Appel à contribution – Beyond Royal and Seignorial authorities: Special Courts in Premodern Western Mediterranean

13 and 14 of December 2021

Within the jurisdictional context of the Ancien Régime, monarchs, lords, and the church were not the only ones to exert power and enforce legal claims. Many other institutions and communities also received and claimed significant power portions within a specific territory or over both collectivities and activities. Depending on the strength and continuity of the mechanisms at their scope, these institutions and communities could consolidate ad hoc courts that took advantage of legal professionals and experts in a particular field of knowledge to manage the procedures that affected the people under such authorities. Since most of these institutions did not have continuity until odern times –or at least a direct link with actual organisations–, historians have been majorly reluctant to investigate them.

The shape of these institutions may vary between territories and political realities, and thus establishing general models can be extremely difficult. Even though in some cases there is abundant documentation, the fact that only a minority of these organisations enjoyed genuine autonomy from other jurisdictional powers during extended periods ultimately held back the articulation of real institutional archives. Consequently, on many occasions, the existence and the mechanics of such institutions can only be tracked from documentation arising from other entities or the private notaries who worked for them as clerks. May as it be, there are plenty of examples about the development of a significant plurality of instances for the exercise of power and justice asides royal, seignorial and ecclesiastical courts.

This seminar aims to contribute to the exploration of these particular jurisdictions, arising questions such as which institutional landscape embraced them, how they assumed their legal attributions, which were the scopes of their jurisdiction (civil, penal, or administrative), how were their competences managed, and, finally, to what extent there was any collaboration between those different jurisdictions. This seminar will focus, thus, on those especial jurisdictions that can be traced within the territories of the Western Mediterranean at large (from the Atlantic to the Adriatic) in pre-modern times, that is to say, from the 13th to the 18th Centuries. The kind of jurisdictions we pursue to analyze are:

  • Those related to livestock activities such as fishing, cattle raising; or irrigators. Keywords: Ordinances, Mesta(s), Lligalos-ligallos, Apiculture, «Water Administration Court(s)».
  • Trading: trade consulates. Keywords: Merchants, Naval Warfare, Piracy, «Sea Consulates».
  • Professional: professional brotherhoods, in many cases controlled by local governments. Keywords: Guilds, Confraternities, Ordinances, Apprenticeship.
  • Local government entities. Keywords: Ordinances, Bylaws, Markets, Local Councils, «Coltellades» Court, «Juhí de Prohoms».
  • Universities. Keywords: Deans, Presidents, Guilds, Studii, Collegia.
  • Hospitals and assistance institutions. Keywords: Ordinances, Quarrels, Administrators.

The jurisdictions and institutional spaces outlined above do not pretend to be exhaustive. We would be pleased to receive any proposals concerning any other jurisdictional instances tied with the ones cited above.

Therefore, we invite all those researchers interested in participating in this seminar to send an abstract of their proposal (c. 250 words) and a brief CV (no more than one page) before the 15th of May 2021, to the following address: The contributions will have a duration of no more than 25 minutes and can be delivered in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian and Portuguese. The acceptance of the proposals will be made on the 15th of June 2021.

The seminar will take place on-line between the 13h and the 14th of December 2021 via an institutional virtual platform. Should the COVID-19 situation improve by then, the seminar would be held at the Law Faculty of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona).

After the seminar, the texts of the participants will be collected for the publication of a Special Issue of a well-indexed Journal.

Organising Committee:

Laura Miquel Milian (UB)
Albert Reixach Sala (UdG)
Lluís Sales Favà (KCL)
Ricard Torra Prat (AvH Stiftung Fellow – LMU München)

Scientific Committe:
Josep Capdeferro Pla (UPF)
Oscar Jané Checa (UAB)
Pere Orti Gost (UdG)
Pere Verdés Pijuan (IMF-CSIC)

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