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Landscape, Law and Memory: Forging the Local Tradition and the Perambulations of Estates' Boundaries in the Kingdom of Poland during the 15th and 16th centuries

In my project I would like to deal with the perambulations of and disputes over the boundaries of the village communities and noble estates in the Kingdom of Poland during the 15th and 16th centuries. The aim is to investigate how the perambulations of estate boundaries evolved into a complex process of conceiving of and transforming the physical space through the procedures and norms of law and to highlight the role they played in forging and reshaping the local tradition.

As fundamental element of the lordship rights, the establishment of the boundaries of noble and royal estates emerged in the close interconnection with the uses of writing and local oral knowledge. I start with the premise of the special role that the interplay of literacy and oral communication had in the process of constituting and reshaping the local traditions in the context of the border perambulations. I suggest that the local tradition, embedded in the specific features and histories of the landscape, landownership and borders, emerged as a result of the complex process of the encounter and interaction between the writing and oral culture. From the late 15th century onwards, the system of proof and a set of procedures employed in the border disputes and perambulations became depended on the uses of writing and written instruments. Moreover, "the game of tradition", in which the border disputes and its perambulations were implicated, was inextricably interwoven with and affected by the relations of power, which were manifested in the rights of lordship claimed by local noblemen and kings over the peasant-subjects, land property and production. The objective of the study is therefore to demonstrate how various forms of the local knowledge which were transmitted mostly through oral communication were not only exploited in the course of border disputes and perambulations, but also were adjusted, reshaped and stabilized due to the complex influence of the institutions and practices of lordship and royal governance based on the new kind of pragmatic and administrative literacy, which became widespread in the Kingdom of Poland during the later Middle Ages.

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