Jenny Benham: ‘Treaties as a strategy of conflict management – a snapshot of Sardinia in the 1180s.'

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

From the previously discussed gravemounds of Borre Jenny Benham takes us to the Judicate of Arborea in Sardinia and the quite unique 1186 Treaty of Hyères that was concluded between Arenborga, queen of Arborea, and the city of Genoa. This primary source is an interesting snapshot of conflict management and international law before 1200 and demonstrates the ambiguities one may find in such sources. The Treaty of Hyères was part of a longstanding conflict in and over Sardinia and, thus, part of a complicated web of treaties that could start, pause, or prevent a conflict at various points and levels.

Issues such as Arborea’s succession and the rivalry between Genoa and Pisa played important roles during the overall conflict and required overlapping and complementing strategies to manage and resolve them. While the use of history in conflicts and international law tends to be a justification of actions (and can be found in the other related treaties), the Treaty of Hyères has a surprising lack of references to history. There is no mention of any marriage, previous alliances, financial commitment, and not even a reference to the recent unjust seizure of the throne of Arborea, making this treaty quite a mystery.

Additionally, another interesting feature is that it is in fact unclear why this treaty was concluded with Arenborga at all. The necessity is not explained, the Genoese financial investments are ambiguous and Arenborga’s role differed from the few other treaties that named women as contracting parties: she was explicitly referred to as queen and is not the mother of any male heir. If we think of treaties as sources of international law that recognize authority, this is a significant acknowledgement of female agency in the early medieval period.

See also Jenny Benham's books: Peacemaking in the Middle AgesPrinciples and practice (2011) and the upcoming International law in Europe, 700-1200 (2022).

Jenny Benham: contact details and research

Twitter: @jembenham

(Ester Zoomer)


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