Scope and current limitations/ A critical glossary/ A multilingual glossary/ A digital glossary


          This glossary is the continuation of a French-Spanish research program, bringing together two major groups researching medieval taxation, the Joint Research Unit 5648/CIHAM (History and Archaeology of Medieval Christian and Muslim worlds) and the Department of Medieval Studies of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Institución Milà y Fontanals) in Barcelona. The program began in 1996 as part of a cooperative agreement between France and Spain on Humanities and Social Sciences (CNRS-Dirección General de Investigación Cientifica y Técnica) [1].

          It has been actualized at seminars and annual conferences, whose results have led to the publication of six volumes of proceedings, four were done by Editions Privat (Toulouse) within the collection, "Fiscalité des villes (Occident méditerranéen)", one by the Committee for French  Economic and Financial History within the collection "Histoire économique et financière de la France", and lastly by the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid [2]. A seventh volume is now in press at the Instituto de Estudios Fiscales in Madrid [3]. As an upshot from this collaboration and extensive accumulated experience, an idea arose, to develop a glossary intended to address doubts and questions, which historians can answer (including those whom are not experts on the theme) regarding medieval taxation words and phrases used within the Western Mediterranean region.

          It is necessary to advise the reader that, firstly, we set aside the idea of creating a comprehensive and encyclopedic vocabulary, opting instead for a work of summary and systematizing available information: primarily from previously published work. We also decided to set geographic, historical and institutional limits within the dictionary. Additionally, we considered it appropriate for the definition contents to be relatively short, albeit rational: hence the adjective “critical” used in the glossary's title.  Nevertheless; we have not abandoned increases in the future and for this reason, we discarded the traditional paper publication, investing strongly in digital resources and an "open" glossary that can grow and improve as a continual “work-in-progress”.

          Finally, to avoid translation problems for all definitions - as well as those presented as gradual modifications - in the project's six official languages (Castilian, French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and English), entries appear in the author's original language.

          Scope and current limitations


          Based on their accumulated years of experience, the team members developing the glossary recommended that this project begin with the definition of terms corresponding to late Middle Ages taxation. Thereby, we have restricted the content of this "first edition" glossary to the twelfth-fifteenth century period, coinciding with the progressive establishment of ordinary public levies; the result of economic and urban growth that gripped the medieval west during these four centuries, along with the reestablishment of Roman law and the affirmation of monarchical power.

          Similarly, we have decided to limit this first version glossary to the Western Mediterranean, more specifically the Romance linguistic region, given the possibilities these territories offer through means of comparing words of Latin origin. The dictionary, therefore, includes words from the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, the kingdoms of Navarre and Portugal, and France's Occitan language. Words from other European regions will be gradually integrated as and when written by contributors.

          The third constraint on the project is terminological, inasmuch as the terms are defined by designating different concrete examples, excluding court fees and fines. We therefore excluded words relating to base terms (eg, estimes, manifests, padrones, compoix, etc..), collection and management (eg, ferme, prometido, exaüc, fiel, etc.) and withholdings. All these terms appear in italics within each word's definition and accordingly will be included in future index works.

          The final limitation to this glossary is the fiscal / institutional framework. It is known that the urban centers and their territories constitute the greatest concentration and variety of samples for the late Middle Ages and who have the most abundant documentation preserved. We decided to focus the project on studying the verified vocabulary of the larger and the best-studied communities. All levies exacted on the inhabitants have been identified, whether municipal, lordly or royal / state in character, including those impacting the Jewish and Muslim communities. In this first version of the glossary, only purely ecclesiastic taxation was excluded as well as feudal annuities linked to land ownership.

          A critical glossary

          The essential features in this glossary on the medieval taxation system, basically refer to the number, the scope and the input structure. Although this is an on-line dictionary, without the specific constraints of a printed edition, we have set certain formal limits to obtain a useful, coherent and balanced lexicographic product. In other words, the words and definitions are not introduced indiscriminately, but according to a set of common assumptions, faithfully observed by all project contributors.

          Each word designating an element appears in the glossary with a minimal definition and linguistic features (language, gender and number). Not all the words are subject to extensive and detailed definitions. Those terms within each region corresponding to the same fiscal reality return to a main entry where the element is broadly defined. For example, there are levies on product trade where, although it is the same type of imposition, it varies according to the product's name. As it appeared completely useless and confusing to us to register dozens of partial definitions describing almost the same thing with different words, we opted for a general written entry, explaining the main features of the levy, and eventually, the addition of a few words highlighting other important alternatives for consideration.

          Regarding the main definitions within the glossary, we have followed certain criteria for scope and hierarchy. We have made an effort to draft a synoptic and clear text, so that the reader can quickly gain an idea of the meaning of each term, as well as our knowledge and ignorance based on contemporary studies. We have also established a hierarchy between the words based not only on terms of what the author was presenting, the condition of one or the other, but also the relative importance of each within the taxation system of each region. The user always has option to broaden his knowledge equally with the bibliography, as well as where appropriate, with document citations at the end of each entry.

          Lastly, regarding the structure and content of the glossary's words, we endeavored to respect several general criteria so as to give the work the best possible consistency and clarity.  Remember; we distinguish between main entries and sub entries. The former includes words considered most representative and / or most common in referring to a specific levy.  The sub entries are dedicated to linguistic or geographical variants designating a single fiscal reality: they return to the main word and at the beginning of each definition there is a complete list of equivalent terms found within the document. Where known, the possible word etymology is shown along with the region and period where and when it occurs.

