be one of the most prolific, and prodigious, radical theoreticians of the past 30 years, yet, because he writes in his native Portuguese and because very little of his work has been translated into English, he remains largely unknown in the world of Anglophone Marxism. The publication this year of the third and final volume of his massive 2000-page study of the “seigneurial regime” in Europe from the 5th to the 15th centuries provides an occasion to modestly correct this lacuna. The purpose of the following review is both to make Joao Bernardo better known in the Anglophone Marxist world, and above all to bring his most ambitious work to date to the attention of that world, and beyond. (It is also hopefully to make Bernardo’s book known to a few real medievalists–which I am emphatically not–capable of reviewing it in greater depth, and to expedite its translation into English.)
Readers of Bernardo’s previous work know the significance he gives to “os gestores” (managers and administrators) in the development of capitalism, but those encountering the author for the first time in this three-volume study of the “seigneurial regime” (a term with which he replaces the overused and inadequate term “feudalism”) would not necessarily recognize the centrality and sources of this aspect of his agenda, just as “os gestores” were not socially front and center in most of the period he is analyzing. But the book “looks forward” often enough, toward the emergence of absolutism, and beyond absolutism to capitalism, to make it clear what the ultimate import of the “impersonal state” is for Bernardo.
What stands out in Bernardo’s entire analysis is a serious challenge to mainstream (including orthodox Marxist) interpretations of these centuries. These interpretations all converge around the thesis that the crisis of the seigneurial regime in the mid-14th century (most dramatically of course in the Black Death of 1348-49) was the result of the exhaustion of virgin land available for cultivation, following nearly a thousand years in which a central dynamic of the system had been precisely the occupation and development of such lands, a process that in fact had virtually ground to a halt by the 14th century. Within this dynamic, the mainstream interpretations cite demographic, agrarian and technological factors, and for the impact of the monetization of the economy in the latter centuries, some tend to anachronistically see therein proto-capitalist categories, as if commerce were capitalism. For Bernardo, on the contrary, all these phenomena, up to and including international trade and finance (through the 13th and 14th centuries) have to be seen as an active unfolding of the class relations of the seigneurial regime, mediated at every step of the way by the active struggle between classes.
Bernardo begins by identifying thirteen regional and temporal variants on the seigneurial regime, in contrast to the more traditional use of “feudalism” derived from the case of northern France. Central to his entire study are the concepts of the bannum and the mundium, or the spheres of the power and (roughly) social service of the seigneur, respectively. The bannum is “in sum, the seigneur’s power of to say yes and no” ( I, 226), in peace and in war; the mundium was the more benevolent, protective side of the power associated with the bannum. Bernardo sees these spheres beginning initially in the seigneur’s household and then expanding to include other families. A relationship of inequality that began within the family became the basis of the relationships between the seigneur and the serfs, and between the seigneur and his vassals. Family structures were the main organizational element of this mode of production, based on the exchange of gifts. Bernardo thus formulates what he calls the “law of the seigneurial regime” (first version, for the 5th to 10th centuries) as the “personal and particularized exchange, over time, of presents consisting of concrete economic objects of unequal function”, or more succinctly an “exchange of unequal functions” (I, 239). 
Such relations governed, for example, the coinage of money, as in the case of the Carolingians, and Bernardo sees such attempts to “strengthen the silver content as confirming a desire for continuity in systems of power” ( I, 553); monetary and social relations were inextricably intertwined, a further expression of the bannum. But ultimately, the expansion of the bannum through money, and the reduction of independent peasants to serfs, was only realized through intensive social conflict. Further, in contrast to mainstream historical thinking (including mainstream Marxist thinking on this period), Bernardo insists that “conflicts are not a reality distinct from the daily operations of the social system”, but are essential to illuminating such operations. Already from the last centuries of the Roman empire onward and the early formation of the seigneurial regime, flight and banditry (for example) were continuations of struggles that had been been dominated militarily. (Anchorite monks also sought refuge in the forests.) Later, repressing such struggles often compelled the Christian aristocracy to suspend the wars against the Muslims. Once again, pushes into virgin lands are, for Bernardo, also forms of struggle.
