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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

7 - Neighbours and Strangers

from Part III - Reputation and Witness


Notions of a person’s ‘worth’ were socially created, This chapter looks for the notions of worth involved in the multifarious everyday transactions between people. As so much depended on others, peasant farmers could not afford to trust anyone who was not of good reputation. Fair dealing and the common good were important in the moral economy of working life not because transactions between neighbours were altruistic, nor even necessarily friendly, but because they were essential. Tenth century laws regulating the hundred built on a moral economy which valued good reputation and personal knowledge and in which co-operation mattered. Courts came to collective decisions, sworn oaths established truth and standing surety for another person meant that personal knowledge of the accused was essential. The witness of neighbours was vital when it came to questions of land: boundary clauses from the ninth and tenth century were based on detailed knowledge which only local people could provide. Peasant farmers became more formally part of the financial system when heregeld began to be levied.

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