Speculum 64 (2):317-337 (1989)

The Curia dei Foretani, or the Court of the Countrymen, of the commune of Lucca was a sort of rural small-claims court. Designed by an urban government to hear minor civil cases which originated in the countryside, it was occupied with the variety of issues that punctuated country life, most especially cases brought by landlords, merchants, and speculators whose living was tied to the rural economy of northwestern Tuscany. The records of the Curia dei Foretani offer an unusual opportunity to investigate landlord-tenant, lender-borrower, and speculator-producer relations during the critical period of the fourteenth century when urban interest in the countryside was intense. As will become clear, the streamlined procedure used by the court was designed to allow rapid petition, hearing, and judgment, which, it has been argued, were designed to favor the wealthy, usually urban, elites. Yet as analysis of the actual functioning of the court will show, villagers in this part of Tuscany were able to avoid, or at least moderate, the most complete forms of landlord domination. The reasons why are complex, but one aspect was the court procedure itself, which could be manipulated by knowledgeable members of strong, semi-autonomous rural communities who had access to legal advice or who had broadly based communal support for their actions. Urban landlords in the Lucchesia never achieved the sort of economic domination of rural life which seems to have typified the region around Florence and Siena
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DOI 10.2307/2851943
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