Bernardo sees the initial, personal form of power transformed into an impersonal one through the major social crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries. It is here that his originality first comes clearly into view, and transforms the more traditional interpretations of the expansion into new lands into an expression of social conflict. (He shows, for example, how the well-known invasions of the Vikings, Magyars and Muslims associated with the period following the collapse of the Carolingian empire were, once again, not merely disuptive military incursions but, rather, interracted closely with the transformation of social relations then underway, relations which in turn influenced military developments.) The invasions, because of alliances between invaders and factions of the invaded, wound up expanding the seigneurial system. The military results in different parts of the ex-empire drew on previous centuries of history in different, specific reorganization of local hierarchies. Up to the crisis, the uncultivated lands and vast forests were a permanent escape valve for simple flight as well as migration, and for an independent peasantry, and the existence of this escape valve had a direct impact on the possible rate of exploitation of the servile peasantry in the lands under seigneurial control. “Control over the opening up of new lands was, for the aristocracy, the condition for overcoming the crisis” (II, 607-608). Bernardo shows how many of the well-known heresies of the period were in fact closely linked to these places of refuge. The crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries was shaped by the disappearance of an independent peasantry as the seigneurs extended their control over the previously uncultivated lands. Family structure was integral as second sons of both aristocratic and peasant families were the main force in new settlements. The earlier relationships, modeled on the family and hence appearing as personal relationships, gave way to an impersonal one, in which the large seigneurs dominated a more uniformly serf population that lived on their territories. The same impersonality extended to the seigneur’s relations to his vassals. Bernardo sees this transition in tandem with profound changes in the family structures of the peasantry and aristocracy. Rural communitarianism, in his view, evolved as a “large artificial family”. Until the crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries, rural communities contained both serfs and independent peasants; after the disappearance of the independent peasantry, rural communities acquired an impersonality reflecting the new impersonal rule of the seigneur. The heresies occurred in lands which had been newly enmeshed by seigneurial relations, and they reflected the new communitarianism which was a response to the new impersonal seigneurial forms.. Control of local churches by the seigneurial class was an integral part of the new relations. (The role of second sons of seigneurial families in populating the upper level of the church hierarchy shows the ongoing centrality of the family in the overall system.) The spread of fortifications was aimed not so much at external enemies as at potential internal opposition. In this new context without independent peasants, rural communitarianism, and the relations of exploitation therein, were remade, as was the seigneurial family, with “the systematic containment of the rural population being inseparable from the remaking of the ruling class” ( II, 361). Part of this, for the exploited, included the penetration of wage labor into the old seigneurial forms ( II, 343).
A similar remaking of the aristocratic elite took place in the cities, through both peaceful and violent forms of struggle. Even where certain aspects of manufacture appeared, as in Venice, the corporative form of organization maintained all production within urban seigneurial relations (II, 429), and, according to Bernardo, there was no wage-labor class as such through this period ( II, 437). There was of course in various cities a large floating population (arraia-miúda) excluded from both the elite and the craft corporations, that survived on a combination of charity, crime and casual labor, but their eruptions were, up to the late 14th century, always mobilized in struggles between factions of the urban elite. Their convergence into a single form of wage-laborers was centuries away ( II, 449).
For Bernardo, moreover, the city acted as a “collective seigneur” with regard to the surrounding rural world, over which it effectively exercised the bannum ; cities were “an integral part of the seigneurial regime” (II, 516). Thus many members of the urban seigneurial elite, while remaining in the city, continued to acquire more land and remained intensely interested in the operation of their rural holdings (II, 476). The city exploited the peasantry under its control, usually through taxation. In Flanders, the cities even organized confiscatory attacks to enforce taxation on the countryside. Bernardo rejects the “myths” that have tended to see large urban merchants as aspiring to a different kind of life than the nobility, or to see the nobility as indifferent to business affairs. He finds it impossible to disentangle the two spheres, as for example in the business activity of many military orders such as the Teutonic Knights. Similarly, most of the famous urban factional battles in various Italian towns (such as those between Guelph and Ghibelline) were generally tied to conflicts and alliances with the rural nobility.