          The tax system (municipal, seigniorial/lordly, royal / state or other) covered by the levy is another question we attempted to answer within each definition. In order to facilitate the comparison between regions and periods, we also tried to establish the type of withholding, that is to say, if, in accordance with the concepts used in contemporary taxation law, the deduction corresponds to a subsidy, a levy, a tax, a monopoly or a more generic term.

          Finally, wherever it was possible to determine, within the various inputs, we specify the purpose or intended use of withholdings taken and their main characteristics: tax liable or subjected to a tax, taxpayers and exempted, type of levy and how collected. In order to contribute to a better understanding of each defined term, in addition to referencing the bibliography or selected documentary references, it also points out other glossary words, which relate to the object of the entry.

          A multilingual glossary

          Originally, the glossary was designed to function as a multilingual reference. Entries written in different languages may perhaps surprise the user accustomed to using dictionaries developed for a single language or, at best, fully translated into different languages. However, in our case, the relative paucity of research on medieval taxation and the desire that the glossary be a useful tool for research, has led us to introduce definitions in the original language of the levied region. And since there are numerous unknown or poorly understood words, we have designed this dictionary as an open digital application, allowing continuous additions of data to an enduring "work in progress". For this reason, and to avoid problems that might arise from continual translation updates made to the different study regions, we consider it appropriate that - for the present - the glossary includes different languages.

          However, to facilitate information search and optimize the dictionary's benefits, we have implemented several mechanisms to mitigate, as far as possible, the difficulties that linguistic diversity can cause. Therefore, above all, let us recall again that all the words are the object of brief definitions within the various official languages of the glossary - or references - designed to facilitate an initial orientation for the user.  Secondly, as explained in more detail within the "Help" tab, there is an "advanced search" engine, which among other things, allows you to search the entire glossary for lexemes or word roots shared by the different languages. Finally, as described in "Help", we are creating an "Assisted search" engine for the various subjects, which will operate from an index of equivalent words within the different languages.

          A digital glossary

          In view of the digital format, we could overcome, or at least mitigate many of the complex problems presenting when developing a glossary of medieval taxation. In our case, the challenge of this format also responds to a general lexicographic trend, which has recently resulted in a proliferation of encyclopedias, dictionaries and on-line glossaries of all types, as well as digital versions for a large amount of extant literature. These new digital dictionaries possess enormous advantages over traditional printed dictionaries: the possibility for regularly updating the data, multiple access to the content, relatively low cost and wide distribution. All these elements have been taken into account while developing this glossary, which also offers additional digital services like, for example, a selection of links to other papers or books capable of providing further information for the user (see "Related Links").

          Nonetheless, despite the obvious advantages offered by this new format, it is also common knowledge that digital dictionaries have some major drawbacks compared to printed dictionaries. Unlike the latter, which are rigorously assembled and backed by prestigious people and institutions, many digital glossaries, not only have significant flaws in content, they are products of dubious origin that do not always work properly and do not last. In other words, the relative ease with which one can develop such an application has led to the appearance, along with high-quality dictionaries, a large number of sub-products offering no guarantee and capable of generating a loss of confidence among users.

          To avoid these problems, the leaders of this glossary, following the guidance of experts in the field, have taken a number of precautions that claim to meet the minimum requirements for a quality digital lexicographic product. The competence of the authors and promoters of the glossary, all specialists in the study of medieval taxation, is one of these conditions (see "Authors"). Another is the configuration of different teams for each of the studied regions under the supervision of a coordinator, charged with allocating the words between collaborators, organizing group work sessions and harmonizing content. Consistency of content, developed from a index card model, and referencing to the bibliography and documentary sources used, all establish some of the lexicographical pre-requisites that we have identified (see "Bibliography") as well as the creation of an peer review committee, whose task is to review each and every word to ensure the final quality of the completed work. Lastly, the installation of this application onto a server of one of the major European research institutions, the "Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas de Barcelone" (Spanish National Research Council of Barcelona), conclusively endorses the initiative and ensures its durability.

          These broad strokes are the main characteristics of this digital glossary, which, we repeat, is an application "open" to ongoing improvements to its contents. This work, in principle, rests with the authors linked to the different teams integrated within the project, but we also thank in advance all researchers who have found errors or wish to provide additional information, please contact the glossary managers using the form within the Contact tab.

[1] See y

[2] Denis MENJOT et Manuel SÁNCHEZ MARTÍNEZ, La fiscalité des villes au Moyen Age (Occident méditerranéen) 1. Etude des sources, Privat, 1996. 175 pages. 2. Les systèmes fiscaux, Privat, 1999. 540 pages. 3. La redistribution de l’impôt, Privat, 2000, 340 pages. 4. La gestion de l’impôt, Privat, 2004; Denis MENJOT, Albert RIGAUDIÈRE et Manuel SÁNCHEZ MARTÍNEZ, L’impôt dans les villes de l'Occident méditerranéen, [Colloque Paris-Bercy, 2001], Paris, Comité pour l'Histoire Économique et financière de la France, Paris, 2005, 609 pages; y Denis MENJOT y Manuel SÁNCHEZ MARTÍNEZ, Fiscalidad de Estado y fiscalidad municipal en los reinos hispánicos medievales, Casa de Velázquez, Madrid, 2006, 472 pages.

[3] Denis MENJOT y Manuel SÁNCHEZ MARTÍNEZ (coord.), El dinero de Dios. Iglesia y fisco en la Edad Media, Instituto de Estudios Fiscales, Madrid, 2011.