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					               The structure of society
            in medieval Vecht and Venen
A causal analysis of a comparison of the structure of society in De Ronde Venen
        and on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht
                                  (953-1528)




                Student: Eefje Hengst
               Student number: 0265349
              Master: Comparative History
             Thesis Supervisor: Bas van Bavel
              Master Coördinator: Maarten Prak
            Date of graduation: 20th of March 2008


                                                                              1
Content

INTRODUCTION                                                                         4

PART 1: METHODOLOGY                                                                 12

1.1 DISTRIBUTION OF THE PROPERTY OF LAND AND OF INSTRUMENTS OF SURPLUS-EXTRACTION AS AN
    INDICATOR FOR SOCIETY                                                            12
1.2 METHODOLOGY IN ANALYZING THE DATA ON THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIETY                    14

PART 2: SOCIETY IN DE RONDE VENEN AND ON THE OLD LAND ALONG THE
SOUTHERN COURSE OF THE RIVER VECHT 953-1528                                         16

1. HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE TWO REGIONS IN THE TENTH CENTURY UNTIL 1528            16
1.1 SOVEREIGN BISHOPS, CHAPTERS AND MINISTERIALES                                   17

2. SOCIETY IN DE RONDE VENEN                                                        24
2.1 THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS                                                          24
2.2 DATA ON THE COPE SYSTEM IN DE RONDE VENEN                                       33
2.3 SOCIETY IN THE EASTERN PART OF DE RONDE VENEN                                   39
    DEMMERIK - THE MINISTERIALES TER AA                                             39
    VINKEVEEN AND OUDHUIZEN- THE MINISTERIALES VAN ABCOUDE                          42
    ABCOUDE-PROOSDIJ-IN-VINKEVEEN- THE CHAPTER OF SINT PIETER                       46
2.4 DE PROOSDIJLANDEN - THE CHAPTER OF SINT JAN                                     48
2.5 WAVERVEEN- COUNTS OF HOLLAND                                                    59
2.6 CONCLUSION                                                                      60

3. SOCIETY ON THE OLD LAND ALONG THE SOUTHERN COURSE OF THE RIVER VECHT              65
3.1 SOCIETY BEFORE THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS                                            66
 3.1.1 THE INTRODUCTION OF THE OTTONE SYSTEM ALONG THE SOUTHERN COURSE OF THE RIVER
      VECHT                                                                          67
 3.1.2 THE MANORIAL SYSTEM                                                           70
 3.1.3 THE FORM OF EXPLOITATION OF LAND ALONG THE SOUTHERN COURSE OF THE RIVER VECHT 74
    EVERIKSDORP                                                                      75
    ZWESERENG                                                                        75
    MAARSSEN                                                                         76
    BREUKELEN                                                                        76
 3.1.4 CONCLUSION                                                                    84
3.2 SOCIETY AFTER THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS                                             87
 3.2.1 DISSOLUTION OF THE MANORIAL SYSTEM                                            87
    REDISTRIBUTION OF LAND AND RIGHTS TO SURPLUS-EXTRACTION                          88
    SOVEREIGN FREEDOM AND LEASE                                                      89
 3.2.2 THE ERECTION OF CASTLES ALONG THE RIVER VECHT                                 90
 3.2.3 CHANGES IN SOCIETY ALONG THE SOUTHERN COURSE OF THE RIVER VECHT DURING AND
       AFTER THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS                                                  94
    EVERIKSDORP                                                                      94
    ZWESERENG                                                                        99
    MAARSSEN                                                                        103
    BREUKELEN                                                                       112
3.3 CONCLUSION                                                                      120




                                                                                     2
PART 3. COMPARISON AND ANALYSIS                                                130

4. COMPARISON OF DEVELOPMENTS IN THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIETY IN THE TWO CASES     130
4.1 INTRODUCTION                                                               130
4.2 STARTING POINT                                                             131
4.3 ELEVENTH AND TWELFTH CENTURY                                               132
4.4 AFTER THE GREAT RECLAMATIONS                                               136

5. CAUSAL ANALYSIS OF THE DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TWO CASES   142
5.1 POPULATION AND RESOURCES                                                   142
5.2 CLASS POWER AND PROPERTY RELATIONS                                         149
5.3 COMMERCIALISATION, MARKETS AND TECHNOLOGY                                  157
5.4 CONCLUSION                                                                 161

CONCLUSION                                                                     170

REFERENCES                                                                     177




                                                                                 3
Introduction
    A suggestion for a more pleasant spending of ones precious time when stuck in another traffic jam
on the A2 highway; branch off west at the junction of Vinkeveen drive for five minutes and one will
be able to cruise along ditches, past windmills and in between the boggy pasture lands of the
municipality De Ronde Venen. Of this land west of the A2 a tourist guide would probably mention
that these former peat moors „were performed in such a systematical manner, that even nowadays on a
detailed map one is able to identify the different reclamation units at once.‟1 One can also decide leave
the A2 to the east at the junctions of Breukelen or Maarssen. After a five-minute drive one will enjoy a
completely different sight then the cows and farms of De Ronde Venen. A stately river will be found,
the river Vecht, with beautiful country estates alongside it. These two regions, so different of
character, are situated within 15 and 30 kilometers from each other. As a former resident of De Ronde
Venen I have always wondered what had caused the apparent difference between the region I resided
in and the (high) society along the river Vecht. A region inhabited by peasants versus a region
inhabited by the elite. General opinion has it that this is a difference dating from the Middle Ages,
when De Ronde Venen were reclaimed and inhabited by peasants, while along the river Vecht lords
erected castles. One of the assumptions heard is that it must be attributed to the fact that the river
Vecht was an important trading route, whilst De Ronde Venen a poor agricultural area that suffered
from yields falling short because of the settling of the land.
    Interested in the material, as I studied the medieval history in these two regions situated in the
present-day province of Utrecht, instead of the expected differences, I found surprising amounts of
similarities between the two regions. De Ronde Venen like the Vecht region had housed a castle (of
which nowadays no remains are left) and the land along the river Vecht had been an agricultural
region, just like De Ronde Venen. The peasants in medieval De Ronde Venen cannot be considered as
suffering from poor living standards, in fact, income from land in De Ronde Venen does not seem to
have been surpassed by that of land along the river Vecht. Both regions were given in 985 to the
bishop of Utrecht by the emperor Otto of the Holy Roman Empire and different chapters and
important families of Episcopal servants profited from income from surplus-extraction in the two
areas. De Ronde Venen as well as the Vecht region suffered from the struggle between the bishop of
Utrecht and the Counts of Holland and problems with water-balance. Both regions experienced a
strong demographic growth, economic upheaval and a large measure of commercialization of land use.
Finding these similarities raised the desire to find out what society actually looked like in the two
regions and whether medieval society in De Ronde Venen and along the river Vecht did in fact differ.
And if these societies differed, what would be the cause explaining this? Would this indeed lie in the
trade function of the river, or in the settlement of the soil in De Ronde Venen, or must other
1
 C. Dekker, „De ontginning van het Kromme Rijngebied in de Middeleeuwen‟, Maandblad Oud-Utrecht vol. 58
(1985) 234.


                                                                                                       4
explanations be taken into consideration? A comparison of the structure of society in De Ronde Venen
and on the old land along the river Vecht and a causal analysis of this comparison that searches for the
large scale processes behind the structure of society are the subject of this thesis.
    Nowadays the branch of history studying society takes an important place in the practice of
history.2 „Society‟ is one of those „container‟ notions in science; almost all aspects of human
interaction can be studied in order to examine society. It can be studied on a micro-level when
research focuses on the history of individual interaction and thinking within groups. Small-scale social
interaction in a limited period of time is analyzed, such as the position of women in family life in the
1950s or interaction between workers in unions in the UK. The study of society on micro-level in the
past few decennia has moved towards a more macro-level approach; instead of taking limited cases of
individual interaction and thinking within groups, these interactions are studied in a more coordinating
way. Examples of subject-matter are the history of everyday life in the home, for example in P. Laslett
and R. Wall‟s, Household and family in past time (Cambridge, 1972), the history of common people or
the history of poverty.
    From about the 1980s a new, influential approach has developed in social history. In this branch of
history society is studied at a macro-level and is understood as the sum of the different groups living
together, which are relating to each other in a structural manner.3 Research has shown that between
groups in a society recurring and relatively stable patterns of relationships develop; groups appear to
relate and behave in a specific manner to each other when examined over longer periods. In this
approach in social history, relations between groups in society are examined by studying for example
laws, recurring patterns in the way groups relate economically to each other, norms, sovereignty or
recurring patterns in the way groups distribute property.4 Fascinating works are published by
historians who aspire to study these big structures in society over long periods, such as K.
Wrightson‟s, English Society 1580-1680 (London, 1982). In their works these historians are interested
in the developments that take place in these macro-level structures. „Society is a process. It is never
static. Even its most apparently stable structures are the expression of equilibrium between dynamic
forces. For the social historian the most challenging of tasks is that of recapturing that process, while
at the same time discerning long-term shifts in social organization [and] in social relations (…).‟5 So in
society groups in the course of time develop structural patterns of relations among each other on
different levels, such as juridically, morally and economically. And these patterns change, which
results in interesting questions about the causes of this dynamism in society. How come the position of


2
  J. Tosh, The pursuit of history. Aims, methods and new directions in the study of modern history (London, 3rd
ed. 2002) 205-206.
3
  J. López and J. Scott, Social structure (Buckingham, 2000) 23; Tosh, Pursuit 125-131; J. Hatcher and M.
Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages. The history and theory of England’s economic development (Oxford, 2001)
1-3.
4
  J. López and J. Scott, Social structure (Buckingham 2000) 15, 21, 23; Tosh, Pursuit 125-131.
5
  Quote, see: Keith Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680 (London, 1982) 12; Also see Tosh, Pursuit 125-131;
López, Social structure, 1-2; L. Rademaker, Beknopte inleiding in de sociologie (Maastricht, 1993) 1-2, 4.


                                                                                                                  5
women in society improved since the nineteenth century? Can causes be found for the disappearance
of the nobility as an influential group in society? What were the causes for the transition in Western
Europe from a feudal to a capitalist society? The task for social historians interested in macro-level
structures over long periods is to find out whether these changes are random, or whether common
characteristics can be found driving changes in society. In the words of J. Tosh: „Is historical change
driven by a motor, and if so, what does the motor consist of?‟6
    Studying such long periods of time trying to find structures in society and the attempt to reach
conclusions about possible causes for changes in these structures, has raised a lot of discussion among
scholars. I must turn to this here, as this thesis will also attempt to join this effort. Many historians
consider describing even one particular event in history as accurately as possible to be an intricate
task, let alone studying long periods, many events and big structures. The focus of the critique is that
when historians do not restrict their subject-matter and focus on the uniqueness of events, they expose
their research to the danger of generalisation and of losing touch with the historical reality. Theory
might take over from the facts. These remarks hold water and one cannot write a thesis comprising a
long period and macro-level structures without taking them into consideration. However, nevertheless
many things can be said to ward off these comments or in favour of examining society on a macro-
level. To this I will turn now.
    First of all, to counter the criticism that taking large processes over long periods as a subject-
matter inevitable will lead to ill-based generalisations one could argue that all historians use
generalisations, even those focussing on the uniqueness of historical events. Concepts used by scholars
on the micro-level, such as „feudal tenure‟, „revolution‟ or „nobility‟, are abstractions, are
generalisations in themselves. In science in general it is impossible to work without concepts, and
„simplifications are inherent in the enterprise of writing social history‟7, whether one works on a
micro- or macro-level.
    Second of all, although I do not deny the importance of in-depth case studies and micro-level
research of the individual and the relations between individuals in society, I believe a great challenge
waits in the study of long periods and in trying to find causal connections in the structural way groups
in society relate. When generalization is quite ubiquitous, why should historians shy away from asking
„big questions‟8? Investigating large processes, for example the development and changes in large
structures in society such as capitalism, inequality, revolutions or property rights, might raise
discussion on what causes drive inequality to develop between groups in society, or for shifts in power
between groups. Research into society on a macro-level is important, because it might provide us with
insight in processes taking place in society of today. „Even though the insights remain grounded in the

6
  Tosh, Pursuit 207.
7
  P. Burke, History and social theory (Cambridge, 1992) 12.
8
  According to J. Mahoney and D. Rueschemeyer, asking „big‟ questions is asking „questions about large-scale
outcomes that are regarded as substantively (…) important by both specialists and non-specialists.‟ J. Mahoney
and D. Rueschemeyer, eds., Comparative historical analysis in the social sciences (Cambridge, 2003) 7.


                                                                                                                 6
histories examined and cannot be transposed literally to other contexts, [these kind of studies] can
yield meaningful advise concerning contemporary choices and possibilities (...)‟9 And to quote C. Tilly
in his book dealing with the value and necessity of studying big questions; „Understanding those
changes [in big social structures and large social processes] and their consequences is our most
pressing reason for undertaking the systematic study of big structures and large processes. (…)
Systematic comparison of structures and processes will not only place our own situation in
perspective, but will also help in the identification of causes and effects.‟10 If we are able to grasp the
structure that lies behind for example growing inequality in a few cases in the past, maybe we can deal
more accurate with present-day inequality.
     Third of all, besides the fact that it might perhaps offer insight in contemporary situations, the
research into large social structures in society is important since under a broad public a large interest
for these kinds of questions exists. Works of scholars dealing with substantive subject-matter covering
long periods have gained much popularity in recent years. To mention a few: Tilly‟s book Coercion,
capital, and European states, AD 990-1992 (Cambridge, etc., 1990), T. Skocpol‟s Democracy,
revolution, and history (New York, etc., 2000) or D. Landes‟ The wealth and poverty of nations: why
some are so rich and some so poor (New York, etc., 1998). Apparently there is a great interest for
research that deals with explanations for important, structural developments in society. In brief, as
regards content, a list of justifications for doing research on a macro-level covering long periods can
be advanced.
     The branch of history that sets up inquiry into these kinds of large processes might be considered
constructive and interesting; this in itself however does not make it scientific. In the study of a „big
question‟ the risk of generalization and of overlooking the historical nuances in the case of inquiry
exists in a greater measure then in an in-depth case study. However, historians in a contemporary
branch of history that is called comparative history have done pioneer work in developing distinct
analytical tools that enable historians to study large social processes and structures, without ending up
in unfounded generalisations that loose sight of the unique characteristics of the cases or events used.
Where historians interested in subject-matter on a macro-level used to work quite at random and
unmethodical, historians using the tools of comparative history deal in a structured, systemized way
with the large amounts of data that long periods entail. Using methods such as network analysis,
within case comparison or by tracing path dependency, historians can attempt to uncover important
causal connections and fascinating patterns in long-term developments covering long periods, but are
forced to test and account for these causal conclusions in a careful way.11 The fact that ambitious
projects in the field of comparative history, for example Tilly‟s profound attempt to analyze 1000
years of state-formation in the whole of Europe or Skocpol‟s work on revolution and democracy, have


9
  Mahoney, Comparative historical analysis 9.
10
   C. Tilly, Big structures, large processes, and huge comparisons (New York 1984) 11.
11
   Mahoney, Comparative historical analysis 6-7, 10-11.