Bernardo, as indicated earlier, rejects demographic explanations of the expansion of the system. “It is”, he writes, “undoubtedly very conforting for historians to invoke external events, themselves inexplicable, to justify complex social processes. Demographic fluctuations are always available as an argument, and as I observed…when I made the analysis of the expansion into new lands during the previous period, the fact of an increase in land under cultivation is the basis on which many authors deduce that the population had increased, with this deduction being presented at the same time as the cause of that fact. The explanation for one of the most decisive economic and social processes thus remains caught in a methodological vicious circle.” (II, 529). No such population increase, argues the author, caused the colonization and new settlements. Rather, such expansions generally were an expression of seigneurial power, as (to take one example among many) in the case of the Bohemian and Hungarian monarchs who encouraged foreign immigration to strengthen themselves and to reduce the power of local aristocrats. (II, 539). The great pilgrimages, above all from the end of the 11th century, to Jerusalem (Bernardo rejects the term “crusades”) are even more striking evidence of the spread of seigneurial sovereignty without colonization (II, 550-551). They were, rather, escape valves “permitting the regime to overcome the great crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries without the explosion of its antagonisms” (II, 552). “The clearing of forests and the opening up of new fields were not merely operations of agrarian economics, but aspects of a colonization understood in the broad sense of the word, as submission of populations to an ongoing fiscalization” (II, 583). By depriving the heresies of their strongholds, the seigneurial class temporarily contained them. While some of these movements, such as the Waldensians, achieved widespread peasant support, their military self-defense ultimately pushed them to exact tribute in a new form from the peasants, thereby alienating them and leaving the isolated heretics open to destruction. By the end of the period under study (the 14th century) these movements began to shift their focus from imaginary Jerusalems to the construction of a real Jerusalem.
Having laid out this analysis, Bernardo then turns in Volume III to the question of money, and it is here that he shows, in highly original fashion, how it is impossible to understand money in the seigneurial regime without understanding the relationships sketched above, and their evolution. Money, for Bernardo, was the vehicle of impersonal power. After the imposition of impersonal power by the 10th century, the seigneurial class achieved complete control of the creation of money, but Bernardo insists that it is a common mistake of older interpretations to see this evolution as the result of commerce. Money spread, in his view, as an instrument of impersonal power between both seigneurs and serfs and between seigneurs and vassals. Its spread in no way called into question seigneurial power. For Bernardo, money did not function as an agent of exchange, but as an agent of the impersonal exercise of power, as in the substitution of money tribute for older forms of tribute in kind. He insists, once again, on a distinction between commerce and capitalism.
To further this analysis, Bernardo distinguishes three types of money, Form I used in relations between the seigneurs and the serfs, Form II used in relations between the seigneurs and their vassals, and Form III, fiduciary money that emerged to finance credit operations in the cities, which (as previously noted) Bernardo considers a “collective seigneur” in their relations with the rural world around them .
For Bernardo, these three types of money are the key to an understanding of the new role of the monarchy from the 10th century onward. Their convergence in the king occurs precisely after the extinction of the independent peasantry. Thus the operation of money, far from being a blind commercial force, actually expresses social relationships throughout. Monetary policy of kings (such as the attempt to establish a strong currency in France between 1360 and 1385) was often the direct cause of popular resistance. The new phase of impersonal power remade both aristocratic families, as well as the relationship of the latter with vassals. The use of mercenaries spread, undermining older forms of vassal military service. Vassals increasingly paid their tribute in cash. Money steadily took over the remade impersonal bannum and mundium, with credit playing an increasing role (III, 268-269). The two great military orders, the Templars and the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, were bankers. The very emergence of groups such as monks in this capacity reflected the new impersonality of social relationships. Similar relations, again mediated by money, gave rise to a salaried seigneurial bureaucracy, new “professionals in management” (III, 280) as Bernardo calls them. “The separation of the public sphere from the private sphere, without which the modern state would not develop, has its genesis in this period…” (III, 286). Universities developed to educate this stratum independently from the institutions for the education of the clergy. For Bernardo, this impersonal remaking of seigneurial households through Form II of money (used between seigneurs and vassals) points to the whole period of absolutism, and “from the 15th to the 18th centuries all social and political life can be analyzed in the paradoxical terms of impersonal artifical households” (III, 293). Returning to his own period of the emergence of impersonal power, he points out how the model of the family shaped even commercial institutions (III, 355).
