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Telling tales in Angevin courts
By Daniel Lord Smail
French Historical Studies, Vol. 20:2 (1997)
Introduction: The archives of Angevin Marseille, from the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, house some of the richest court records extant from France in the later Middle Ages. In their wealth of detail, they approach the records of the Fournier inquisition and equal or surpass those of other late medieval French or Burgundian jurisdictions. They are generous, not in sheer quantity of documentation – medieval England far surpasses most regions of continental Europe in this respect – but rather in the marvelous textures and intimacies found in witness depositions. The depositions tell tales, ranging from the larger narratives of plaintiffs or defendants to the little stories of chatty witnesses. The tales tell us little about criminality; their value lies in what they say about daily life, about the operations of medieval justice, and about legal cultures, those sets of attitudes and expectations that the judged and the judging bring to the law and the operations of justice.