A Dispute Over Exaction of the Corvée, 1081
The infringement of the rights of serfs by too heavy exactions could be remedied by
appeal to the lord against the injustice of stewards. The term corvée was applied to
forced labor regardless of its nature and could be interpreted as boon work. Note also the
use of the Water Ordeal.
At Chauvency a certain advocate, Alberic by name, in demanding undue corvees so
threatened the serfs of the monastery that the cow of a certain poor man miscarried while
ploughing and the poor man himself bore its yoke all day instead. And the abbot heard of
this unjust exaction and was amazed at the inhumanity of Alberic and so he hastened to ask
Adelo de Dun how his advocate treated the serfs of the monastery who were making such
complaints and prepared to prove that a corvec of this kind was not due to him or to any
other. Adelo, enraged against Alberic, blushed for this deed, and determined on a day for
the abbot to prove the case. A certain Herbert who was exceedingly faithful and honest was
then reeve of Chauvency; on the day arranged for the case between the abbot and Adelo, he
took the oath lawfully and confirmed his oath by the water ordeal, and proved the severe
exactions of the advocates, in truth that those corvées were not at all due. At this
public trial there were present Adelo de Dun, Rambald, Count of Murvaux, Peter of
Mirowald, with many other nobles.
Done in the year of the Incarnation 1081.
From: Godefroid Kurth, ed., Chartes de l'Abbaye de Saint-Hubert en Ardenne,
(Brussels: Academie Royale de Belgique, 1903), pp. 50-51, reprinted in Roy C. Cave &
Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The
Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), p. 299.
This text is part of the Internet
Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts
related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational
purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
Nopermission is granted for commercial use.
© Paul Halsall, September 1998