In the urban setting, by the 14th century, what Bernardo calls Form III or fiduciary (fiat or paper) money comes into its own, financing an impressive level of long-distance trade. He sees this type of money emerging in tandem with “the intensification of the internal contradictions of urban society”, above all in northern Italy. Nevertheless, this fiduciary money (unlike what occurred centuries later under absolutism) expanded “without the existence of any stable center of sovereignty with a global reach” (III, 375). This form of money was (following Bernardo’s insistence of the model of the family in both phases of the seigneurial regimes) still “parafamiliar” and not merely mercantile, as it would later become. Bernardo traces the emergence of bills of exchange, insurance and credit as newly-specialized activities within this framework. Fiduciary money began to spread out of improvised fractional-reserve practices by professionals of foreign currency exchange (III, 405). Major trade fairs, such as the famous one in Champagne, achieved such dimensions that the money changers and bankers who oversaw the settlement of accounts began to handle transactions seriously exceeding the activities of the fairs themselves, thus becoming another source of fiduciary money (III, 418). The fiduciary money created by these Form III practices frustrated the ability of authorites to control money as they did Forms I and II through old practices of coinage and debasement. The pre-capitalist social relations expressed through money forms were underscored by the importance of looting for international trade associations such as the Hanseatic League; they thereby extended an old seigneurial practice and could not be understood as merely commercial. The King of France carried out a massive form of looting in 1307 when he suppressed the warrior-monk bankers, the Knights Templar, and seized all their assets. In the cities the management of the public debt did achieve a level of sophistication that would later pass to the great absolutist states, and was underwritten by new forms of steeply regressive taxation of the poor. (III, 456, 461) The functioning of the public debt “was always accompanied by social convulsions”. Thus public banks were called into existence that were in effect central banks. “The principle attributes of money in the seigneurial regime were of a social and political order, as a vehicle of social relations and systems of power, and not of an immediately economic order, as would occur in capitalism. ” (III, 472) Forms I, II and III of money converged in the monarchs, who debased the metallic Form I held by the poor to strengthen the Form II used with vassals, which in turn had an impact on the ability to create Form III of fiduciary money. But, once again, these “operations of money and credit did not in any way anticipate the capitalist system. Quite the contrary, they constituted, at both the economic and ideological levels, the full functioning of the seigneurial regime” (III, 484). Here again, Bernardo polemicizes against many historians “in a hurry to assimilate commerce to capitalism” (III, 490). The nobility “without exception”, had to constantly intervene in commercial activities, with their powers of local coinage. The Anjou monarchs speculated massively , hoarding food to sell at high prices in times of scarcity, revealing the surreptitious mechanisms of the mundium in the new impersonal period. The credit activities of the Church, such as those of the Knights Templar and the Papacy, are for Bernardo to be explained “as modalities of the mundium”, not some hypocricy against ideological strictures on interest (III, 505). By the end of the period, the management of the public debt was also no longer classified as usury. The religious aristocracy was as much a part of the seigneurial regime as the lay nobility and the urban elites. Up to the 14th century, following the crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries, the monarchs fought to assert their control over previously decentralized coinage. In their fiscal and credit practices, the three forms of money converged. The new fiscal systems required “a conjugation of very deep social transformations”, one that was possible “only when the impersonal character of the relationship acquired complete hegemony and when the monarchs succeeded in managing a new bureaucracy capable of dealing with the abstract mechanisms of money” (III, 563). “Only in a society in which money already permeated all relations was it possible to differentiate the personal bannum of a sovereign and the authority of the crown” (III, 564). The later period was thus charaterized by a royalty “at once magical and bureaucratic”. Great revolutions would still be necessarily to “liquidate the sacred character of the king” and arrive at the “impersonal and impersonal apparatus of state authority”.
The second version of the law of the seigneurial regime, (for the period from the end of the great crisis to the 14th century) is thus formulated by Bernardo as follows: “an exchange, over time, of presents consisting of economic objects of unequal function, with undifferentiated agents of exchange and an indeterminate content of the obligations”, even as it remained (as in the earlier period) an “exchange of unequal functions”. In the new period, the “circuits of money were substituted for both the personalization of economic agents and for the concrete character of economic objects”.
In this new situation of “enormous artificial and impersonal households”, and the homogeneity it engendered, the peasants “lost social initative, and the impulse to migration and the opening up of new lands declined and finally ground to a halt”. (III, 582) This led to a period of economic contraction, and the seigneurial class was forced to greater and greater exactions. Famine returned in the last decades of the 13th century with an intensity not seen for over a hundred years. “The more severe exercise of the bannumforced rural people to dispense with types of food they traditionally consumed” (III, 584). With weakened populations, the stage was set for the Black Death.
In a concluding chapter, Bernardo presents the English insurrection of 1381 and the Hussite rebellion in Bohemia and Moravia beginning in 1419 as, respectively, the last struggle of the second phase of the seigneurial regime and the opening of a new period.
The English rebellion, for all its far-reaching scope, never rejected the authority of the king. It showed “the dual character of the rural communities, which were at once a framework for peasant solidarity and an element of seigneurial control” (III, 606). In the Hussite movement for the first time there occurred a convergence between serfs in revolt with the urban poor (arraia-miúda), thereby unifying the currents of rebellion (the heretical communitarian movements and the egalitarian urban ferment) which previously had occurred in isolation. And unlike the English insurgents, the Hussites never turned to any king.