                                                                                                         7
become respected pieces of standard literature, is a sign that these methods are considered to be sound
in the scientific world.
       In brief, investigating the structures that develop in the relationships between groups in society
over long periods and trying to find possible causes for the changes and continuities in these seems a
worthwhile effort, moreover since the structural approach in comparative history minimalizes the
problems connected to macro-level research.
       This thesis wants subscribe to this relatively new and challenging branch of research in which
society is studied over long periods in order to search structures in the relationships between groups
and possible causes for changes in these. I do not pretend to be able to offer a contribution to the
explanation of macro-social processes such as the rise of capitalism or the decline of feudalism in
Western Europe for example. The findings in this thesis might structure the scattered information
about the two regions and hopefully can contribute to the research on processes in society in medieval
Utrecht.
       Social structure is a very broad concept of course. When relationships in society are examined, as
has been discussed, divergent subjects as economy, norms or inequality have been looked into for
various time periods.12 For the limited scope of a thesis, I had to set bounds to the kind of social
structure I would inquire, the area and the period I will do this for. De Ronde Venen („the Round Peat-
bogs‟) is situated in the utmost north western part of the province of Utrecht, part of the Holland-
Utrecht peat pasture region that stretches from the sandy areas east of the river Vecht to the dunes in
the west adjoining the North Sea. It is the area in the Vecht region that covers the eastern area between
Amstelland and Rijnland and is connected to the river Vecht basin. Here the Kromme Mijdrecht, the
upper course of the Amstel, the Waver, the Winkel, the Angstel and the Aa form an almost perfectly
closed circle. From the land along the river Vecht I have chosen to study the old land alongside the
southern course of the river. The definition of „old land‟ will be outlined in the chapter about the river
Vecht and the choice for the southern part of the river Vecht is based on the fact that between
Everiksdorp and Breukelen more castles are concentrated then along the northern course. This makes
the comparison with De Ronde Venen more interesting, for the number of castles seems to be a large
difference between the two regions.
       For these regions I will look into the structures that developed in the relationships between groups
in these societies in connection to the distribution of landed property and the distribution of income
from surplus extracted from the land among them. I realize that there are other possible entrances to
study this period and these regions, for example by examining power relations. However, looking at
the structures in society connected to land and the abstraction of income from it seems to be a good
approach to study society in the pre-industrial period. Land was one of the most important sources of
subsistence in this period, it was one of the most essential things in life, and thus the study of the


12
     López, Social structure 1-6.


                                                                                                         8
distribution of land and the income from it in society over a long period can yield much information
about structural relations between groups in society; which groups controlled the land and which
groups were quite powerless, which groups profited from the land through surplus-extraction and
could enrich themselves and which groups did not have access to surpluses, were groups exploited by
others? Was it in due time possible to gain more control over the land and the income from it for
groups that were excluded, was there social mobility? I will account for this method in more detail in
paragraph one.
     I propose to take the period 953-1528 as the period of study for my comparison. In 953 almost all
the land and rights to income from the land in both regions fall in the hands of the same landlord,
when the property rights of land and surplus-extraction from land over both regions are donated to the
bishops of Utrecht by the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. The year 1528 provides a good finishing
point as this is the moment when century-long privileges to own land and collect income from that
land through instruments of surplus-extraction were collected by a new player; the Habsburg rulers.
The position of official landlord in Het Sticht changed hands for the first time in about 600 years when
the bishops of Utrecht lost their secular powers to the centralizing policy of the Habsburgs rulers. In
1528 bishop Hendrik of Beieren transferred the Episcopal worldly powers to Charles V. In De Ronde
Venen also the chapter of Sint Jan, landlord of a part of the reclaimed region as we will see, had to
hand over its property to the Habsburgs. Moreover, from the beginning of the sixteenth century an
innovation changed the use of land in De Ronde Venen; peat-dredging. With the introduction of this
technique land was hardly farmed anymore, and besides often became a lake. Studying the income
from land as a unit of observation thus becomes untenable.13 Within this period important processes
such as the reclamations and the erection of castles took place, of which the remnants are still visible
today from the A2.
     Thus, the aim of this thesis is to study the developments in the structure of society in De Ronde
Venen and along the southern course of the river Vecht in the period 953-1528 by studying the
distribution of landed property and way the income earned from the land was divided among the
different groups society was composed of. These developments will be compared in a structural
manner, and an attempt will be made to explain the differences and similarities in the relationships
between groups in society stemming from this comparison. Which macro-social processes might be
assisgned as the causes behind the differences and similarities? Part 1 will account for the method by
which I will set up the comparison and proceed with the causal analysis. I will attempt to analyze the
results from the comparison in a structural way by testing the causes proposed by three different, in the


13
  F.H. de Bruijne, De Ronde Venen. Een sociaal-geographische studie van een gedeelte van het Hollandsch-
Utrechtsch weidelandschap (Rotterdam, 1939) 72; A. Bloed et. al., Van wildernis tot Ronde Venen. Grepen uit
de geschiedenis van Wilnis (Zutphen, 1984) 69, 70; C. Dekker et. al., Geschiedenis van de provincie Utrecht.
Tot 1528 (Utrecht, 1997) 12; A. van Houtte, An economic history of the Low Countries 800-1800 (London,
1977) 112; E.J. Rinsma, De Ronde Venen... een omgekeerde wereld. Wel en wee van boeren, schippers en
verveners in een waterland (Alphen aan den Rijn, 1986) 34.


                                                                                                               9
historical sciences very influential, explanatory models. These models try to explain changes in the
structure medieval society through reasoning from large-scale developments in demography, from
class struggle and property relations and from the amount of commercialization. Can the disparities
and resemblances between the two regions in the way landed property and income from surpluses
from land were distributed be explained by the growth of commercialization, by demographic factors
or by class interests? Part 2 deals with the data collection on the distribution of landed property and
rights income using instruments of surplus-extraction of surplus from land in both regions. In part 3
the systematic comparison of these data will be executed, followed by a structural testing of possible
explanations for the results of the comparison.
    The comparison of these two regions can offer an addition to existing studies of medieval society
in Het Sticht. Not much research has been published that tried to tackle a longer period of history in
the Vecht region, that tried to give a broad overview, that tried to look for large processes or patterns,
or that tried to make this comparison between two regions that are situated so nearby each other, yet
seem so different. About the Vecht region a lot of sources of information are to be found, such as
historical literature, websites, museum and surveys of the man-made landscap, but most of these
sources are very fragmented. Until recent publications of B. Olde Meierink et. al. (1995) and M.
Zeilmaker (2004) not much substantial literature was published. The Vecht region however is gifted
with a very serious historical company, so the data for the southern course of the river Vecht rely quite
heavily on a number of interesting articles published by this organ. Also the work of A.L.P. Buitelaar
on the Vecht region is an important source of information when dealing with this part of Het Sticht in
the Middle Ages.
    About De Ronde Venen more monographs have been published. A similar problem goes for the
literature on De Ronde Venen as for the literature about the land along the river Vecht; much of this
information is about local history, history of shorter time periods or juridical history. Information on
the early Middle Ages is scarce in general, due to a lack of surviving source material, but this
especially goes for both of the regions studied here. Putting the scattered information together as this
thesis aims for, might be helpful in further research about these regions. To look into the developments
in society in both regions for a longer time-period will hopefully be an interesting addition to the
literature that has been published so far. This thesis might moreover be an addition to the project
‘Window on the Vecht’ of the Department of Information Science (ICS) of the University of Utrecht
and the Vechtplassencommissie (the committee for the river Vecht and the lakes in the region). This
project aims to make the history of the man-made landscape of the Vecht region digitally accessible. It
is linked to the provincial policy plan Collectie naar Connectie (Collection to Connection) that wants
to do justice in its policy to the historical man-made landscape of the province of Utrecht. The website
must reproduce the history of the region, from the formation of the soil until the present day, in an




                                                                                                       10
orderly and synthesizing manner. Important themes in this area are for example the society in these
areas.14




14
     For more detailed information on this project, see: http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl.



                                                                                                11
Part 1: Methodology
     As this thesis aims at studying two societies over a long period and is looking for explanations for
large scale processes, we need to set up the comparison systematically. In 1.1 I will account for how
changes in the unit of explanation, the structure of society will be measured. As I have argued, many
relationships between groups in society exist. However, I consider the distribution of the property of
land and the right to collect income from land through instruments of surplus-extraction as the best
indicator for the structure of society in the Middle Ages. In 1.2 I will outline how the study of the unit
of explanation will be set up.



1.1 Distribution of the property of land and of instruments of surplus-extraction
as an indicator for society
     In order to study society, not only Marxist historians study the means of production in a society,
which groups have access to them to make a living and examine how the income from these means of
production is divided, also among groups not actively participating in the production process. Looking
at groups in society and their relation to the means of subsistence, such as land, is done by social
historians as well, since many historians consider economic history to be the inseparable twin of social
history. The structure of society is to a large extent shaped by economic forces and vice versa. For
example, elite power and status usually cannot be viewed irrespective of wealth and property relations.
Likewise, a connection between upward social mobility and the access to the means of production and
wealth exists. The existence of a social-economic history department at many faculties of history is not
a coincidence.
     In the pre-industrial period, land was the most important means of subsistence and of income and
wealth. Especially for the Middle Ages, but also for the early modern period, land was the backbone of
the economy in most places in Western Europe, for trade, industry, urbanization and the service sector
had only started to develop.15 „In medieval society more land or income from it simply resulted in
more wealth.‟16 Thus in the study of the society in a region in the medieval and early modern period,
landed property and the income collected from it are of central importance. P. Hoppenbrouwers states
in his thorough analysis of medieval society by means of the study of the parish Heusden in the Low
Countries that many structures in society evolved around landed property and the income derived from
it; many institutions in society as well as the level of social mobility related to land. Hoppenbrouwers
gives the example of the institution of the „meent‟, undivided pasture that was collectively owned by

15
   B.H. Rosenwein, A short history of the middle ages (Toronto 2002) 76, 95, 115; Hatcher, Modeling the Middle
Ages 21; J.C.H. Blom and E. Lamberts, eds., History of the Low Countries (New York, new ed. 2006) 16; H.P.H.
Jansen „Handel en nijverheid 1000-1300‟, in: D.P. Blok et al, eds., Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden
(Haarlem 1982) 148.
16
   Bloed, Van wildernis tot Ronde Venen 68.


                                                                                                           12
the village community. This can be understood as a collective protection against excessive collection
of surplus by groups in society with the power to abstract agrarian production or by other means
collect income from their land, such as by raising taxes or rents. Also, the relative lack of social
mobility that characterizes this period, in other words the quite fixed relationships between groups in
society, can be seen in the light of landed property; groups were not very open in order to protect their
rights to the land or to earnings from land, for example by inheritance to make sure the rights
remained in the hands of kindred.17
     Famous historians in the field of social structures of the late Middle Ages and early modern period
working from different traditions, like neo-Marxists as R. Brenner and G. Bois and historians inspired
by Weber as C. Tilly, H. Gintis and S. Bowles, all focus their research of the structures and changes in
society on changes in the relationships between groups connected to landed property and the way
income from land was distributed. In brief, when explaining the western European transition from a
feudal to a more capitalist society, Brenner and Bois adhere to the position that this process can be
explained by a deteriorating relation between tenants and lords, in which the tenants lost much of their
control over their landed property, thus, by class struggle. Tilly and Gintis and Bowles interpret this
transition as the appearance of a new player in society; the state. As this institution gained power while
lords and tenants lost influence, it could exert more control over the surplus abstraction of income
from land.18 Whichever of the lines of reasoning one prefers, fact is that central in the analysis of these
historians investigating medieval and early modern society is the distribution of land and of the
earnings derived from land.
     The instruments of surplus-extraction we will come across in this thesis are land taxes, tithes19,
rents (manorial rents and recognition rents) and statute labor. Corvee must also be considered as an
instrument of surplus-extraction from land. The energy peasants otherwise would have put into
working their own land, now had to be spent on producing yields that wholly fell to their landlord.
Property in the Middle Ages is a rather unclear term. Especially from the thirteenth century various
types of rights to land existed on the old land. Official rights existed to land, such as those of the
bishops as landlords, but also customary rights, such as those of the serfs farming the landlords land in
the manorial system as will be outlined in part 2. Fiefs given out by the landlords often in due time
were regarded as near property. The holders of the fief usually developed hereditary rights to it and the




17
   P. Hoppenbrouwers, Een middeleeuwse samenleving. Het Land van Heusden, ca. 1360 - ca. 1515
(Wageningen, 1992) 62, 67, 68.
18
   Hoppenbrouwers, Een middeleeuwse samenleving 66-72.
19
   A tithe is a very old land tax in which the party entitled to collect it, levies a proportional part, usually a tenth,
of the yield or cattle. In Het Sticht the tax is mentioned for the first time in charters of the church of Sint Maarten
(Dom) in the eighth century, see: A.A, Manten, Breukelen en omgeving tussen 400 en 1200. Middeleeuwse
geschiedenis vanuit plaatselijke gezichtshoek (Hilversum, 2001) 155.


                                                                                                                      13
right to sell or lease it. Thus land and the right to extract income from surplus from land could in turn
be given out in fief or lease, often resulting in double or threefold absent ownership.20
        The different groups in society will be presented in part 2 as they enter the stage, I will only
exemplify the nuances in the terminology on the group of people in Dutch usually called „farmers‟.
The word „farmer‟ in English points to people working in agriculture who own large plots of land.
This thesis however hardly deals with these kind of well-of farmers. The landholders in De Ronde
Venen were not impecunious, yet not large landowners either. These landowning, relatively smaller
scaled farmers are referred to as „peasants‟. As we will see, in De Ronde Venen free as well as unfree
peasants resided. The farmers inhabiting the manors along the southern course of the river Vecht were
unfree, did not own the land they worked and farmed rather small plots of land. This group of farmers
will called mancipia, „serfs‟ or „unfree peasants‟, as will be elaborated in the chapter on society along
the river Vecht. As in due time the leasing system was introduced on the old land along the river
Vecht, the farmers working the land need to be referred to as „tenants‟.



