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Illness and Disability in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century Notarial Documents in Medieval Toledo

Illness and Disability in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century Notarial Documents in Medieval Toledo

By Yasmine Beale-Rivaya

eHumanista, Volume 23 (2013)

Toledo - Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

Introduction: The contractual documents of purchase and sale of lands, donations, wills, deeds and other common contracts of the Mozarabs (Arabized-Christians) living in medieval Toledo (1085-1391) are extensive and include a wide variety of people with across-the-board needs for which they have sought a legal remedy. Although principally a Mozarabic corpus, the collection of contracts represents and includes a broad cross-section of society living in this historically pivotal city. The Mozarabic community living in Toledo is considered to have been an ‘agent of cultural transmission’ and therefore responsible for transmission of the Andalusí culture and language into what became known as Christian Spain. Their documents are symbolic not only of the transition from Muslim Al-Andalus to Christian Spain, but also give us insight into the real-time everyday interactions and events of transitional Toledo after the year 1085 AD between peoples of different cultures, religions, backgrounds and identities. Although the purpose of these agreements is to redact formal economic transactions, they include many examples of informal and especially oral language use, and provide glimpses of the social interactions between the parties involved.

The practice of using an ‘apodo’ or nickname by which they are commonly identified, is a long-standing tradition in Hispanic culture. Javier Leralta dates the origins of this tradition in the Iberian Peninsula to the times of the Visigoths when, he sustains, the Visigothic leaders were not chosen through blood lineage, but rather earned their position through their qualities, interests, and relations. The result of the process of nicknaming subsequently created a façade or public persona, a simple referent whose function was to encapsulate that person’s entire identity. Within the contracts of the Mozarabs (Arabized-Christians) of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Toledo the tradition of nicknaming, rather than using a person’s legal name or full name, was a common practice. The consequence of the inclusion of the nickname in a formal legal document was two-fold. First, the consistent use of an informal moniker in a formal context has the effect of transforming and fossilizing said name into official and legitimate last names used for identification in legal contexts. Second, the act of writing a nickname proffers the opportunity to glimpse how the Mozarabic community in Toledo interacted with all of the other communities (i.e Muslims, Jews, Francs, Gallegos etc…) co-existing in this city.

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