Llibre del Sindicat Remenša de 1448

The Llibre del Sindicat Remenša of 1448

Llibre del Sindicat Remenša de 1448

The Llibre del Sindicat Remenša contains the proceedings of the serfs' assemblies of the Catalan dioceses of Girona, Osona, Barcelona, Urgell and Elna, which took place between 13th October 1448 and 10th March 1449. These meetings brought together serfs from one or several parishes to choose their representatives, the syndics -those who had to defend their cause (the abolition of serfdom, in other words personal bondage), before the monarchy and the relevant institutions- as well as collecting the money needed to meet the costs of their emancipation.

These assemblies were authorized by King Alfons IV, the Magnanimous, who was receptive to the demands of the serfs. The royal writ specified that no more than 50 men could meet together at any one time, and an official or royal delegate had to be present at all the meetings. In addition, a notary would have to take down the minutes.

The proceedings of the different meetings consists of the date and place of each meeting, the system used for grouping the serfs together, the royal official and notary present at each meeting, and the names of the serfs of each parish. The meetings were usually held at the parish church, though in other cases they were held at the town hall, the cemetery, the lord's castle, the sanctuary or private houses. The men were normally convened by the beating of drums, the ringing of bells, the sounding of horns and by sounding the alarm (viafora).

There are a total of 553 proceedings recorded, some repeated, which include the meetings that took place in 912 different parishes and brought together a total of 10,425 men. Moreover, this serf census was used to draw up the Great Peasant Syndicate of 1488, produced to obtain the money to compensate the feudal lords for the abolition of servitude deriving from the application of the Guadalupe Arbitral Ruling.

Historical significance

Llibre del Sindicat Remenša de 1448

The Llibre del Sindicat Remenša of 1448 is kept in the Municipal Archive of Girona (AMGi). There is no record of the date on which this document was deposited in the Girona Municipal Archive. This is an unpublished work that is still not well known. JuliÓ de ChÝa, the municipal archivist and historian, referred to and analyzed it in his work Bandos y bandoleros en Gerona. Apuntes histˇricos desde el siglo XIV hasta mediados del XVII, v. II, pp. 48-49, 67-70, edited in Girona in 1888. In 1954, Jaume Vicens Vives, in his study on the Great Peasant Syndicate of 1488, refers to the existence of a document based on the documentation related to the 1488 Syndicate that he had studied. He stated the importance of finding it and analyzing it, though he was unaware of the Girona manuscript. It was Paul Freedman who linked ChÝa's manuscript with what Vicens Vives was looking for and was the first to place it and confer on it the value it deserved in 1991.

The Peasant Syndicate of 1448 is a precedent for the Guadalupe Arbitral Ruling, decreed by Ferdinand II. This ruling was the first time that peasant servitude had been abolished legally and officially in Europe. As Paul Freedman notes in his report, in other areas such as England serfdom would gradually disappear, though without being legally abolished. And, in fact, the Syndicate itself, rooted in the authorization that the monarch -Alfons IV the Magnanimous- gave to the peasants to meet and organize themselves in defence of their freedoms. This authorization is also the first official recognition of the serfs as a collective that is willing and able to stand up for its rights.

As Professor Paul Freedman points out, the 1448 Peasant Syndicate anticipates, to some extent, trade unions in the contemporary age. In both cases they involve the association of people of the same group or social status who come together to claim and defend their rights. These are associations based on horizontal solidarity, which contrasts with the hierarchical relationships that characterized Medieval society (lord-vassal); notwithstanding the fact that in the case of the Peasant Syndicate, it also had to raise a certain amount of money to pay for the recognition of these rights.

The peasants of 1448 are the same ones who several years later were involved in the peasants' revolt that, despite leading to substantial losses, was also a victory in the sense that it brought about the abolition of serfdom.

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