1.2 Methodology in analyzing the data on the structure of society
     In part 3 the data collected on the unit of observation will be compared trough time. It is a
contextualized comparison, and thus the nuances within the two cases will be taken into account.
When one studies a region over a longer period as this thesis attempts, continuities and
transformations in the structure of society can be described as we have seen in the previous chapters.
As has been outlined, in trying to do so, this thesis fits in the contemporary branch of comparative
history, which unlike the more case-oriented approach generally applied in historic sciences, has put
„big questions‟ on the research agenda. For that reason having to deal with a larger data set and a more
complex structure of causation then usually handled in historic research, comparative historical
researchers have had to deal with their data systematically. As the aim of this thesis fits within the
school of comparative history in its search for causal explanations in macro processes over time, the
methodology developed by scholars in this tradition can proof useful in the analysis of the structure of
the societies along the river Vecht and in De Ronde Venen. In developing useful tools, comparative
historians found inspiration in methodology from the social sciences, which is specialized in analyzing
large amounts of data. Thus, causal propositions are carefully selected and tested rather than
introduced ad hoc as incidental parts of an overall narrative as often happens in historic science. This
will be done in this thesis by the testing of the explanatory variables developed and carefully selected

20
  More then one person could claim different kinds of rights to the same land, see: H. van Doorn and L.
Schwartz, Langs de Vecht. Van Utrecht naar Muiden (Schiedam, 1999) 9; B.J.P. van Bavel and P.
Hoppenbrouwers, eds., Landholding and land transfer in the North Sea area (late Middle Ages-19th century)
132; A.L.P. Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Utrechtse Vechtstreek (Hilversum,
1993) 225. Indeed the distribution of the property of land and of surplus-extraction as a result indeed becomes
complicated to untwine as we will see when we turn to the four case studies of the manors in Everiksdorp,
Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen below.


                                                                                                                  14
in the three grand explanation models widespread in the medieval history. These conflicting
explanatory models see either the ratio between population and resources, class power and property
relations or the process of commercialization to be the prime mover of history. Chiefly all
explanations trying to assess developments in the Middle Ages have one of these approaches at their
heart and, „consciously or unconsciously, use the concepts which underpin them to assist in the tasks
of sorting and interpreting evidence and formulating explanations‟.21 This goes for the explanations
given in generally accepted viewpoints about this period too, as we will see. In part 3 the line of
reasoning in these models will be tested to the comparison of the data collected in part 2.
     Doing this systematically will offers advantages. By testing the paradigms to two concrete cases,
the risk of getting bogged down in abstract theories will be avoided. Comparative historical analysts
keep track of their historical roots by viewing every case studied as a whole and acknowledging the
complexity of causal relationship. In a contextualized comparison the plus-points of both social and
historic science are combined and offer tools for systematic comparison.22 In many comparative
historical research projects attempting to find factors that drive macro processes of change it has
proved that oftentimes no single set of causes can explain „big questions‟, such as the question what
the causes for the occurrence of revolutions are. Rather, a substantial outcome predominantly
produced by varied and different and levels of causes. Therefore comparative historical researchers
have developed tools to assess multiple and conjunctural causes. These will offer us the means to not
view causes in isolation but always within the context of the presence and absence of other causally
relevant conditions.23 Many tools are useful; „(…) [I]n fact, comparative historical analysts employ a
wide range of strategies of causal assessment in their research.‟24 In this thesis the methods of process
tracing, path dependency and within case comparison in a cross-cultural comparison will be used. A
few-case comparison of respectively the developments in two neighboring regions that in many
respects share similarities might be helpful in clarifying causal correlations. What could explain the
differences and similarities between these regions over time? Due to the lack of source material and
literature on the distribution of landed property and income collected by instruments of surplus-
extraction unfortunately it has proved impossible to find much numerical data. Thus a quantitative
analysis was not possible and this thesis is largely qualitative.




21
   Quote, see: Hatcher, Modeling the Middle Ages 20; see also: Ibidem VII-IX, 11.
22
   Mahoney, Comparative historical analysis 10-15; C. Ragin, The comparative method. Moving beyond
qualitative and quantitative strategies (London, 1987) VIII-XII, 16-18.
23
   Ragin, The comparative method 19-33, 93; A good example of multiple conjunctural causes is offered by S.
Rokkan‟s work on nation building, see: Ibidem 127; Mahoney, Comparative historical analysis 13; J.A.
Goldstone, „The study of revolutions‟, in: Mahoney, Comparative historical analysis 44, 80-82.
24
   Mahoney, „Strategies of causal assessment in Comparative Historical Analysis‟, in: Ibidem 337.


                                                                                                              15
Part 2: Society in De Ronde Venen and on the old land
along the southern course of the river Vecht 953-1528

1. Historical context of the two regions in the tenth century until
1528
     When we want to describe society at the moment we begin our analysis of De Ronde Venen („the
Round Peat-Bogs‟) and the southern part of the river Vecht around the middle of the tenth century, we
find two different situations. After the Neolithic era, from about 3,000 BC, over the course of
thousands of years an almost continuous plain of peat bogs developed in large parts of Holland and
Utrecht, stretching from the sandy soils behind the newly formed dunes to the Utrechtse Heuvelrug
and the Gooi. De Ronde Venen constituted a part of this so-called Holland-Utrecht peat plain; more
precisely the area connected to the river Vecht basin that covers the eastern area between Amstelland
and Rijnland, where the rivers Kromme Mijdrecht, the upper course of the Amstel, the Waver, the
Winkel, the Angstel and the Aa form an almost perfectly closed circle. Within this circle of small
rivers, reed and sphagnum moss piled up to form a high hill of peat that was five kilometres wide and
at some points seven metres thick. We will refer to this area as De Ronde Venen, the name by which
the region was known of old and which to this day remains the name of the municipality that is
situated on this former peat moor.25 It was generally an uninhabited region, through some residents
from settlements along the encircling rivers plausibly have used the wilderness for hunting and
pasturing life-stock.
     This wilderness of swamp forests and reed lands was crossed by large rivers like the river Vecht
and the Amstel. On the higher banks of the river Vecht and its tributary the Aa-Angstel-Gein, formed
by the sand and clay deposit of the rivers, people settled who already subsisted on arable in the early
Middle Ages, in some parts even since the Roman era.26 From the second half of the tenth century,
both regions fell into the hands of the bishops of Utrecht. In order to understand the differences and
similarities in society that evolved in these two regions, we first need to look at the structure of co-
ordination of society that developed under their landlords, the bishops of Utrecht. As we will see,


25
   S. van Ginkel-Meester and H. Lägers, De Ronde Venen : geschiedenis en architectuur (Zeist 2001) 10-11. The
municipality was founded in 1989.
26
   On De Ronde Venen, see: R. Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd. Cultuurhistorische atlas van de provincie Utrecht
(Utrecht, 2005) 230; W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „Het ontstaan‟, in: Bloed, Van wildernis tot Ronde Venen 7-15; Van
Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 12.
On the river Vecht and its tributaries, see Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 15; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit
124, 171-178; W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟, in: Bloed, Van wildernis tot Ronde Venen 17-18;
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 119-120; C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ in: Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 131-
132, 136; For a map that provides a good overview, see http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm, the website
of the scientific research project 'A view on the river Vecht', which incorporates the latest findings of research on
the Vecht region.


                                                                                                                  16
several groups and institutions played an important role in society in both De Ronde Venen and the
southern part of the river Vecht that will be discussed in this chapter.




1.1 Sovereign bishops, chapters and ministeriales
     In the second half of the tenth century, the territory that now makes up the Netherlands was part of
the German Empire, under the name of Neder-Lotharingen. The Frankish kings and emperors since
Charlemagne used a feudal system to govern their extensive empire. Aristocratic counts functioned as
representatives for the rulers in the more remote areas of the Carolingian and later the Holy German
Empire. These counts took an oath of loyalty to their ruler and managed units of the empire. In a
society where money was scarce, these vassals did not receive a salary as a reward, but rather they
were rewarded with a fief, a beneficium or feodum: a plot of land, usually inhabited by serfs who
worked the land and brought in the harvest.27 Consequently they could live from the profits from that
land. In the turmoil caused by the Vikings, and due to the fact that functions and fiefs had become
hereditary, the emperor‟s possessions that his servants administered for him became uncontrollable,
and the vassals became corrupt. All over their empire, the rulers of the Holy German Empire were
confronted with counts who had seized the opportunity to act as semi-sovereigns in their beneficia in
the chaotic period after the disintegration of the Carolingian empire halfway the ninth century.
     In need of loyal, trustworthy vassals to support him in the administration of his vast empire, the
Saxon emperor Otto I decided to favour prominent members of the church as representatives in
preference to the secular vassals who had always been endowed until the second half of the tenth
century. The advantage of appointing a bishop was that clergymen could be appointed by the emperors
themselves, since this office was not hereditary. An untrustworthy bishop, unlike an untrustworthy
aristocratic vassal, could thus be easily dismissed. In this so-called Ottone system, the bishop of
Utrecht became responsible for the administration of large parts of Neder-Lotharingen. In return, the
bishops of Utrecht were granted worldly and ecclesiastical powers, sovereign rule over the
Nedersticht28 and the diocese of the Utrecht bishopric. In this capacity the bishops were endowed with
many possessions that had belonged to the secular vassals of the Saxons, and these vassals now
became servants of the bishops.29



27
   The way that this land was exploited will be elaborated on at length in part 2.
28
   The present province of Utrecht plus parts of the southern and northern part of the province of Holland
(Nedersticht) and the present provinces of Drenthe, Overijssel and the city of Groningen (Oversticht).
29
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 44-45, 325-328; J.M. van Winter, „Bisschop Balderic en de rijkskerk‟,
in: Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 103-110, 124-125; J.M. van Winter, „Het opdringen van de graaf van Holland‟, in:
Ibidem 181; A.L.P. Buitelaar, „De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Vechtstreek‟ in: Maandblad
Oud-Utrecht vol. 11/12 (1991) 114-115; B. Olde Meierink et. al., eds., Kastelen en ridderhofsteden in Utrecht
(Utrecht, 1995) 11-12; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied in de middeleeuwen‟,
Maandblad Oud-Utrecht (1985) vol. 58, 228.


                                                                                                             17
Fig. 1: A medieval drawing of the German emperor Otto I welcoming several bishops, his ecclesial vassals.
                                                                                    Source: Manten, Breukelen 134




     In this development, both De Ronde Venen and the majority of land along the river Vecht became
the property of the bishops of Utrecht. In a charter from 953 we can infer that the bishop of Utrecht, at
that time bishop Balderik, obtained a large area of peat bogs to the east and the west of „die Fech‟ (the
river Vecht) from Otto I. Included in the charter were domains on the banks of the river Vecht, until
then the property of the vassals of the Frankish rulers. The bishop successfully claimed the rights to
secular power in these regions.30 In this situation in which the property of land switched of owner, the
nobles who had to subordinate to bishops as the new landlord, often behaved as sovereign landlords in
a rivalry between bishop and vassals over territory and rights.31
     Of importance to us in both of the regions we examine is the struggle over property of land and
rights that arose between the bishops of Utrecht and the counts of Holland, who were among the


30
   For the donation of De Ronde Venen, see: R. Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd (Amsterdam, 2005)
12; http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm; E.J. Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...Een omgekeerde wereld: wel
en wee van boeren, schippers en verveners in een waterland (Alphen aan de Rijn 1986) 24-24; Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 94, 102; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 229.
For the donation of the land along the river Vecht, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 37-39, 115-117,
384; D. Dekker, Toestandenen gebeurtenissen uit de geschiedenis van Maarssen (Alphen aan de Rijn, 1984) 8,
10; Van Winter, „De vroegste goederen‟ 93; Idem, „Bisschop Balderic‟ 106-107; Idem, „De opkomst‟ 171; C.
Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 133; Idem, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 229. The unclarity in the
sources concerning the possession of the old land in Breukelen, has lead to a very different opinion of A.A.
Manten as will be discussed below in paragraph 3 of part 2.
31
   C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 232.


                                                                                                                    18
bishops‟ insubordinate aristocratic vassals. This struggle intensified in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, when the bishops‟ position had worsened due to the financial burdens of all the trouble with
rebellious vassals. During the entire Middle Ages, the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht
were involved in conflicts over the authority in West-Friesland, Holland and Utrecht in which they
attempted to consolidate their landownership in those regions, and attempted to obtain sovereign rights
over their territory that originated in the tenth century.32
     The expansion in the reach of their power, and thus of their supervisory responsibilities, increased
the bishops‟ status and wealth, but it also increased the bishops‟ need for thorough administration.
„What he [the bishop of Utrecht] lacked was an apparatus of officials.‟33 The struggle with the counts
of Holland intensified this need. To meet the demands of this new situation, the bishops empowered
two new groups of servants in society. These will be elaborated on below, since these actors have
played an important role in De Ronde Venen and along the river Vecht.
     In the eleventh century, the bishops of Utrecht completed the existing chapters of Oudmunster and
the Dom church through the foundation of the chapter of Sint Pieter (Saint Peter), Sint Jan (Saint John)
and Sint Marie (Saint Mary). These chapters were endowed with a number of churches and farming
fields on the old land in the Nedersticht, upon which they had the right to levy tithes and the right to
control low jurisdiction. These endowments functioned as a dos, a starting capital. Shortly after their
foundation this dos was complemented with segments of unreclaimed wilderness, such as De Ronde
Venen, as we will explain below, for the chapters to reclaim in order to become profitable. By
donating these possessions to the chapters, the bishop delegated one of his many tasks in the
administration of the Nedersticht. As a reward for their efforts, the chapters often received more
property on the old land along the river Vecht. Moreover, by subsisting chapters the bishops of Utrecht
gained status in the competition between all the powerful bishops in the imperial church to impress
others with the vitality of their diocese. Canons professionally connected to a chapter church gave
praise to the Lord by singing psalms from dusk till dawn on the canonical hours, which entailed that
they could not generate a livelihood for themselves. The ability to endow the canons with the means to
maintain themselves in medieval society signified the founder's piety, prestige and wealth.34
     In the struggle to consolidate their territory, and in the process of extending their powers in the
direction of sovereignty, in the eleventh century the bishops in the Holy German Empire increasingly
surrounded themselves with vassals who did not belong to the nobility, called ministri or ministeriales.
The bishops could select these vassals; ministeriales did not have personal freedom. The bishops
assigned to their ministeriales particular tasks from the many that were delegated to them by the Saxon

32
   For more information, see: J.M. van Winter, „De rijksbisschoppen in de 11e eeuw‟, in: Dekker, Provincie
Utrecht 121-130; J.M. van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟, in: Ibidem 181-186;
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 44-45, 51, 80-91; W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟ 18; W.G.J. van
Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟, in: Bloed, Van wildernis tot Ronde Venen
62-63; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...24-25.
33
   C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 232.
34
   C. Dekker, „De stichting van parochies‟, in: C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 150-152.


