Bookland (type of land)


Bookland (type of land)

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Not to be confused with the Swedish provinces known as "Folkland".

Folkland (O.E. "folcland") and bookland (O.E. "bocland") are the two types of land tenure under Anglo-Saxon law. "Bookland" refers to land that was vested by a charter, and all other land was "folkland". [Harvcolnb|Baxter|2005|p=19 "A Model of Land Tenure"]

The meanings of these terms have more depth when their Anglo-Saxon origins are considered. The concept of "bookland" arose in the seventh century, and refers to land that can be alienated (ie, disposed of) at will. It evolved to resemble ownership in the modern sense. "Folkland" was land held under the ancient (and unwritten) folk-law or custom, and by that custom it could not be alienated (ie, removed) from the kin of the holder except under special circumstances. No such claim by the kin could be made on "bookland".The definition of those ancient folk-laws and customs (and thus, the definition of "folkland") has long been the subject of controversy, and the model suggested by the historian Patrick Wormald, given in the definition above, allows for the graceful sidestepping of that controversy. [Harvcolnb|Baxter|2008|p=145 "Land".]

A related concept is loanland (O.E. "lænland"), which is land that has been granted temporarily, without any loss of ownership. Such land might be granted for a term of years, or for the life of a person, or it might be granted to an official for the term of his office (eg, as royal patronage). Both folkland and bookland might become loanland at one time or another.

Historical background

By ancient law and custom, folkland was the only means of holding land in Anglo-Saxon England, and referred to land held by a single person as the representative of a kinship group. Land could be permanently transferred outside of the kinship group, or "alienated", but only with the agreement of the king and the witanagemot. Failing that, land could be transferred only within the kinship group, for example through inheritance.

However, the exact nature of these unwritten ancient customs is not clearly understood, and might include several different types of land tenure, such as kinship holdings intended to remain within the kinship, or holdings of the king to be granted as rewards for service, or holdings of the people as a whole (the "folk") to be granted in their name by the king, or any combination of these.The concept of bookland entered Anglo-Saxon law in the seventh century, and referred to land that was granted in perpetuity by a charter, and thereafter could be conveyed from anyone to anyone else at will. This was its only practical distinction from "folkland".

The altering of the law to add this concept had its origins in the christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons in the seventh century. As neither the Church nor its clergy could be fitted into the existing laws of land tenure, Anglo-Saxon law added the granting of charters as a means of supporting them. It had been intended as a permanent grant of land for landowners building religious establishments, with the stipulation that the holder must perform road and bridge upkeep and supply men for the fyrd. Though there is evidence that this was not the first charter to be written in Anglo-Saxon England, the earliest surviving genuine charter, in favour of the abbot and monastery at Reculver, in Kent, was granted by King Hlothere of Kent in May 679. [ [http://www.aschart.kcl.ac.uk/content/charters/text/s0008.html Online text of charter] . See also Webster, L. & Backhouse, J. (eds.), "The Making of England Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900", British Museum Press, 1991, pp. 43-4.]

The desirability of possessing unencumbered "bookland" in preference to "folkland" must have been immediately apparent to the laity, as Bede complained in a letter to Archbishop Ecgbert of York in 731, regarding the vast tracts of land acquired by "pretended monks" whose licentious interests were anything but Christian.

As Anglo-Saxon law evolved, the religious requirement atrophied and was finally discarded, so that bookland resembled full ownership in the modern sense, in that the owner could grant it in his lifetime, in the same manner as he had received it, by "boc" or book, and also dispose of it by will.

The end of Anglo-Saxon law

The distinction between Anglo-Saxon folkland and bookland was rendered moot by the Norman conquest of England in 1066, as all land then became loanland under Norman feudal control. Anglo-Saxon law and custom no longer applied. When English self-government re-emerged by the absorption of the conquerors, the laws regarding land tenure simply continued to evolve, and there was no wholesale return to pre-Norman law and custom.

Thus, the distinction between folkland and bookland is of historical interest, but without a substantive modern impact. However, the legacy of the pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is certainly of interest to those of Anglo-Saxon heritage, and to scholars attempting to construct histories and attempting to provide a full legal provenance for modern English law.

As few ancient records have survived, constructed histories are necessarily conjectural, with much room for disagreement. This accounts for the tautological definition: it represents an effort to be accurate while sidestepping any and all ongoing disputes regarding ancient Anglo-Saxon law and custom.

Controversies over folkland

The definition of bookland has suffered from less uncertainty, as its inception is within recorded history, with numerous examples available in the records. However, controversies arose over what was meant by folkland.

Ignoring any prior conjectures, the idea that folkland was land owned by the entire folk was introduced by John Allen in his 1830 "Inquiry into the Rise and Growth of the Royal Prerogative in England". He asserted that the land was the property of the people as a whole, to be let out at will, and returned to the people's control when the grant had expired. [Harvcolnb|Allen|1830|p=135-36 "Tenure of Landed Property"] This became the accepted view of mainstream historians, [Harvcolnb|Vinogradoff|1893|p=1-2 "Folkland". A lengthy list of respected historians and jurists is provided, and others are mentioned in the course of the article, including internationals. Allen's view had attracted very wide support.] who then developed arguments and theories based on the correctness of the proposition.