The fact that this massive study is written in Portuguese (pending its translation into English, which this review hopes to expedite) should really be the least of the obstacles to its diffusion and (to use contemporary jargon) “reception”. I wonder to what extent there exists any reader capable of fully meeting it on its own ground (as I am certainly not). Not only did Bernardo spend the better part of 20 years researching and writing this work, but as an independent intellectual connected to no university, he was entirely free from the kinds of institutional patronage, career pressures and faddism (most notably, in the past two decades, the post-modernist vulgate) that mar so many academic “monographs”. Perhaps some medievalists might be capable of poking holes in different aspects of Bernardo’s analysis, but particularly because its theoretical underpinnings flow from a whole body of his earlier writing having nothing to do with the 5th to 15th centuries, the typical academic empiricist and specialist will be at a great disadvantage in attempting to enjoin Bernardo’s book where it demands, namely as a whole. Its major radical import, as I, a “general reader”, see it, lies in the author’s insistence that the social relations of the seigneurial regime permeate and explain phenomena that have up to now generally been interpreted as agrarian, technological, military, “economic” (in an anachronistic backward projection of capitalism), demographic, or epidemiological (e.g. the Black Death), i.e. causes that diminish or eliminate the centrality of the social, and of the activity of classes within specific relations. One might without great exaggeration paraphrase Bernardo’s general perspective as being that the phenomena to be explained are social relationships, mediated by agriculture, technology, warfare, “economic” activity, demography and epidemics. Whether analyzing the successes of the Viking, Magyar or Moslem invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries, or the depersonalization of the bannum and the mundium, or the migrations into uncultivated land, or the rather sophisticated institutions of foreign exchange, state debt, taxation, banking and insurance of the 14th century (which latter can appear so proto-capitalist to the less critical eye), or, finally, the places where the Black Death struck and did not strike, Bernardo is always insisting on the reproduction of the seigneurial relationship as central to any real explanation. Where questions of agricultural productivity, technological innovation, opening of virgin lands, wars or epidemics are concerned, Bernardo systematically rejects any “ex machina” explanations that remove the social from its centrality. The weakening of the European population by the 14th century that left it vulnerable to the Black Death (to take perhaps the most dramatic example) was not the result of the “dumb” fact of population growth filling up all available land and producing a food shortage, but rather of the complex process of the extension of the mundium as the solution to the 9th and 10th century crisis, and the later intensification of seigneurial exactions when the migrations into virgin lands had ground to a halt. Bernardo, through this analysis, greatly extends the explanatory power of social relations governing social practice into areas where more mechanical causes have long held the high ground. From other historical periods with which I am more familiar, this “relational” explanatory method has the ring of truth, and however successful Bernardo’s use of it in various dimensions of the 5th to 15th centuries, his book will certainly force many medievalists to rethink their premises in attempting to stand their ground. This will already be its powerful theoretical and historical contribution.
-Here is a summary bibliography of Bernardo’s books to date: Para uma Teoria do Modo de Producao Comunista (Porto, 1975); Marx Critico de Marx. Epistemologia, Classes Sociais e Tecnologia em ‘O Capital” (Porto, 1977); O Inimigo Oculto. Ensaio sobre a Luta de Classes; Manifesto Anti-Ecológico (Porto, 1979); Capital, Sindicatos, Gestores (Sao Paolo, 1987); Crise da Economia Soviética (Coimbra, 1990); Economia dos Conflitos Sociais (Sao Paolo, 1991); Dialéctica da Prática e da Ideologia (Sao Paolo, 1991).
-Bernardo also prefers the term “regime” to the Marxist term “mode of production”, believing the current level of historical research to make the use of such a term for modes other than capitalism “premature” (I, 237) (all page citations will refer to the three volumes as I, II or III, followed by a page number)
-In II, 62 and ff Bernardo argues that exploratory probes into virgin lands were closely linked to social tensions.
-These include 1) the zone between the Loire and the Rhine; 2) Franconia, Thuringia, Alemania and Bavaria; 3) Frisia and Saxony; 4) Anglo-Saxon England; 5) the area that makes up contemporary northeastern France; 6) the area south of the Loire; 7) central and northern Italy; 8) Spain 9) and 10) two inter-related zones extending from the Cantabrian mountains to the sea, and the Douro valley. 1), 4) and 6) are further divided into two distinct periods, making a total of 13 variants.