                                                                                                            19
rulers. We mainly encounter them in charters in which they appear as witnesses for the bishop in
important settlements or donations.35 In the Nedersticht, the bishops of Utrecht at first mainly needed
assistance in the organisation of their armed forces. As mentioned, the bishops were involved in a
struggle with their vassals over territory and attempts to establish sovereign rule over that territory.
The bishops, as representatives of the Saxon kings and emperors, had formerly relied on the militarily
apparatus of their nobles, amongst them the counts of Holland. However, since they were involved in
a struggle with their rebellious nobles, the bishops had a need for an independent military machine. In
order to circumvent the military forces of the counts, the bishops recruited peasants bound to them on
their manors, who received a position as milites in the cavalry that formed the core of the bishops‟
army.36
     As a reward for its services, this group of servants was endowed by the bishops with property
(such as estates) or rights (such as the right to levy the tithe in a specific „gerecht’37, a jurisdiction, and
received several privileges which soon became established in a fixed juridical code. Through this
code, these servants were distinguished from other subjects of the bishop who did not enjoy personal
freedom (known as serfs or mancipia, as will be discussed in part 2). It is not entirely evident from the
sources what this juridical code exactly contained for ministeriales of the bishop of Utrecht, but
several conditions must undoubtedly have constituted a part of it according to Buitelaar.
     Ministeriales were exempted from several duties and levies other bound subjects were constrained
to, such as the payment of „keurmede’38. Unlike mancipia, they could have land in property, could
hold land in feud of another lord besides the bishop, and could possess serfs. Plausibly, ministeriales
had the right to attend to a discerned court of justice exclusively legitimate for ministeriales.
Furthermore, they were often fined less severely than other servants of the bishop who had committed
a similar offence. Ministeriality, and thus an estate, also became hereditary through both the male and
female line, so even descendants who did not serve as milites could appeal to the rights laid down in
the codex. Ministeriales remained bound however: from several barter-agreements, as we will see, we
understand that ministeriales could be interchanged among lords, such as between the bishop of
Utrecht and the counts of Holland.39



35
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 13-22; The only fairly influential and wealthy nobility of old which
remained influential before the „ridderschap‟ developed, were the families Uten Goye and Van Cuyck, see: Olde
Meierink, Kastelen 12-13; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 81-83, 213, 383, 387, 390; Van Winter, „De
opkomst‟ 173, 176; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 179, 204.383, 387, 390.
36
   Ibidem 60-72, 80-91, 325-327; J.M. van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ in: C.
Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 169-172.
37
   Territory that was given out by the bishop, usually to a religious institution (such as a convent or a chapter) or
to ministeriales, over which they could exert administration, low jurisdiction and over which they had the right
to levy certain taxes, such as the tithe. See: Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 14.
38
   The obligation for heirs to renounce the best piece from the inheritance: the best piece of furniture or the best
animal from the cattle.
39
   Buitelaar, „De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Vechtstreek‟ 110-118; Ibidem, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 313-316, 340-357; Van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 169-172, 176.


                                                                                                                  20
     Two other career possibilities for the bishops‟ ministeriales existed, and consequently these
ministeriales too came under this juridical codex. The bishops‟ servants were also mobilised in the
bishops‟ growing central administrative apparatus, first of all in tasks at the bishop‟s court. This
included functions from butler to viscount: important positions in which these ministeriales gained
significance.40 The third post in which ministeriales were employed, which will be discussed in length
in the chapter on De Ronde Venen, is of particular importance for this thesis since it is connected with
the reclamations of the Holland-Utrecht lowlands: ministeriales were put into service in the large-scale
reclamations that took place from the eleventh century in the wilderness of peat bogs adjoining the
river Vecht. They organised and controlled the reclamation activities. As a reward the ministeriales
often received a lucrative position in the bishop‟s manors on the old land in the Nedersticht as
„managers‟, responsible for the exploitation and administration of the Episcopal possessions. On most
of his manors, the bishop possessed a curtis, a court, which functioned as the administrative and
governmental centre of the settlement. The domains were organised in a manorial system of
exploitation. In a classical form of this system, as was applied in the core regions of the Frankish
empire, the bishop‟s property is likely to have been inhabited and worked by serfs well into the
fourteenth century. These serfs were bound to the land they were obliged to work, which they
generally did not own, and thus they enjoyed restricted freedom. Their landlord, in this case the
bishop, could for example decide to change them for other serfs with another lord. The serfs were
compelled to transfer all sorts of products in kind and to perform certain duties, the so-called statute
labor or corvee. Often they had to perform „keurmede‟. Probably a restricted number of peasants held
a piece of land on the domain for a manorial rent from the bishop. Although they also had to perform
corvee, they had more control over their land.41 These manors were managed by Episcopal vassals,
villici, who from the eleventh century often joined the ministeriality.42 The villici of ministeriales
presided over these curtes and had to arrange for the peasants to hand over their rents and supplies in
kind, they organised the execution of statute labor and administered justice in certain cases.43 The
structure of society in the domains, the existence of curtes and the position of the villicus will be
elaborated on in the chapter on society in the southern part of the river Vecht.
     Since these ministeriales filled such important positions within the armed forces and
administration, and as the estate of ministeriality was hereditary, some ministeriales families could

40
   For more information, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 23-39; Van Winter, „De opkomst van
ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 169-172.
41
   This rent for that matter has nothing to do with the so-called reclamation rent that will be discussed hereafter.
42
   J.M. van Winter and A.L.P. Buitelaar, „Stad en veen in Utrecht, toegelicht aan de gerechten Oostveen en
Herbertskop‟ Jaarboek Oud-Utrecht (1988) 23.
43
   This subject will be treated in depth in the chapter on medieval society along the river Vecht. See: Van Winter,
„De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 169-172; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 95-96, 121-137;
E.N. Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan, Het kapittel van Sint Jan te Utrecht. Een onderzoek naar verwerving,
beheer en administratie van het oudste goederenbezit (elfde-veertiende eeuw) Dissertation (Utrecht 1992) 129-
131; Van Winter , „Stad en veen‟ 23. For indications on the existence of manorial relations, curtes and bound,
landless peasants, Buitelaar and Palmboom both refer to the work of C. Dekker, Het Kromme Rijngebied in de
middeleeuwen. Een institutioneel-geografische studie (Zutphen 1983).


                                                                                                                 21
gain a lot of influence. They „remained juridically constrained, but socially they belonged to the upper
class.‟44 From the end of the thirteenth century, the upper echelon amongst the ministeriales in Het
Sticht, together with the small number of nobles who resided in Het Sticht and wealthy free
landholders formed the social class of the „ridderschap‟; the lay elite in society in medieval Sticht.45
     In Het Sticht the ecclesial and lay elite frequently mixed. It often occurred that one of an
influential ministeriales family‟s sons was granted an important position within the church of Utrecht.
When I applied a bit of network analysis, connecting family names and professions or positions, it was
possible to enumerate a long list of families within the clergy and the ministeriality that appeared to be
connected. Based on charter registers of Utrecht, members of the ministeriality who became canons in
one of the five chapters can be traced. To mention a few examples of families that show up later in this
thesis; Hendrik van Dolre and Steven van Vianen are mentioned as canons of the Dom church in
respectively 1252 and 1295, Hendrik van Maarssen as a canon of Oudmunster in 1239 and Johan van
Zuilen as a canon of the chapter of Sint Jan in 1281.46 Steven van Zuilen was grand master of the
Order of Teutonic Knights from 1496 to 1527 and the convent of Oostbroek and the family Van
Zuilen were closely connected in property as we will see in the paragraphs about Zwesereng. 47
Another good example of this blending is the family De Bole, chatelaines of Bolenstein as we will see
in the paragraph about Maarssen. Furthermore the family was an important member of the patriciate of
Utrecht; Gerrit de Bole for example was magistrate of the town from 1372 to 1374. Next to that,
several examples of De Bole‟s exist who joined the clergy. Joannes Bole and Sophie Bole joined the
congregation of the convent of Sint Servaas in Utrecht and Engelradis Bole that of Mariendaal.48 Since
1367 clergy and members of the „ridderschap‟ moreover were connected in government, since both
occupied a seat (from 1375 joined by the patricians of important cities in Het Sticht, but also members
of the „ridderschap‟ and the rich patricians often married between them.49) in the Staten van Utrecht.50
Thus network analysis showed that generally members of ministeriales families and chapters to a large
extend can be considered as the same group in society. These elite formed quite a closed group which
predominantly married amongst themselves.51
     In brief, under the Ottone system the bishops of Utrecht managed to gain increasing sovereignty.
Amongst other domains, they were endowed with the majority of land along the river Vecht and the
wilderness that would become De Ronde Venen. In order to manage their extended tasks and

44
   C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 232.
45
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 325-329, 336, 366-369, 392; Van Winter, „De opkomst van
ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 173-180; Dukes-Greup, M.A., Oudaen (Alphen aan de Rijn, 1984)18.
46
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 272-273, 272 footnote 411; for more general information about the
mixing within the elite, see: Lawrence, Medieval monasticism (London, 3rd ed. 2001) 112, 217-219.
47
   H. Biesma, Ridders in een klooster. Het Duitse Huis in Utrecht (1999) 26-27; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 130-132, 267-268; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 181; R.C.J. van
Maanen, „De relatie tussen Zuilen en de abdij van Oostbroek‟ Jaarboekje van Oud-Utrecht (1969), 83-85, 94-97.
48
   A.E. Rientjes, A.E., „De ridderhofstad Bolestein te Maarssen‟, Jaarboek Niftarlake (1942) 7.
49
   Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 205.
50
   Olde Meierink, Kastelen 16; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De staten‟ 251-257.
51
   Dukes, Oudaen 18; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 205; 173, 176.


                                                                                                           22
responsibilities, and to strengthen their position in relation to competing landlords, the bishops
empowered two groups in society: chapters and ministeriales. This process of increasing Episcopal
power seems to have had a great deal of influence on society in De Ronde Venen and the southern part
of the river Vecht.
    In 1528 the bishops lost their sovereign worldly powers to Hapsburg rulers, and thus lost the
regions studied in this thesis. The centralising rule of the Hapsburgs and the subsequent period of the
Republic of the seven United Provinces resulted in many changes in society. Therefore this study of
society in De Ronde Venen and the Southern part of the river Vecht ends in 1528. First of all, we will
examine De Ronde Venen in the tenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century.




                                                                                                    23
 2. Society in De Ronde Venen



2.1 The Great Reclamations
     As mentioned, in 935 Otto I donated the possession of the peat moor to the east and the west of the
river Vecht to bishop Balderik. In this donation, in the line of the Ottone system, not only ecclesiastic
rights were transferred to Balderik, yet moreover the ownership of the land, the rights to the surpluses
from the land collected through taxes (the tithe and from 1131 general taxes as will be discussed
below), the serfs possibly populating this territory, the woods, the lakes, the rivers and the fishery; in
short, the bishop became the landowner with seigniorial rights over a territory that included De Ronde
Venen.52 Successive bishops of Utrecht thus were the landlord of this wilderness, however not
showing much interest for it for more then a century. In general these peat bogs were uninhabited,
although the inhabitants living in settlements on manors on the neighboring banks of two rivers
encompassing De Ronde Venen will probably have used the peat moors on the edges in the eastern
part of De Ronde Venen to a limited extent. They for example gathered wood, fished, went hunting
and pastured life stock in the wilderness. These regalia to the wilderness officially belonged to the
bishops, yet these being far away, the inhabitants of the river banks had the customary right to use the
wilderness.53 Inhabiting the old land along the tributary of the river Vecht, the Aa-Angstel-Gein, and a
part of the Winkel, they might have dwelled from Abcoude into the wilderness that was later to
become Vinkeveen and Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen, or have entered the moors of future
Demmerik, which adjoined the old land of Ter Aa. The edges in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen
might here and there have been reclaimed irregularly in block allotment on the basis of small, local
initiatives.54




52
   Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 12; http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...24-
25; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 94, 102.
53
   Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 181; G.J. Borger, 'De oude geografie en de ontginning van de
Vechtstreek ' in: Maandblad Oud-Utrecht vol. 11/12 (1991) 107.
54
   About habitation on the old land and parcelling in blocks on the shores of the river Vecht, see: Blijdenstein,
Tastbare tijd 15; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 154-155, 177-178. About the age of habitation of
Abcoude, see: W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟ 17-18 and Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 119-120,
where he demonstrates the origin of Abcoude by pointing at the existence of „asega‟, an old Fries juridical
institution. About the origin of habitation of the Aa-Angstel-Gein, see: W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟
17-18; About the block allotment of the peat bogs, see: C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 131-132, 136; De Bruijne,
De Ronde Venen. Een sociaal-geographische studie 32; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 124. About the
origin of habitation of a part of the river Waver, see the map on http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm.


