The Rectitudines singularum personarum: A Pre- and Post-Conquest Text
Lemanski, Stanley Jay
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Akron, History, December (
This dissertation examinations manorial society in the Anglo-Saxon and the Anglo-Norman periods. The central focus of this study is a document scholars have called the Rectitudines singularum personarum (Rect.). This text provides the most detailed account of estate social-structure in the Anglo-Saxon period. Originally composed in Anglo-Saxon in the early eleventh century, in the early twelfth century it was compiled with other Anglo-Saxon legal texts, and in one of these compilations was also translated into Latin. A central thesis of the dissertation is that the Anglo-Saxon and the Latin versions of this treatise are to be regarded as two separate texts, each being produced to meet different needs and written to address different audiences. Few scholars have tried to ascertain the original purpose for which the Rect. was written. This dissertation places the Rect. within the context of changes in estate morphology during the Anglo-Saxon period, most notably the process of nucleation. It is here argued that nucleation caused significant social change, undermining the traditional and customary rights of the residents of estates. The Rect. was a treatise that held up the author’s own estate as an example of how nucleation can be implemented without undermining the customary rights of the residents. After the Conquest the residents of English estates came to be re-classified as workers dependent on their lord. This in addition to the practice of estate farming diminished the status of peasants and undermined their customary rights. In an effort to preserve pre-Conquest rights legal thinkers of the early twelfth century integrated the Rect. into the collection of texts that represented the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition, a tradition the Norman kings said they would uphold. This dissertation examines the way the Rect. was contextualized within this legal canon, and how the compilers used it as a means of integrating manorial rights into the legal discourse. The compiler of the Quadripartitus, one of the most important of these compilations, also translated the Rect. into Latin. This study examines how he used translation as a means to render the text immediately relevant to the administration of justice in rural society.