This use of variants as opposed to “types” (such as Weberian ones) is the core of Bernardo’s method. Later, for example, discussing the appearance of occasional wage labor in the countryside, Bernardo says:
“Only historical evolution can make distinctions among what, in a given epoch, appears as a unique situation. One of the characteristics of the model of history infusing this book is the consideration of each phenomenon, not in light of a supposedly typical phenomenon, but always as an articulation of variants. And when given variants stand out in a certain context and give rise to something different, this is not due to the minutiae of historiographic analysis, but to the dictates of real history. If, centuries later, capitalism had not come along to take this aspect of peasant life as one of the bases of its development, we would today have no reason to separate the precursor forms of the introduction of the wage from the other forms of domestic labor and services made in the form of labor…” (II, 345)
-Bernardo identifies no less than 22 different types of transfers of wealth, between and within different classes, and also shows how each transfer effected the bannum, i.e. seigneurial power (summarized in chart opposite p. 430) It is also in the discussion of money in vol. I that he integrates wide-ranging anthropological material from all over the world, to explain the economy of gifts.
-The four characteristics of the system in the first phase are 1) the reciprocity of duties, 2) the completion of these reciprocal movements was not simultaneous (e.g the sporadic character of alms in moments of crisis) 3) the character of these duties was always personal, i.e. they could not be performed by any else except an heir, and 4) the character of the duties was always concrete.
-Perhaps most interesting in the late Roman empire were the Bacaudae, who carried out guerrilla actions and integrated bandits and refugees into their ranks.
-Bernardo draws on Ibn Khaldun and the little-known 18th century figure Joseph de Guignes in analyzing the impact of nomadic invasions on sedentary societies. “Neither the Scandinavians nor the Muslims nor the Magyars would have had such notable successes if they had not systemtically benefited from alliances” with factions of both aristocrats and peasants (II, p. 95).
-“The incorporation into the sphere of the bannum of the uncultivated lands was the first step in the
conversion to serfs of all the rural families which were using them.” (I, 349). More emphatically:
“The control achieved by the aristocracy over the uncultivated areas was one of the factors that allowed it to dominate the entire process. If one can find a single axis of continuity during the two great periods of the seigneurial regime, not merely unifying both in a common evolutionary line but also serving as an articulation in the great crisis of the 9th and 10th centuries and allowing the aristocracy to recuperate peasant ferment and to reestablish its authority in new forms, this axis is the exercise of the bannum over uncultivated areas and their uses. Overly preoccupied with agriculture, the advance of its techniques and the improvement of the land, so many historians never overcome a curious error in perspective, when in fact the destiny of this regime was decided in the previously-open areas.” (II, 528).
-Bernardo sees the pagan roots of many heresies as a further indication that they sprang from resistance to the spread of the seigneurial system.
-Bernardo sees the 1378 Florentine movement of the “People of God” (within a larger ferment more generally known as the Ciompi rebellion) as perhaps the first movement of the entire period in which workers acted autonomously, and were not manipulated by an elite faction. (II, p. 451)
-Bernardo points out (II, 487) that the Florentine elite seriously reduced taxes on the peasantry during the movement of summer 1378, trying to win its allegiance against the urban popular movement.
-Here once again (III, 84-85, footnote 205) Bernardo polemicizes against old Marxist orthodoxies of figure such as Maurice Dobb, who interprets such phenomena as capitalism growing up within the seigneurial system, instead of seeing this spread of cash as a “premise” for the later development of capitalism.
-“In this way, family interests could be transformed in the web of relationships that structured rural communitarianism, and by making the population of a territory cohesive, was a basis for the impersonal seigneurie. Thanks to Form I of money, rural collectivities appeared as the lower stratum of vast artificial families headed by impersonal seigneurs. It was thus that the modern state began to take shape.” (III, 86).
-“To claim to evaluate the mechanisms of credit operative from the 11th to the 14th centuries by capitalist standards is an anachronism…” (III, 147)
-Bernardo’s rejection of the term “feudalism” in which exceptions to the old definition of vassaldom turn out to be “much more widespread than the rule”, is on III, 223 and ff.
-For Bernardo’s rich and dense discussion of the transformation of these elements into absolutism after the end of his period, cf. III, 564-567.
-Once again, Bernardo attacks “historians who invoke demographic reasons” to explain the plague, and which “allow historians precisely to hide the antagonisms between classes behind apparent acts of nature” (III, 586).