                                                                                                               24
Fig. 2 KAART OUD LAND - NIEUW LAND Buitelaar, De Stichtese ministerialiteit 158.




                                                                                   25
     From the middle of the eleventh century the situation changed enormously in the Holland-Utrecht
peat plains of which De Ronde Venen formed a part. The marshlands were developed in a large-scale
and structured manner. Within a few centuries a quarter of the present province of Utrecht was
reclaimed. The activities advanced at an average speed of 2000 hectares a year. The peat bogs that
composed De Ronde Venen were turned into arable land for the larger part between around 1050 and
1150 and at any rate before the second half of the thirteenth century.55 This immense accomplishment
is generally understood by considering two developments; a strong growth of population in the Low
Countries (and Europe in general) and competition between two landlords trying to consolidate their
territory.
     Between 850 and 1250 a population increase of 100.000 to 800.000 people took place in the area
of the present-day Netherlands, which caused an increase in food shortages and thus a need for more
arable land. As a result of this need, the reclamations of the large areas of peat bogs that this land was
rich of were taken to a spectacular higher level.56 Most scholars when dealing with the reclamations in
particularly De Ronde Venen seem to emphasize rather then this demographic cause for the large-scale
reclamations a political cause as we will elaborate too in the paragraph on the chapter of Sint Jan. Here
the importance of the above mentioned struggle between the Counts of Holland and the bishops of
Utrecht comes in. In their desire for territory, the counts controlling present day Holland started to
develop an interest for the wilderness on their territory. From about the second half of the tenth
century, these landlords started to reclaim large areas of peat moor probably starting around
Ouwerkerk and Lekkerkerk57. Because of need for arable land related to population growth but no less
in order to attempt to counter Holland‟s urge to expand, likewise the bishops, especially under bishop
Willem (1054-1076) started cultivation of the Utrecht-Holland moor land. The bishops desired to
make sure that reclamations in their name were done before Holland could cultivate the land.58 „In that
way the bishopric could at any rate consolidate its position in relation to Holland and possibly even
strengthen it.‟59 It has probably been bishop Willem of Utrecht who developed a pioneering new
system for these reclamations. Instead of leaving the cultivation of arable land to small, local
initiatives, he took the organization of the reclamations of the wilderness, which he considered to be
his property on the basis of the donation of the charter of 953, in his own hands. The activities
55
   C. Dekker, „Voortgang‟ 164-165; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 16-17, 231; W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De
ontginning‟ 18; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 14; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen… 29.
56
   Ibidem 18; Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟ 62; Van Ginkel-Meester,
De Ronde Venen 12; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 12, 16; H. van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten
met nadruk op de occupatie circa 1000-1300‟, in: Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden 53-55.
57
   C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 133-134.
58
   Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 16, 231; Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟
62-63; W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟ 18; http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm; Rinsema, De
Ronde Venen... 24-25; C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 133, 141; Van Winter en A.L.P. Buitelaar, „Stad en veen‟ 13.
For more information on the struggle between Holland and Utrecht, see: J.M. van Winter, „De rijksbisschoppen
in de 11e eeuw‟, in: Dekker Provincie Utrecht 121-130; Ibidem, „Het opdringen van de graaf van Holland‟, in:
Ibidem 181-186; A.J. van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter en de macht‟ 187-190; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 51, 80-91.
59
   W. Bos and L.R. Mur, „De ontginning‟ 18.


                                                                                                           26
proceeded at a remarkable high speed as remarked earlier, and were undertaken in a strikingly
organised, systematic way; on maps of that period and often even on contemporary maps can be seen
that the reclamations bear resemblance to each other on the part of size and structure, and many
uniform documents about the new land remain. „With the aid of his reclamation program he [the
bishop] countered the count of Holland and did so in a highly efficient manner (…)‟.60 The system by
which the reclamations were organized is called the cope system. It was first applied in the peat areas
on the west side of the river Vecht, whereupon all reclamations in the Utrecht-Holland peat area from
the second half of the eleventh till about the middle of the twelfth century were undertaken, also in
Holland.61 The phrase cope system comes from the thorough research on the reclamations of the
Holland-Utrecht lowlands by H. Van der Linden, whose findings can still count on broad acceptance
among historians studying the reclamations and the thereto related society of the Middle Ages. Since
De Ronde Venen are also excavated according in this systematic manner as we will see, and it has
been the cope system that according to many shaped society in the Holland-Utrecht peat region for
centuries as well as changed society for the inhabitants of the settlements on the old land along the
river Vecht (and its tributary Aa-Angstel-Gein), that other region studied in this thesis, we will set
forth explaining the general accepted account of the Great Reclamations of the eleventh and twelfth
century.62
     The system behind the reclamations worked according to certain tenets, both on juridical and
technical level. The bishop as vercoper gave out lots of wilderness to be developed to intending
colonists (copers) by entering into a contract (cope). In this contract, the rights and duties of the future
inhabitants were signed up. In return for an inconsiderable compensation on a yearly base, the
colonists obtained a parcel of wilderness, usually of fixed measurements set out for them from a
reclamation base such as a river, dike or watercourse.63 The compensation due attached to the
distributed parcels of wilderness, 1, 2 or sometimes 4 „derniers‟ (small coin) for a reclamation unit,
cannot be considered as a compensation for the use of the land, such as a rent or a manorial rent. It
stood in no relation to the benefits of the land. Thus it is generally accepted that this rent thus must
have served another purpose, that is, merely serving as a sign of recognition of the power of the
authorities that had issued the land.64

60
   C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 141.
61
   For argumentation that indeed the bishops preceded the counts of Holland in using the cope system for
reclamations, see C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟ 139-141; For the general vision, see: Van der Linden, „Het
platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 77.
62
   The basis of the following information on the standard view of the reclamations is derived from the dense
explanation of the cope system in Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 48-82, to which I have
added footnotes of approving scholars.
63
   For example in the reclamation of Oukoop (in the name of which one can recognize a reference to cope) in the
neighbourhood of De Ronde Venen, the measurements of a parcel were fixed at 1250 to 1300 metres in length
and about 113 metres breed. See: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 153; see also C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟
141.
64
   Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 69-72; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan, 223; C.
Dekker, „De ontginning‟134; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 334.


                                                                                                              27
     The colonists usually came from the settlements on the old land. Unlike mancipia, who were
bound to their land and merely held the customary right to use it, the colonist-peasants were full
proprietors of their land. „These commonly servile tenants obtained their freedom by cultivating a
piece of land assigned to them.‟65 Not the bishops of Utrecht, but the colonist-peasants became
landowners of the reclaimed parcels; they enjoyed „freedom in cultivating, selling and bequeathing of
their land‟66. On their land weighed no manorial duties any longer. These peasants did not have to
perform corvee to the bishop as a landlord.67 Certain collective duties towards the authorities had to be
performed though, such as paying a tenth of their yields each year, offering support in military
conflicts (for example defending the borders), recognizing the juridical organisation and thus having to
assist in the prosecution of criminals, subsisting the dikes and canals and paying general taxes levied
by their official landlord the bishop of Utrecht, such as the entreaty and „morgengeld‟.68 However, new
was that in comparison to the duties serfs were compelled to on the old land, as we will see in
paragraph 3 of part 2, these burdens were relatively light.69 Furthermore, all landholders had an
unprecedented say in local administration; the colonist-peasants had to be consulted in decision-
making on assemblies. They had a firm grip on local jurisdiction and the organization of water
management as well.
     The bishop hardly ever granted land to colonist-peasants directly, but usually used „managers‟ to
take over the organisation and execution of the reclamation. In that case, the cope was entered into
with one of the agents we discussed above; a chapter or one of the bishops‟ respectable ministeriales.
Neither the canons nor the ministeriales dug the ditches themselves, but their capital functioned as a
warrant for the reclamations to occur. Being entrepreneurs in reclamations, the chapters and
ministeriales drew the measurements of the parcels in the peat moors and assigned the parcels to their
colonists. During the time-consuming work of digging ditches in order to drain the moors using the

65
   Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 17; see also: C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟134-135.
66
   Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 70.
67
   Van Winter and Buitelaar, „Stad en veen‟ 15.
68
   An entreaty was a tax levied over landed property, originating in 1131, which functioned as a source of
income in times of great expenditure, such as during wartime. It was levied on an irregular base, but often
imposed each year, sometimes even more often. As the bishops gave out priviliges of tax exemption increasingly
to groups within the clergy and „ridderschap‟, already in the fourteenth century the entreaty did not yield enough
revenue any longer. At the beginning of the fourteenth century under bishop Guy van Avesnes a new land tax,
the „morgengeld‟ (levied over each „morgen‟ of land, in Het Sticht about 0.85 hectare) was instituted as an extra
source of income in times of great expenditure, such as during wartime. It was supposed to be levied on an
irregular basis, but especially from the end of the fourteenth century and in the fifteenth century it was often
collected on a yearly base, for the bishops encountered an increasing amount of emergency situations. The
bishops had to negotiate with the States of Utrecht for permission and the amount of the tax. After 1528 it was
levied by the Provincial Council of Utrecht. It must be noted that land owners generally were able to avert these
land taxes on the serfs who were obligated to work their land or to whom they leased their land. The „huisgeld‟
tax levied for the same reason and on the same irregular basis as the „morgengeld‟, however over real estate. It
was first mentioned in 1375, then unnoted for a century, and then levied on a yearly basis from 1475 to 1528.
J.G. Avis, De directe belastingen in het Sticht Utrecht aan deze zijde van de IJssel tot 1528 (Utrecht 1930) 1-12,
13-15, 42-79; Van Winter and Buitelaar, „Stad en veen‟ 9-11, 15; Van Hoven van Genderen, „De staten‟ 250-
251, 253.
69
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 152-153; Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 69-72,
75-76; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 223; C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟134.


                                                                                                               28
primitive means available to them, when the land did not yet return yields and farmsteads were not yet
hammered, the chapters and ministeriales maintained the colonist-peasants. These colonists usually
came from the same settlements on the old land as the chapters and ministeriales themselves.70 To the
chapters, the bishop in general gave out pieces of wilderness in property. Their concession gave them
the property right over the wilderness, the low jurisdiction, the tithe and the recognition rent; bishops
did not have a right of say in the exploitation of these goods (although as the general landlord of Het
Sticht they had the right to levy general taxes) the chapters could for example give away or pawn their
land or tithes freely. Thus, they had the right to act as vercoper.71 In the parts of wilderness and the
rights connected to it the bishop pawned the ministeriales with however, the bishop remained the
landlord. As representatives of the bishop, so-called locatores, the ministeriales set up the
reclamations, also recruiting colonists-peasants, but the bishop kept the low jurisdiction, tithe and
recognition rent in principle to him. Often though, the bishops boarded these rights out to ministeriales
in return for their services, for example in taking care of the reclamations. The ministeriales however
did not have as firm a grip on these rights as the chapters did and the risk as a result existed that the
bishop could claim the rights back.72
     According to the widespread conception of the Great Reclamations of the eleventh and twelfth
century, as a result of the cope system a remarkably new society was constructed, which functioned in
a completely different institutional-juridical frame-work. Personal freedom and free disposition over a
royal-sized piece of land that was officially established in a contract was something unprecedented for
people working the land, as was the scope of their influence on local administration, jurisdiction and
hydraulic organisation.73 This sovereign freedom and the property of land for peasants contrasted to
society on the old land, where the servile tenants generally did not own the land they worked, were
committed to more duties to their lord, and generally even belonged to a lord. In the society on the old
land influence of unfree, landless peasants on administration or jurisdiction was less thorough.
     Apparently the cope system has been very successful, since the Holland-Utrecht lowlands was
brought into cultivation entirely on the basis of it. The system was advantageous to the central
authority, whether bishop, count of Holland, ministrialis or chapter on the one hand, since it brought
an end to famine caused by population growth, it gave a way to gain a speedy predominance over
territorial competitors, it provided new subjects to serve in battle and more revenue from collecting
surpluses from the land trough the tithe and other taxes. For the farmer on the other hand it brought
personal freedom and ownership of land, guaranteed in a contract. In the generally accepted
explanation of the cope system, it is claimed that this system of sovereign freedom that had developed
on the newly reclaimed land was considered to be so beneficial, that it was transported within the same
period to the settlements on the old land. Accordingly, the bound, landless peasants on the old land

70
   C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟134-135.
71
   Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 69-70, 470.
72
   Buitelaar, „De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen‟ 112.
73
   Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 72-78.


                                                                                                      29
received personal and material freedom, limited duties and influence on local administration also. This
transportation appears convincing, since the tenants residing on the old land could seize upon a new
means of pressure to enforce more freedom; migration to the new land in the reclamation regions.
Where manorial relations had existed in society, the landlords must have given in to in.74 This point of
view will be discussed in length in the chapter about the land along the river Vecht.




Fig 3 The pattern of allocation typical for the cope reclamations remains clearly recognizable in the landscape at Vinkeveen
until today.
                                                                             Source: Startnotie Venster op de Vecht 6



     In brief, for the bound mancipia from the old land along the tributary of the river Vecht who
around the time of the charter of 953 made use of the eastern edges of the wilderness of De Ronde
Venen, life must have changed dramatically in the subsequent century. As a result of the apparent
unreliability of their worldly vassals, the Saxon rulers favored bishops in their empire to occupy the
position of representative. In this institutional discontinuity the bishops of Utrecht came out as very
influential landlords, which clashed with the position of other landlords. The bishops gained
landownership and control of surplus-extraction in the Nedersticht, and attempted to expand and
defend this sovereign position. For the serfs living in domains of different landlords on the banks of
neighboring rivers that used the borders of De Ronde Venen, this initially had no consequences. The
property of the peat bogs they made use of in 953 suddenly switched from the German emperor to the
bishops of Utrecht, yet neither of them showed interest for this wilderness. The relationships between
landlord and the people working the land did not change between 953 and the start of the reclamations.
New relations within the elite did develop though. In order to deal with their increased property and


74
 Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 75-78; Buitelaar discussing Van der Linden‟s theory, see:
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 122-123.


                                                                                                                        30
increasing administrative task, the bishops created new groups. They founded chapters and appointed
ministeriales to increase their status, but what is more, to gain assistance in the administration,
consolidation and exploitation of their property. This changed property relations within the elite, since
vassals of old, such as the counts of Holland, were passed over for these new groups of servants.
Subsequently in the beginning of the eleventh century, in order to deal with demographic and political
problems, the bishops of Utrecht developed the cope system to reclaim the large areas of wilderness in
the Nedersticht. New land was needed fast to maintain the grown population and to counter the threat
of expansion of the competing landlords in Holland. When one adheres to the generally accepted view
of the transformations in society in consequence of the Great Reclamations, from the beginning of the
eleventh century on the new land as well as on the old land, new property relations and relations in
surplus-extraction developed. These affected not only the elite but also the serfs. Due to the cope
system, suddenly simple colonist-peasants could be free landowners and could exert a high degree of
influence on local administration. New groups in society, being chapters and ministeriales, controlled
the income from surpluses of the land. For the serfs that made use of the peat bogs of De Ronde Venen
from the old land, thus possibilities changed fundamentally. They could become free, full proprietors
in the reclamations or enjoy personal freedom on the old land, since the new relations in the cope
society spread to the old land. Thus the relationship between groups in society, the structure of society,
changed fundamentally.
    Let us now have a closer look on the De Ronde Venen from the start of the reclamations to see
whether the literature on this specific region concurs with the general view on society of the new land.
How was landownership distributed in De Ronde Venen? Were indeed the colonist-peasants and
neither bishops, chapters or ministeriales landowners? Were the instruments to extract income from
surpluses from the land indeed in the hands of chapters or the bishop who pawned it to minsteriales?
Can we infer that as is generally accepted much discontinuity exists between the period before the
Great Reclamations and after, in which a new society emerged of categorically free and influential
peasants? On the influence of demography on land hunger we have come across data, but has the
struggle between the bishops of Utrecht and the counts inhabiting Holland been as influential for the
Great Reclamations in De Ronde Venen as is assumed?




