Law and Land in the Medieval Crown of Aragon

Episode 45 with Belen Vicens

James I—one of the most famous and consequential rulers of medieval Iberia—played a fundamental role in shaping the Crown of Aragon. In particular, his thirteenth-century conquests of Islamic kingdoms in the Balearic Islands and Valencia established his kingdom’s boundaries and gave rise to a new power in the Mediterranean. Moreover, along with his conquests, James also played a significant role as a lawgiver who helped revise and shape the legal system throughout his domains.

In this episode of Historias, we discuss the origins of the Crown of Aragon, the rise of James as a conqueror, and his impact on the legal system not only within his kingdom, but throughout medieval Iberia. In particular, we explore the impact of the Vidal Mayor—the law code composed during his rule by Vidal de Canellas—within the Crown of Aragon with particular attention on how the law code helped determine the redistribution of land in Valencia following its conquest.

The Episode

The Guest

Dr. Belen Vicens (Saiz) (she, her) is a historian of law and society in medieval Spain and the Mediterranean world, with an emphasis on relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Other interests include material culture, cartography, visual art and women’s history. She is an Assistant Professor of History at Salisbury University, Maryland.

Dr. Vicens is a native of Catalonia in Spain where she received two undergraduate degrees from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. In the United States, she has earned two Masters’ degrees, one in Islamic Studies from UCLA (2008) and another in History from Notre Dame (2012). She earned her doctorate at the University of Notre Dame in 2016.

Dr. Vicens’ publications include a coedited volume titled Interfaith Relationships and Perceptions of the Other in the Medieval Mediterranean: Essays in Memory of Olivia Remie Constable, published in 2021 in Palgrave’s Mediterranean Perspectives, and an award-winning article on Christian-Muslim relations titled “Swearing by God: Muslim Oath-Taking in Late Medieval and Early Modern Christian Iberia.”

Dr. Vicens is currently working, among other projects, on a book manuscript titled Negotiating Power and Privilege: Law, Monarchy, and the Nobility in Medieval Aragon that draws on her dissertation work.

Suggested Readings

  • Barton, Thomas W. Victory’s Shadow: Conquest and Governance in Medieval Catalonia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019.
  • Bisson, Thomas N. Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
  • Brundage, James A. The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession: Canonists, Civilians, and Courts. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Burns, Robert I. Islam under the Crusaders: Colonial Survival in the Thirteenth-Century Kingdom of Valencia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.
  • Burns, Robert I. Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia: Societies in Symbiosis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Catlos, Brian A. The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050-1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Durán Gudiol, Antonio. “Vidal de Canellas, Obispo de Huesca.” Estudios de Edad Media de la Corona de Aragón IX (1973): 267-369.
  • Ferrando i Francès, Antoni, ed. Llibre del repartiment de València. Valencia: Vicent García, 1979.
  • Guichard, Pierre. Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana: los musulmanes de Valencia, siglos XI-XIII. Valencia: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, Universitat de València, 2001.
  • Huici Miranda, Ambrosio, and María Desamparados Cabanes Pecourt, eds. Documentos de Jaime I de Aragón. 5 vols. Valencia: Anubar, 1976.
  • Laliena Corbera, Carlos. Siervos medievales de Aragón y Navarra en los siglos XI-XIII. Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2012.
  • Tilander, Gunnar. Vidal mayor, traducción aragonesa de la obra In excelsis Dei thesauris de Vidal de Canellas. Lund: H. Ohlssons boktr., 1956.
  • Ubieto Arteta et al., ed. Vidal Mayor: Estudios. Huesca: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses, 1989.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s