Piotr Górecki: ‘Use of the Past for Peasant Servitude.’Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz
In the final paper of the workshop, Piotr Górecki presented a close reading of a deed issued by Duke Conrad of Masovia, in 1222, demonstrating the use of history in a legal document. In this text the Duke confirmed the unfree status of the peasant Miłoszka who had requested to be liberated from his overlords.
Carefully analyzing the document’s structure and argumentation, Górecki identified several levels of engagement with the past. Besides references to historical figures and the Duke’s predecessors, the document contained the narrative of the conflict, referring to a previous attempt made by Miłoszka to gain his freedom several years earlier. More strikingly, however, time and history also played a central role in the structure and argument of the Duke’s decision – in the form of a genealogical list of the peasant’s ancestry. Thus, the document stated the intent to dissuade Miłoszka from arguing that the ‘passage of time’ granted him claims to his freedom. Instead, the legal status of the peasant’s family in the past – presented as a list stretching over approximately five generations – should justify the Duke’s decision to maintain this unfree status in the future.
It is that list which Górecki puts at the core of his argument: the past presented a ‘chronological benchmark’, that is, the use of the past as a model or normative instruction in conflict.
Piotr Górecki: contact details and research
See also the seminal publication Conflict in Medieval Europe. Changing Perspectives on Society and Culture, edited By Warren C. Brown, Piotr Górecki (1st ed. 2003)