                                                                                                       31
Fig. 4: RONDE VENEN Buitelaar, De Stichtese ministerialiteit 163.




                                                                    32
2.2 Data on the cope system in De Ronde Venen
     Not much literature is published about the structure of society on De Ronde Venen. Existing
literature particularly covers detailed information on the reclamation of De Ronde Venen, its juridical
system, its geographical developments and church history. Neither did many sources survive from the
period of reclamation of De Ronde Venen, thus scholars trying to tackle this period often had to rely
on sources of a younger date, usually from the thirteenth to sixteenth century and use retrospective
methods. However, on the basis of existing literature, we can still reach some interesting conclusions
on society in De Ronde Venen.
     Although no cope contacts for this area remain, a general consensus exists that De Ronde Venen
have been reclaimed according the cope system. This conclusion is reached on the basis of several
factors. First of all, studying medieval maps show that the reclamations cannot have been undertaken
on a local, unorganized manner. No irregular block allotment exists, conversely, the land was
developed in a structured way; the jurisdictions all to a greater or smaller extend end up in the central
point of the circle that is formed by the rivers surrounding the peat bogs. Furthermore, it is striking
that most of the frontiers in the system of the allotment in the jurisdictions is as straight as an arrow,
usually dividing land in identical measurements. These facts point to the use of the preconceived
system characteristic for cope reclamations.75 Besides, in the sources emanating from De Ronde
Venen we find that the amount of the rent paid remain so insignificant that they must be considered as
recognition rent. For example, from rent registers of the chapter of St. Jan we can derive that for a
reclamation unit of an „akker‟ (in De Ronde Venen between 2 and 4 „morgen‟) a small coin had to be
paid, in practice a „duit‟ (a farthing).76
     Now in which way was ownership of the land distributed and which groups in society had access
to income from surpluses from the land? As will be discussed into more details in the paragraphs
below on the various jurisdictions, we adhere to the vision that the peat bogs were divided and handed
out by the bishop to five different „license-holders‟. The chapters of Sint Jan, Sint Pieter and Sint
Marie were endowed with the wilderness, recognition rent, tithe and at low justice77 in respectively the
future jurisdictions of both Mijdrecht and Wilnis, Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen (also referred to as
Vinkeveen-Proosdij-van-Sint-Pieter) and Waverveen. The ministeriales families Van Abcoude (which
named itself from the end of the fourteenth century after their prestigious possessions in Brabant,
Gaasbeek) and Ter Aa, both members of the „ridderschap‟, were pawned with the wilderness, the right
to levy the recognition rents, tithe and exert the low justice; the former in both Vinkeveen and
Oudhuizen, the latter in Demmerik. The five jurisdictions in De Ronde Venen seem to have shared

75
   Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 238; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 13; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 28;
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 166.
76
   The oldest rent register that is preserved dates from 1506. The amount of the rent is mentioned in an entry in
the accounting of the Proosdij of 1561. For a justification of using a regressive method and drawing conclusions
from it about the Middle Ages, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 26, 223-224.
77
   As we will see below, the chapter of St. Jan was endowed too by the bishop with the higher justice in the
jurisdictions Mijdrecht and Wilnis.


                                                                                                               33
many similarities in their structure of society, a conclusion that emerges from the scarce information
on this region. In the following these resemblances will be discussed.
     The colonist-peasants generally coming from the manors on the old land along the river Vecht or
its tributary Aa-Angstel-Gein reclaimed the peat moors by digging ditches towards the center of the
region and cutting the bogwoods. Initially the colonists depended on a simple form of agriculture,
fishing and hunting, moving from the dikes with their farmstead into the parcels they reclaimed. 78
After the reclamation period in which the peasants lead a poor existence due to the fact that initially
their land did not bring in yields, these reclamation colonies inhabited by farmer communities are
known to have been quite a prosperous region during the Middle Ages. They subsisted on cattle
holding and arable farming (growing crops as rye, grain and barley).79 To illustrate the relative success
of agriculture in De Ronde Venen; the income from De Proosdijlanden well into the fifteenth century
was the main source of income for the chapter of Sint Jan, though its property in De Ronde Venen was
just a fraction of this chapter‟s possessions in general.80
     As everywhere in the Holland-Utrecht peat region De Ronde Venen, due to the draining the peat
soil came into contact with air and oxidation caused settlement of the soil that became problematic in
the fourteenth century. This made the land generally unsuitable for the growing of grain. From the
beginning of the fifteenth century we see the tithe over grain yields diminish in De Proosdijlanden. 81
The settlement increased the risk of flooding of the surrounding rivers and it became necessary to
focus on the water-balance in the peat-bogs of both Het Sticht and Holland.82 Before the situation
became too damaging too the land, polders were constructed with dikes and quays, sluices and
watercourses to discharge of water and the land was drained by means of windmills instead of the
primitive tools such as horse and hand mills.83 These problems in water-balance and dischargement of
water sometimes lead to struggles between Holland and Het Sticht. When the Lekdijk had a leakage
and the chapter of Sint Jan refused to assist in the sealing, some farms in Mijdrecht were burned to the
ground in a punitive expedition Willem III, Count of Holland in 1325.84 But the two provinces also
cooperated; Het Sticht for example got permission in 1413 from Willem IV to dig a canal, the
Bijleveld, from the Oude Rijn to the Amstelland.85


78
   Among historians an extensive discussion exists regarding the reclamation period concerning the question
whether the reclamations took off from the outer dikes or from the dikes in the middle of the peat moor. Most
scholars endorse the view that in all three segments the reclamations took off from both dikes simultaneously.
Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 237-238; E.A.G. van den Bent and C.M.P.F. van den Broek, Mijdrecht:
meer dan veen alleen (Mijdrecht, 1985) 16-18; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 161-165.
79
   Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 32-33; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 306; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde
Venen 20-21; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 9.
80
   Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 307, 447-449.
81
   Ibidem 307, 307 footnote 238, 309, 309 footnote 248, 450.
82
   Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 238; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen…20; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 20.
83
   Ibidem 23; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen…21; A.J. van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟, in:
Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 292; http://www.histver-pl.nl/; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 9.
84
   Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 239; Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟ 69.
85
   Rinsema, De Ronde Venen… 22; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 21.


                                                                                                           34
     This setback for arable farming due to the settling of the land and related problems in the Holland-
Utrecht peat plains in general were intercepted cleverly. Since the thirteenth century the amount of
cities had started increase in the Low Countries. In the fourteenth and fifteenth century especially in
Holland, but also in Het Sticht towns continued to grow, despite a pan-European economic and
demographic decline. Estimation for Het Sticht is that half of the population lived in towns,
particularly in Utrecht.86 In these towns industry and trade increased. Peasants in the Holland-Utrecht
peat plains in general commercialized and specialized in products that were demanded by the towns.
From about 1350 the settlement of the soil and the subsequent impossibility to grow grain crops „was
intercepted by the switch to extensive cattle holding; the increasing population in towns could afford
products as butter and cheese despite the rising prices.‟87 The industries in the towns and brick and tile
bakeries along the rivers increasingly needed fuel. Due to the reclamations no woods were left in De
Ronde Venen to be used as fuel, so the peasants from the start had used parts of their land to extract
peat bricks for personal consumption. With the increasing demand for fuel from near towns as
Amsterdam and Utrecht, the landholders in De Ronde Venen profited by digging peat for the market.
The holes were filled up after digging, so that the landscape did not suffer from the formation of lakes
that seventeenth-century peat digging usually is known for.88 Another trade-crop grown in De Ronde
Venen was hemp, a crop that flourishes the best in watery environment. It was the raw material for the
industry making rope, needed in the growing shipbuilding industry. To this specialization names as
„Henneplanden‟ for a part of Wilnis and „Hennipwetering‟ for a water course remind.89 The work on
water-balance supported the economic development of the area; it could use the canals and
watercourses for the transportation of export products. The abundance of water in De Ronde Venen
made the region particularly suited for commercialization as transportation costs over water in the
Middle Ages were lower then that those for transportation over land.90
     De Ronde Venen probably did have to deal with a relative overpopulation around the end of the
fourteenth and during the fifteenth century. Cattle breeding required less labor than arable farming.
Despite the fact that the countryside in Het Sticht especially in the fifteenth century regularly were
stricken by warfare, due to this specialization in a more labor-extensive land use, an abundance in



86
   J. Mertens, „Landbouw‟, in: Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden Deel 4 Middeleeuwen (Haarlem, 1980)
13; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 291-292.
87
   Quote, see: Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 292; See also: Ibidem 297; Van Doorn, Langs
de Vecht 9.
88
   Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 21, 23-25; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 23-25; Rinsema, De Ronde
Venen...32-33; Boerderijenstichting Utrecht, Boerenerven. Veenweide-,Vecht- en Plassengebied (Utrecht, 1997)
9; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 292-293, 297; Blom, History of the Low Countries 78-79;
Veenmuseum 7/10/2006; Mertens „Landbouw‟ 31; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 9.
89
   Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 23; Blom, History of the Low Countries 78-79; Veenmuseum 7/10/2006;
Mertens, „Landbouw‟, 31; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 292-293, 297;
Boerderijenstichting, Boerenerven 9; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 20-23.
90
   De Bruijne, De Ronde Venen. Een sociaal-geographische studie 86; Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 21; Rinsema,
De Ronde Venen…23; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 21.


                                                                                                         35
labor in the countryside developed. As a result of this relative overpopulation the amount of
smallholders increased. Also the surplus of laborers could find employment in the thriving towns.91
     In De Ronde Venen the landholders could exert a lot of influence on local politics. All owners of a
„hoeve‟of land had a say in the „ding‟, the organ of local administration and justice. In De
Proosdijlanden these assemblies gathered in the Proostenhuis, the castle in Mijdrecht where the bailiff
as a representative for the dean resided. However, the obligation of being present at juridical meetings
was not very popular among peasants. These tasks took time, while they had to work their land. One
could be fined when absent. In due time many of the original cope units of land were cut up into
smaller lots, for example amongst heirs.92 Smallholders did not have the right to attend to the „ding‟93
     The colonists were distributed with the property of the land they reclaimed, yet not with the right
to control the surpluses from their land. Generally the instruments to extract surplus from the land in
De Ronde Venen were in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht, locatores and vercopers. With the
concession to give out parcels of wilderness to colonists, the ministeriales and chapters could exert the
low jurisdiction, that included the tithe and the reclamation rent. The bishops as a landlord usually
kept the high jurisdiction to themselves and „[t]he right to raise general taxes was closely connected to
the right to exert high jurisdiction‟94. Thus the bishops could extract surplus of yields from the land
through the two land taxes, the entreaty and „morgengeld‟.95
     The structure of society founded during the reclamation period in De Ronde Venen hardly
changed before 1528, the moment we end this thesis.96 So far it seems reasonable to conclude that we
are dealing with a standard cope society in which the bishop of Utrecht was the landlord who donated
a chapter or pawned a ministeriales family with concessions over pieces of the wilderness and the
right to exert the low jurisdiction over this land when it was reclaimed, in which the land was owned
by free colonist-peasants who were full proprietors of their land, and their descendants and in which
these peasants had quite some influence on local government.
     However, in his research on society in the medieval reclamation areas in the border region
between Holland and the Nedersticht in general, which includes De Ronde Venen, Buitelaar has found
indications in charters that next to the colonist-peasants there must have been another group of
residents in the peat reclamations, that were unfree. His conclusions nuance the accepted black and
white opinion about society in first couple of centuries in the reclamations. The first indication for the

91
   Rinsema, De Ronde Venen…22, 33; Blijdenstijn, Tastbare tijd 239; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 21; Van
Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟ 69.
92
   Van Winter en Buitelaar‟Stad en veen‟ 30-31; C. Dekker, „Voortgang‟ 165; Van Winter, „De opkomst‟ 171.
93
   Rinsema, De Ronde Venen…23, 31; Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟
64.
94
   Avis, Directe belastigen 80.
95
   See footnote 68.
96
   J.A. Frankenhuizen, „De Proosdijlanden waren 500 jaar zelfstandig‟, De Proosdijkoerier vol. 15 (1999) 4-8;
Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 28-29; F. Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan in de
middeleeuwen 1085-1594: een rechtshistorische studie van de institutionele aard van een hoge heerlijkheid in
het veen van Wilnis, Mijdrecht, Tamen, Kudelstaart en Zevenhoven, in het grensgebied van Holland en het
Nedersticht, alsmede in Achttienhoven (Zutphen, 1982)104.


                                                                                                           36
existence of bound peasants residing in reclamation regions in the border region between Holland and
the Nedersticht on the Holland-Utrecht lowland plain is derived from a testament from 1220 of
Wouter, the dean of the chapter of Oudmunster. In his last will he donated land, houses, cattle, money
and people to several destinations. These donated people came from new-land regions in which cope
reclamations were undertaken simultaneous with De Ronde Venen; Abcoude, Schalkwijk, Jutphaas,
Hortswaard and Raven. The dean refers to them in his will (hominess, quos habeo in..) in the same
phrasing as he refers to his cattle (II equos et pecora, que habeo in..), hence as his property. Thus, in
the thirteenth century in the reclamation areas people that were not free resided.97
     A second indication for the existence of this group comes from an agreement of 1204 between
count Lodewijk van Loon from Holland and bishop Dirk II. In this agreement the bishop donated all
his ministeriales who explicitly were not milites and members of the „ridderschap‟, but who lived in
Holland on territory of the count. The count agreed to do the same. These ministeriales plausibly were
peasants, since milites were excluded of the exchange. Given that the agreement also contains
arrangements for the circumstance in which these ministeriales wanted to move from Holland to the
Nedersticht or vice versa (then the ministeriales would belong to the landlord of their new residence),
these people probably lived in the border region between Holland and Utrecht. Buitelaar puts forward
more of these kinds of agreements dealing with peasant-ministeriales in Holland, indicating that more
of them existed and that the exchange of 1204 was not an isolated event. Bishop Otto further in 1223
insisted that the agreement was reconfirmed by count Willem of Holland. Apparently the bishops were
really careful not to loose their servants in the reclamations.98
     It can be concluded, and Buitelaar‟s findings are prudently concurred by Van Winter99, that well
into the thirteenth century, when the cope structure of society thus had been established at least for one
and a half century in De Ronde Venen, the bishops and counts owned people in the reclamation areas
in the border region of the conflicting territories of Holland and Het Sticht. The testament and the
agreement are drawn up a substantial period after the Great Reclamations in the border region between
Holland and Utrecht, which contains De Ronde Venen, had commenced. According to the accepted
account about the cope reclamations, by that time the new, free form of society so characteristic of
these reclamations should have long been established, in which accordingly no unfree peasants are
supposed to reside. The testament and the agreement establish that this opinion needs to be
reconsidered. Although we cannot locate them exactly, in the border land between Holland and
Utrecht more then 150 years after the reclamations had been initiated and at a moment De Ronde
Venen were brought almost entirely in cultivation, the sources indicate bound residents. Buitelaar
concludes that the mancipia who moved from the old land into the reclamations to cultivate the
wilderness did not wholesale receive sovereign freedom, however, many went into a more profitable


97
   Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 137-138.
98
   Ibidem 139-146.
99
   Van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟, 172-173, 176-177, 179.