In a short article in "The English Historical Review" of 1893, Paul Vinogradoff asserted that folkland referred to land governed by folklaw or custom. It was this law that kept land within a family or kinship group, and folkland was not land collectively owned by the folk. He said that such land was held by a single representative of a kinship group, and that such land could not be alienated from (ie, transferred from) the kinship group without special permission. [Harvcolnb|Vinogradoff|1893|p=1-17 "Folkland".] Vinogradoff then proceeded to show that his assertion was everywhere consistent with the historical record and nowhere inconsistent, pointing out along the way that neither the "accepted view" nor its derivatives satisfied the criterion of historical consistency.

While the idea of folkland as the common land of the folk was effectively put to rest for some, others persisted in their beliefs. [Harvcolnb|Stubbs|1901|p=74-132 "The Anglo-Saxon System", for example.] Vinogradoff's own assertion did not go unchallenged, even by those who agreed with the thrust of his argument. Some, such as Frederic Maitland, gave partial or cautious support, [Harvcolnb|Maitland|1897|p=244-58 "Book-land and Folk-land"] while others rejected the assertion and offered their own definitions.

As there are only three explicit references to folkland in surviving documents, few plausible definitions can be ruled out, so long as they satisfy the criterion of historical consistency. The tautological definition sidesteps the controversy: it is agreed that all land that is not bookland is folkland, and lacking any new evidence or profound insight, further resolution is unlikely.

See also

* Anglo-Saxon Charters
* Fee simple

Notes

References

*Citation
last=Allen
first=John
author-link=John Allen
date=1830
editor-last=Thorp
editor-first=B.
editor-others=
edition=New
number=
contribution=Tenure of Landed Property
title=Inquiry into the Rise and Growth of the Royal Prerogative in England
volume=
publisher=Burt Franklin
publication-date=1849
publication-place=New York
pages=125-55
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Q8AlAAAAMAAJ
access-date=2008-06-06

*Citation
last=Baxter
first=Steven
last2=Blair
first2=John
contribution=A Model of Land Tenure and Royal Patronage in Late Anglo-Saxon England
date=2005
editor-last=Lewis
editor-first=C. P.
title=Anglo-Norman Studies: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2005
volume=XXVIII
publisher=Boydell & Brewer
publication-date=2006
publication-place=
pages=19-29
isbn=1843832178

* Citation
last=Baxter
first=Stephen David
date=2008
contribution=Land
title=Earls of Mercia: Lordship and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England
publisher=Oxford University Press, USA
publication-date=2008
isbn=9780199230983

*Citation
date=1888
last=Earle
first=.John
contribution=Introduction
title=A Hand-Book to the Land-Charters, and other Saxonic Documents
publisher=Clarendon Press
publication-date=1888
publication-place=Oxford
pages=xiii-cxi
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=sBMLAAAAYAAJ
access-date=2008-06-09

*Citation
date=1917
last=Howorth
first=Henry H.
contribution=Preface
title=The Golden Days of the Early English Church from the Arrival of Theodore to the Death of Bede
volume=I
pages=ix-lxxxii
publisher=E. P. Dutton and Company
publication-date=1917
publication-place=New York
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=i7M9AAAAIAAJ
access-date=2008-06-09

*Citation
last=Maitland
first=Frederic William
author-link=Frederic William Maitland
date=1897
editor-last=
editor-first=
contribution=Book-land and Folk-land
title=Domesday Book and Beyond: Three Essays in the Early History of England.
volume=
edition=
publisher=University Press
publication-date=1897
publication-place=Cambridge
pages=244-58
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=wT0LAAAAYAAJ
access-date=2008-06-04

*Citation
last=Pollock
first=Frederick
author-link=Sir Frederick Pollock, 3rd Baronet
last2=Maitland
first2=Frederic William
author2-link=Frederic William Maitland
date=1899
editor-last=
editor-first=
editor-others=
edition=2nd
contribution=Bookland
pages=60-62
title=The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I
volume=I
publisher=University Press
publication-date=1899
publication-place=Cambridge
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=UhE7AAAAIAAJ
access-date=2008-06-07

*Citation
date=1858
editor-last=Stevenson
editor-first=Joseph
editor-link=Joseph Stevenson
title=Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon
volume=II
publisher=Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts
publication-date=1858
publication-place=London
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=tkwtAAAAMAAJ
access-date=2008-06-09

*Citation
last=Stubbs
first=William
author-link=William Stubbs
date=1901
editor-last=
editor-first=
editor-others=
edition=6th
contribution=The Anglo-Saxon System
title=The Constitutional History of England in its Origin and Development
volume=I
publisher=Clarendon Press
publication-date=1903
publication-place=Oxford
pages=74-132
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=yQQ0AAAAIAAJ
access-date=2008-06-07

*Citation
last=Vinogradoff
first=Paul
author-link=Paul Vinogradoff
date=1893
editor-last=Gardiner
editor-first=S. R.
editor-others=Poole, Reginald L.; Winsor, Justin
edition=
number=XXIX
contribution=Folkland
title=The English Historical Review
volume=VIII
publisher=Longmans, Green, and Co
publication-date=1893
publication-place=London
pages=1-17
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=b-oIAAAAIAAJ
access-date=2008-06-06

*Citation
last=Vinogradoff
first=Paul
author-link=Paul Vinogradoff
date=1907
editor-last=
editor-first=
contribution=
title=Transfer of Land in Old English Law
volume=
edition=
publisher=The Harvard Law Review Association
publication-date=1907
publication-place=Cambridge
pages=
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=9cQVAAAAYAAJ
access-date=2008-06-04


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