A Classification of Peasants Attached to Land in Byzantium of the 14th Century

A Classification of Peasants Attached to Land in Byzantium of the 14th Century

By Xenia V. Khvostova and Yu P. Kumekin

Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung(HSR), Vol. 16:2 (1991)

Abstract: Cluster analysis was used to classify peasants attached to land in the 14th century Byzantium on the basis of 1321 property-tax cadastre that registered the landed property of St. Athanasius Lavra in Athos. Peasant households were grouped according to their demographic and economic structures and the taxes they had to pay. We also identified a complex non-single connection between the household groups and their distribution over an administrative unit.

Introduction: Everybody knows that application of quantitative methods and formalisation in general in medieval socioeconomic history is limited due to a number of factors, the most important of them being incompatibility of data of different medieval sources. Besides, frequently the material is too limited to be quantitatively processed, with inconsistent, random and unclear data. Still, there are situations when socioeconomic information of the Middle Ages can be quantitatively processed. One should not miss such a god-sent opportunity. The Byzantine property-tax cadastres is one of them.

pportunity. The Byzantine property-tax cadastres is one of them. Here we use quantitative methods to study the cadastre registering the landed possessions of St. Athanasius Lavra in Athos compiled in 1321. It includes descriptions of both the domains and the households of dependent peasants found in different regions (katepanykij) of the Thessaloniki Region (theme). The cadastre registered 856 households (the number includes only those data which have been completely explained by the publishers). It supplies information about the number of family members in each of the households, the types of movable property and real estate and the size of tax payed by each family. Our aim is to classify the peasant households according to their demographic, economic and tax characteristics to provide answers to the questions of how far the households differed and whether they formed homogeneous groups with definite economic, demographic and taxing structures.

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