                                                                                                       37
form of lack of freedom; ministeriality. Buitelaar assumes that the bishop wanted to ensure himself of
having loyal servants inhabiting this region situated so close to rivaling Holland, in order to be able to
appeal to them in times of threats. Therefore he was so careful of keeping them. 100 The peasant-
ministeriales must have enjoyed the privileges that were established in the general juridical code for
ministeriales. They thus were exempted from several duties and levies other Episcopal bound subjects
were obligated to, such as the payment of „keurmede‟. Also they were tried in front of a distinct court
of justice exclusively legitimate for ministeriales, which was beneficial. Furthermore they often
received less severe fines then other servants of the bishop whom had committed a similar offence.
However, they remained property of their landlord, who could exchange them at will, as we have seen.
Apparently the discontinuity in society before and after the Great Reclamations is not as clear-cut as is
depicted in the accepted outlook. The assumed categorical freedom of colonist-peasants in the
reclamations needs to be nuanced. Well into the fourteenth century free colonist-peasants and peasant-
ministeriales who enjoyed limited freedom lived next to each other in the reclamations. Only in the
course of the thirteenth and fourteenth century ministeriality gradually faded and both groups merged
to become the assertive peasantry that is valued so characteristic for the reclamation areas of the
Holland-Utrecht lowland.101
      Thus the jurisdictions generally shared many aspects of the structure of society, though some
differences seem to have existed in the relationships in society in the eastern and the western part of
De Ronde Venen, where the chapter of Sint Jan organized the reclamations. Each jurisdiction will be
discussed to see whether we find particularities, starting with Demmerik in the eastern part of De
Ronde Venen.




100
    Ibidem 137-153, 211-214. Buitelaar mentions that on the old land a minority of peasants resided that had
already gained personal freedom. He posed that they must have enjoyed this freedom in the reclamation units as
well, a privilege to which on the new land the surprisingly low rent was added, and influence on administration.
Since this group is minimally commented on in the literature on both De Ronde Venen and the river Vecht, I‟ll
leave them out the discussion in this thesis.
101
    Ibidem 148, 368-369, 372; Van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 172.


                                                                                                             38
2.3 Society in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen

Demmerik - The ministeriales Ter Aa
      In the reclamations of De Ronde Venen according to the cope system the cultivation of the
jurisdiction Demmerik has been put off first, plausibly well before 1138.102 Discussion exists among
scholars on who functioned as the „manager‟ in the reclamations. I endorse the view of Buitelaar that
the wilderness that would become the future jurisdiction Demmerik, initially named Denemarc
(Denmark)103, is most likely to be given out by the bishop to the important ministeriales family Ter Aa
to be reclaimed. Palmboom and Rinsema are of the opinion that the development was undertaken by
the locatores Van Abcoude104, but this is contradicted by several indications. First of all, in the other
reclamation segments supervised by the family Van Abcoude, Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen, this family
collected a tax called the Thirteenth Penny. In Demmerik, this tax was not levied. Neither was the
jurisdiction turned over to the bishop in 1459, whereas the family Van Abcoude had to hand over all
its possessions to the bishop as a punishment for its insubordinate vassals.105 When the ministeriales
van Abcoude would have been the locatores of Demmerik, it is likely the Thirteenth Penny would
have been imposed and the jurisdiction would have been transferred to the bishop in 1459. Moreover,
Buitelaar has found that in the system of distribution of wilderness during the Great Reclamations,
each cession generally was a part of wilderness that was adjacent to possessions of an agent on the old
land on the riverbanks.106 He then found indications in the foundation charter of 1138 of the parish Ter
Aa towards the existence of a curtis of the family Ter Aa on the old land adjoining to the reclamations
of Demmerik. The family Ter Aa was a very influential ministeriales family. During the entire twelfth
century, the important position of bailiff of Utrecht was held by a member of this house. Probably the
lords Ter Aa were the representatives of the bishop on the old land on the banks of the tributary of the




102
    The conclusion that Demmerik was reclaimed first in De Ronde Venen, is reached on the basis of the fact that
it adjoins the old land of Ter Aa. Logically reclamations had to start from old land. Moreover, this conclusion is
reached on the basis of the form of the jurisdiction; it is trapezium-shaped instead of triangle-shaped. The border
with Oudhuizen does not stretch in a straight line from the reclamation basis, the Demmerikse Kade, to the
centre of De Ronde Venen, but takes a bite from the „wedge of cake‟ of Oudhuizen. It seems as if the colonists
had no limitations yet from agreements on borders with other reclaimers, since they were the first. Only in the
course of time the parcels were laid in the direction of the wedge, which can be seen in the twist in the border.
Apparently the arrangements for the reclamations in De Ronde Venen were not very clear at the commencement
of the activities. Probably when the reclamations in Oudhuizen had started too and the reclamations met,
arrangements were made on the course of the border. The border with Vinkeveen probably was clear-cut from
the start, since the boundary between Vinkeveen and Demmerik is a straight line. See: Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 164-166, 209-210; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 19.
103
    The locatores had the inclination to give their new lands exotic names.
104
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 222, 230; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 26-27.
105
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 234-235, 238. The Thirteenth Penny as well as the bankruptcy of Van
Gaasbeek will be discussed under the heading Vinkeveen-The lords Van Abcoude.
106
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 122, 206, 214, 236; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 19; Van
Winter en Buitelaar, „Stad en veen‟ 23.


                                                                                                                39
river Vecht, the river Aa, and as villicus managed this curtis in Ter Aa. The jurisdictions Ter Aa,
Oukoop and Demmerik probably were their fief in return for their loyal services to the bishop.107


The distribution of landownership
      Functioning as locatores, the ministeriales Ter Aa entered into contracts with colonists, probably
former serfs from their curtis. Supposedly in the cope contract their duties and rights were recorded
and the colonists were given parcels of wilderness of fixed measurements in return for the payment of
a reclamation rent. The surface of Demmerik must have been, in a rough estimation, 656 hectares in
size.108 Unfortunately, so far scholars have not been able to find information on the possibility that the
lords Ter Aa kept land of this surface to themselves. As elsewhere in De Ronde Venen the colonist-
peasants and peasant-ministeriales were full proprietors over their parcels, they had the exclusive
property rights over their land. They could grow whatever they wanted, sell their land to their
discretion and landholders owning a farmstead on the basis of their possession had a large say in the
administration of law, the organization of water management and in the administration of the
jurisdiction. In the course of the centuries probably land was increasingly divided into smaller parcels.
It has not been possible however to establish the ratio between landholders and smallholders.
      Thus as elsewhere in De Ronde Venen, in Demmerik the ownership of land was mainly
distributed to simple peasants. It is striking that the elite, the landlord or his representative, probably
did not own much land in Demmerik. Plausibly, the scarce land that they did own was boarded out to
peasant-ministeriales. The property of land was distributed to three groups of peasants. Besides the

107
    Buitelaar, „De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Vechtstreek‟ 112-114; Ibidem, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 226-233, 239- 244; Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 161-163, 291, 293.
108
    When we compare the map of De Ronde Venen of the Middle Ages on page 15 of Van Ginkel-Meester, De
Ronde Venen with the map of 1868 in Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...192 (the date mentioned on page 186), we can
clearly see that the surface of De Ronde Venen did not change over time. The jurisdictions also kept the same
shape. Thus, we can use older material on the surface of De Ronde Venen to identify the surface measurements
of the jurisdictions in the Middle Ages. As we understand in an overview on http://www.histver-
pl.nl/geschiedenis.htm, in 1797, during the French occupation, the division in jurisdictions of the Republic was
abolished and replaced by a division in municipalities. In De Ronde Venen this meant that the jurisdictions
Vinkeveen (that already comprised Vinkeveen and Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen) and Demmerik were
merged in the municipality Vinkeveen, the jurisdictions Wilnis and Oudhuizen in the municipality Wilnis and
the jurisdiction Mijdrecht became the municipality Mijdrecht. From a questionnaire that the Department of War
of that time had sent to all municipal authorities in the province of Utrecht that is quoted in Van Ginkel-Meester,
De Ronde Venen on page 21 we can establish the surface areas of the different jurisdictions. The municipality
Vinkeveen appears to have had the surface of 2316 „morgen‟ (1968.6 hectares). Since the jurisdiction Demmerik
is approximately a third of the size of Vinkeveen, as can be concluded on the basis of figure 4, the map of
medieval Ronde Venen, the jurisdiction Demmerik must have been roughly 770 „morgen‟ (656 hectares) and
Vinkeveen about 1545 „morgen‟ (1312 hectares) in size. The municipality Wilnis had a surface of somewhere in
between 2300 and 2400 „morgen‟ (between 1955 and 2040 hectares). Since Oudhuizen was about a third of the
size of the jurisdiction Wilnis, it must have been approximately 785 „morgen‟ (665 hectares) and the jurisdiction
Wilnis in between 1515 and 1615 „morgen‟ (between 1290 and 1375 hectares in size. The jurisdiction Mijdrecht
became the municipality Mijdrecht. The surface mentioned in this source was between 1700 and 1800 „morgen‟.
The Eerste Bedijking (the first polder, which was drained in 1789) however was left out in this information. This
polder was roughly half the size of the total surface of Mijdrecht, as can be established on the basis of the map
on page 24 of Startnotie Venster op de Vecht, Commissie voor de Vecht en het Oostelijk en Westelijk
Plassengebied (Amsterdam, 2006). Thus, Mijdrecht must have been between 3400 and 3600 (2890 and 3060
hectares) in size.


                                                                                                                40
free colonist-peasants, land was reclaimed by restricted peasant-ministerales. In time, the reclamation
units here and there must have been divided in smaller parcels and owned by smallholders. Demmerik
was thus inhabited by free as well as unfree, influential landholders and landholders with little political
influence. The limitations to political influence and the existence of colonists without personal
freedom that emerged in the study of the distribution of landed property, indicate that a nuancing of
the commonly established opinion of society in the cope reclamations is required.


The distribution of income from surpluses of the land
      The locatores Ter Aa probably did not own much land in their jurisdiction, but in the middle of
the eleventh century they were pawned by the bishop with the right to collect the recognition rent, tithe
and low jurisdiction of the jurisdiction Demmerik.109 Accordingly, the family Ter Aa could levy the
inconsiderable amount of recognition rents and the more lucrative tithe from the yields of their
landholders. Although tax registers mentioning Demmerik are not available, nevertheless we can
assume that as elsewhere the bishops of Utrecht had quite a share in the distribution of income from
the land. In the fourteenth century the lord Ter Aa gave the low jurisdiction, just including the
recognition rent, of Demmerik to the lord Van Abcoude, while he kept the tithe for himself.110 It is not
known why the family Ter Aa handed over its possession. In the fourteenth century the tithe is known
to have been pawned to a descendant of the ministeriales family Ter Aa; Hadewich uten Enge.111 In
1459 the low jurisdiction and the recognition rent were confiscated from the family Van
Abcoude/Gaasbeek by the bishop. Jacob van Gaasbeek namely in a political struggle between the
bishop of Utrecht and Philips of Burgundy had turned against the bishop, which presented him in 1449
with imprisonment and the Episcopal punishment of being forced to give up many of his possessions
and all his judicial powers at his death (in 1459).112
      Thus, the main instruments of surplus-extraction from land were distributed over two actors in
society. Although both free peasants and peasant-ministeriales residing in Demmerik were landholders
and had influence on administration, they had no access to surplus-extraction. The bishop as a landlord
collected large amounts of surplus through land taxes. Families of important ministeriales were
pawned with the low jurisdiction and the income from surplus-extraction connected to it. Thus we can
conclude that the elite had more influence on these farmer communities then is claimed in the accepted
view of the Great Reclamations. They controlled the entire surplus-extraction and even owned an
unknown amount of peasant-ministeriales. Especially the bishops of Utrecht maintained a factor of


109
    Ibidem 227-233.
110
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 227-228; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 19.
111
    Information from a list of the bishops‟ servants of around 1382, see: Doeleman, De heerschappij van de
proost van Sint Jan 230-232.
112
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 233-234; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 232 footnote 249; Van
den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 210-211; W. Smits, „Morgengeld in 1459‟, Historische Kring
Maarssen vol.14 (1987-1988) 9.


