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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

A variation from the Fuero Juzgo


[Sidenote: Social institutions in Catalonia.]

Different as Catalonia was from Aragon, the two regions had many features in common because of the existence of feudalism. The feudal hierarchy was composed of counts, viscounts, _valvasores_ (barons), and free vassals, of whom the first three grades were noble. Underneath was the institution of serfdom, equally harsh as in Aragon, and almost equally late in advancing toward emancipation. Personal slavery (of Moslem prisoners of war, as a rule) also existed. There were not many Moz?rabes or Mud?jares, but the Jews were fairly numerous. All enjoyed the same lenient treatment as that accorded in Castile and Aragon,--with a beginning of restrictive measures at the end of the period. The middle class of the cities was more important than in Aragon, especially in the coast cities or towns, where the citizens engaged in commerce. Although the communal family group was the general rule in Catalonia, this institution was considerably modified by the existence of the law of primogeniture, causing the entailment of landed properties to each successive eldest son,--a variation from the _Fuero Juzgo_. This aided in economic prosperity, because it kept estates intact, and influenced younger brothers to go forth in order to build up estates of their own. In other respects, social customs did not vary materially from those of Aragon and Castile.[26]

justify;">[Sidenote: Political life and administration in Catalonia.]

[Sidenote: Importance of Barcelona.]

The only new factor of interest in general political and administrative organization was the increase in the actual authority of the counts of Barcelona (and, similarly, after they became kings of Aragon), although on the same legal basis of feudalism as before. This came about through the uniting of most of the counties in the single family of the counts of Barcelona, who therefore were able to exercise a decisive influence in Catalonian affairs. The rise in importance of Barcelona was the most notable event in municipal history. Its commerce and wealth were so great, and its prestige as capital of the county so influential, that it exercised a veritable hegemony over the other towns. Each year the general assembly elected five councillors, who in turn appointed a council of one hundred, or _Consell de Cent_, which was the principal governing body of the city. The city was allowed to coin money and to appoint consuls charged with looking after the business interests of Barcelona in foreign lands. The _Consell_ also had mercantile jurisdiction. The Catalan commercial customs were to pass over in a developed form into Castile, and from there to the Americas. The Catalonian _Cortes_ had but three estates, and was in other respects similar to that of Castile. The representatives of the towns were admitted in 1218, but their right to appear was not definitely affirmed until 1282. Barcelona had unusual weight in that body, for it possessed five votes. The _Usatges_ (the code adopted in the reign of Ram?n Berenguer I) merely expressed in writing the feudal customs which were already in vogue, and therefore it was generally observed. It did not supersede the charters, the _Fuero Juzgo_, and local customs, all of which continued in effect. The Roman and canon law, despite the resistance of the nobility, came to be regarded as supplementary to other legal sources, although not as of right until centuries later. In naval affairs Catalonia was far ahead of the rest of Spain. Both a merchant and a naval marine had existed since the ninth century, and the former was encouraged by the suppression of taxes and by favorable treaties with the Italian states. The navy had become a permanent state institution by the middle of the twelfth century (in the reign of Ram?n Berenguer IV). Individual lords and towns had naval vessels of their own, however. The history of the church followed the same course as in Aragon; the Roman rite was adopted in the time of Ram?n Berenguer I (1035-1076).

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