                                                                                                             41
influence in the society of Demmerik; owning the high jurisdiction, the largest part of the income
trough surplus-extraction, ecclesial rights and a measure of control over the peasant-ministeriales.113



Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen- The ministeriales Van Abcoude
      Following Demmerik, the jurisdiction-to-be Vinkeveen was developed. We are of the opinion the
ministeriales Van Abcoude functioned as locatores for this segment, not the chapter of Sint Pieter as
many scholars claims, following Van der Linden. Rinsema for example argues that the lords Van
Abcoude are mentioned in the sources not until the end of the thirteenth century. Therefore they could
not possibly have organized the reclamations that after all commenced at the end of the eleventh
century. He considers the family of Van Abcoude to have functioned as „managers‟ for the chapter of
Sint Pieter, and as late as the thirteenth century were able to lay a firm grip on the rights and taxes
entrusted to them.114 Another argument on the basis of which scholars think about the chapter of Sint
Pieter as the vercoper in Vinkeveen is found in the inventory of the chapter of Sint Pieter. In charters
dating from 1331, 1377 and 1401, the dean of Sint Pieter farmed out (amongst other rights) the
recognition rent, tithe and low jurisdiction of Vinkeveen to the ministeriales Van Abcoude, and
accounts dealing with the property of Sint Pieter show that the ministeriales handed over the income to
the chapter.115
      I believe however that it is more probable that the ministeriales Van Abcoude developed and
controlled Vinkeveen from the beginning. Buitelaar first of all demonstrates convincingly that the
ministeriales Van Abcoude are already mentioned in sources dating from the twelfth century. 116
Besides, he shows that considering the system the bishops of Utrecht seem to have had in the
distribution of reclamation concessions, it is more probable that Van Abcoude instead of the chapter
was pawned with Vinkeveen. This segment namely bordered the ministeriales‟ fief on the old land of
Abcoude-Baambrugge (after which the family controlling it had named themselves). This system was
used too on the eastern side of the river Vecht and with the distribution of wilderness adjoining the
possessions on the old land of the chapter of Sint Pieter in Abcoude-Proosdij-gerecht van Sint-Pieter
and of the ministeriales Ter Aa in Ter Aa.117 A solution to this confusion to my opinion might be
found in naming. In the sources Vinkeveen is mentioned under two different names; as a jurisdiction
administered by the chapter of Sint Pieter (Abcoude-Proosdij-in-Vinkeveen) and as a jurisdiction



113
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 231.
114
    Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 26-27.
115
    Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the
basis of charters and accounts of the chapter in HUA 1 (inventory no. 803-904 and 794), which redactor Joop
Frankenhuizen was so kind to give me access to.
116
    „Hendricus de Abbenkewolde‟ is mentioned in a charter of 1186 amongst ministeriales, Abbenkewolde being
the old name for Abcoude, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 236 footnote 322.
117
    Buitelaar, „De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Vechtstreek‟ 112-114; Ibidem, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 235-236; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 231.


                                                                                                            42
administered by Van Abcoude (Vinkeveen, jurisdiction of the lords van Gaasbeek).118 It might very
well be that the chapter of Sint Pieter pawned Van Abcoude with the recognition rent, the tithe and
low jurisdiction of the chapter’s part of Vinkeveen, but that next to these, the family of Abcoude
controlled the recognition rent, tithe and low jurisdiction in its own part of Vinkeveen. An indication
for the plausibility of this hypothesis comes from the accounts of the chapter of Sint Pieter and that of
the bishop of Utrecht, I was given insight to by reading notes on these accounts by H. Heniger in
preparation for a book on Vinkeveen. It appears that the chapter of Sint Pieter after 1460, when the
family of Van Gaasbeek died out after the decease of Jacob Van Gaasbeek, claimed their rights in
Vinkeveen back from the family Van Gaasbeek and leased them to other persons.119 However, it
appears from Episcopal accounts that the bishop at that point also claimed back the rights he had
boarded out to Van Gaasbeek due to the political treachery. Amongst these rights were the tithe,
recognition rent and low jurisdiction in Vinkeveen.120 If it is true that the chapter of Sint Pieter had
organized all reclamations in Vinkeveen and the ministeriales family Van Abcoude had merely
functioned as „managers‟ for the chapter of Sint Pieter in Vinkeveen, all goods in Vinkeveen would
have to have fallen to Sint Pieter. In that case the bishop could not have claimed rights in Vinkeveen,
since in the cope system rights are not pawned, but donated to chapters. This seems to indicate that the
bishop must have appointed the family Van Abcoude as locator in a part of Vinkeveen, and the
chapter of Sint Pieter in another part of it. After a while the chapter for some reason leased the surplus-
extraction of their part of Vinkeveen (Abcoude-Proosdij-in-Vinkeveen) to the ministeriales family,
received income from them, and collected their rights again after the fall of Jacob Van Gaasbeek. The
bishop did the same in the part of Vinkeveen (Vinkeveen, jurisdiction of the lords van Gaasbeek) he
had pawned the ministeriales Van Abcoude with.
      Probably in Oudhuizen the family Van Abcoude functioned as locatores as well, although this
case too has raised discussion. Was the contractor indeed the ministeriales family Van Abcoude or
was it the chapter of Sint Jan which is also carried up? The confusion is first of all due to the fact that
though in thirteenth-century source material the ministeriales Van Abcoude appear to control the
recognition rent, tithe and low jurisdiction, the church in Oudhuizen was notwithstanding ordained to
Sint Jan and fell in the parish of chapter of Sint Jan. Secondly, a sentence in the charter of donation
demands the equal partition of the peat bog between the chapter of Sint Jan and the habitatores de
Abcenwalde (residents of Abcoude) followed by the statement that the quadraginta houas (forty
farms) at Wilnis specifically belong to Sint Jan There seems to have been a struggle over the control
over Oudhuizen between Van Abcoude and the chapter of Sint Jan.

118
    Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 15; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 160-166, 235-239;
Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the
basis of „morgengeld‟ registers 1456-1511 in HUA 2 (inventory no. 335, 345 and 370).
119
    Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the
basis of accounts of the chapter of Sint Pieter of 1460-1531 in HUA 1 (inventory no. 794).
120
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 233-234; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 232 footnote 249; Van
den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 210-211.


                                                                                                             43
    Doeleman, and many scholars with him, is of the opinion that originally the chapter of Sint Jan
owned the wilderness of Oudhuizen and might even have started the reclamations there (hence forty
farms were plotted on the reclamation basis). But, according to Doeleman the forward reclaimers from
Abcoude had already started developing the area and forced the chapter to give the peat bogs that
would become Oudhuizen up to them.121 This however is improbable for several reasons. First of all, if
Oudhuizen would have been in property of St Jan, the chapter would have owned the high jurisdiction
there. In all the donations of segments in De Ronde Venen he distributed to the chapter of Sint Jan, the
bishop included the high jurisdiction. In juridical respect it was nearly impossible for a bishop to
donate the high jurisdiction somewhere and later just take it back, thus probably the chapter never
received rights in Oudhuizen-to-be. It is more likely the reclaimers sponsored by the Lord Van
Abcoude indeed energetically reclaimed their part of wilderness in Oudhuizen and subsequently
wanted to start in future Wilnis. By assigning the forty farms of Wilnis in the charter to the chapter of
Sint Jan, the bishop probably wanted to ensure himself that the chapter would control large
possessions in De Ronde Venen. For he needed the chapter as a power block against Holland as we
will see in the paragraph on the reclamations of De Proosdijlanden. The suspicion that the quadraginta
houas are an interpolation in the original text of the charter thus does not seem far-fetched. At the
moment the reclamations of Van Abcoude and the chapter of Sint Jan approached each other and Van
Aboude might have been tempted to reclaim the peat bogs that would become Wilnis as well, this
assignment seemed necessary, decennia after the issue of 1085.122


The distribution of landownership
    Once more, as for the rest of the eastern part of De Ronde Venen, few source material and
literature exist, but we can infer that Van Abcoude hardly kept land for itself in the reclamations of
Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen; almost all was given out to colonists.123 The colonist-peasants probably
came from the old land of the lords Van Abcoude. They developed the land and subsisted on it in the
same manner as has been described for De Ronde Venen in general. We can roughly establish the
surface of Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen, but again, the ratio of landownership of this surface between
free landholders, peasant-ministeriales and smallholders among the residents cannot be ascertained.124
As the rest of De Ronde Venen, Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen are also positioned on the borderland with
Holland and thus probably peasant-ministeriales lived in this jurisdiction. As elsewhere in De Ronde
Venen, the landowners of these jurisdictions must have been confronted with problems in water-

121 Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 54-56, 91-93; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen
14, 19; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 16-17, 20.
122
    For discussions on the plausibility of interpolations in the falsum, see: Van de Bent and Van de Broek,
Mijdrecht 15-17; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 209, 232-233, 238-243.
123
    Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the
basis of charters and accounts of the chapter in HUA 1 (inventory no. 803-904 and 794).
124
    Oudhuizen must approximately have been 783 hectares and Vinkeveen 1312 hectares. However, this last
figure includes the surface of Vinkeveen, the jurisdiction of the lords Van Abcoude as well as Abcoude-proosdij-
in-Vinkeveen. See footnote 108.


                                                                                                             44
balance, the fourteenth-century diminishing yields of grain, rye and barley, the fourteenth-and
fifteenth-century specialization in export products from cattle-holding, peat-excavation and the
cultivation of hemp, and the devastations of war.


The distribution of income from surpluses of the land
      The ministeriales family Van Abcoude could levy the recognition rent and tithe and exert the low
jurisdiction in Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen, whereas the bishop of Utrecht remained landlord and could
impose the land taxes.125 Thus also in Vinkeveen surplus-extraction was in the hands of the elite. One
significant difference in society existed with Demmerik nonetheless, namely the fact that the lords
Van Abcoude had the privilege to levy a tax, the Thirteenth Penny, which the ministeriales Ter Aa
lacked. All locatores and vercopers in the cope reclamations had the right to acquisition; the right to
buy land that was being sold at the price that was negotiated between seller and buyer, and then
continue the process of bidding in order to keep the remainder to oneself. Whenever the ministeriales
Van Abcoude renounced their right to acquisition, they imposed a change of ownership. When land
was sold in this case, the Lord Van Abcoude would receive the Thirteenth Penny of the amount of the
sale and thus could profit from income from surplus from the land. The origin of this right is hard to
trace, but both Buitelaar and Rinsema are of the opinion that it was a right already existing on the old
land before the reclamations and subsequently transported to the new land. The lords Van Abcoude
levied this tax over the income received from land in the jurisdictions in which they organized the
reclamation; Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen.126 In 1459, with the fall of Jacob van Gaasbeek, the right to
impose the Thirteenth Penny together with the tithe, recognition rent and low jurisdiction fell to the
bishops.127
      As far as we can reach any conclusions on the basis of the limited source material, we can assess
that the structure of society in the jurisdictions that were administered by the ministeriales family Van
Abcoude probably did not differ much from that in the rest of De Ronde Venen. Even more clear is the
influence of the bishop on this society; as a landlord, first of all the bishop of Utrecht received the
majority of income from Oudhuizen and Vinkeveen trough „morgengeld‟ and entreaties. Second of all,
the case of Jacob van Gaasbeek shows that the bishop indeed remained owner of the rights he boarded
out to ministeriales. The locator, as we have found in both jurisdictions the ministeriales family Van
Abcoude, could levy recognition rent and tithe and as an extra the Thirteenth Penny, but these were
revoked by the bishop again after 1449 when Van Gaasbeek fell out of favour.
      However, it is notable that when looking at the control over the income from surpluses from the
land, apparently the ministeriales Van Abcoude have been quite influential in the eastern part of De
Ronde Venen. First of all, as we have seen, they succeeded in taking over the low jurisdiction in


125
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 236-239.
126
    Ibidem 234-238; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 26-28.
127
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 233-234.


                                                                                                      45
Demmerik from the lords Ter Aa and thus collected income from surplus from the land through the
reclamation rent, but also from other surplus through income from fines, tolls and more. Next they
almost put their hands on the wilderness in Wilnis that in fact belonged to the chapter of Sint Jan. If
not for the charter, the income from recognition rent and tithe in Wilnis might have benefited the
family Van Abcoude. Moreover, the ministeriales managed to represent the chapter of Sint Pieter in
the jurisdiction Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen and could levy recognition rent and tithe there. This
corresponds to the fact that the ministeriales Van Abcoude were a very influential and rich family in
the political scene of the Nedersticht.128
       Furthermore, in Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen even more clearly then in De Ronde Venen in general
it shows to our opinion that the idea of the existence of supposed novel structure of society on the new
land needs to be nuanced. First of all, as for all reclamation regions on the borderland between
Holland and Het Sticht, of categorical freedom for all residents in the reclamation region was no
matter. Besides residents who were full proprietors of their land and enjoyed personal freedom, these
jurisdictions must have been inhabited by peasant-ministeriales that were not free, and by smallholders
who did not have a say in local administration. Second of all, the old-land system of land exploitation
seems to have been more persistent then is assumed; the locatores apparently simply had the right to
take along an old-land privilege. Structures of society as it was before the Great Reclamations in fact
could just be continued on the new land. The residents of Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen were taxed more
heavily then in Demmerik, but could not do anything about it. Thus society was not as „nearly
democratic‟ as is thought.



Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen129- The chapter of Sint Pieter
       All scholars agree that the chapter of Sint Pieter functioned as a vercoper for a part of Vinkeveen.
The chapter however has hardly been studied yet. Therefore we cannot draw a clear picture of society
in the jurisdiction in which this chapter was in control. On the basis of what is known we will try to
draw some conclusions. As has been explained in chapter 1 of part 2, the chapter of Sint Pieter was
founded by bishop of Utrecht in the eleventh century. Like the chapter of Sint Jan, that of Sint Pieter
was donated as a starting capital with a number of churches, tithe and farming fields on the old land in
the Nedersticht. Amongst its dos was an old manor of the bishops of Utrecht in Abcoude between the
rivers Gein, Holendrecht and Winkel, on which the chapter administered a curtis. Shortly after its
foundation the chapter, like that of Sint Jan, was donated with segments of unprocessed wilderness for
it to reclaim in order to be lucrative. According to the bishop‟s system of distribution of the
reclamation concessions, the chapter was donated with the dispositional powers over a „wedge of



128
      Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 210-211.
129
      Also referred to as Vinkeveen-proosdij-van-Sint Pieter.


                                                                                                        46
cake‟ in the peat bogs in De Ronde Venen adjoining their old land in Abcoude-Proosdijgerecht van
Sint-Pieter. As a vercoper the chapter attracted copers to reclaim the wilderness.130


The distribution of landownership
      The chapter hardly held land in possession in the jurisdiction.131 The wilderness has been
reclaimed and cultivated as in the rest of De Ronde Venen. The landowners must also have
experienced the problems due to the settling of land, the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century switch to
cattle-holding, peat-excavation and cultivation of hemp and the devastations of war. Furthermore, as
for the jurisdictions we have studied so far in the hands of ministeriales, it must be stated that the
accepted view of society in the reclaimed regions needs to be nuanced. Also in Abcoude-proosdij-in-
Vinkeveen it is plausible that the jurisdiction was inhabited by free residents who were full proprietors
of their land, by unfree peasant-ministeriales and by smallholders. It is not known how many free
colonist-peasants, peasant-ministeriales and smallholders owned land in Abcoude-proosdij-in-
Vinkeveen.132


The distribution of income from surplus-extraction
      The chapter received the recognition rent, tithe and low jurisdiction as a donation. 133 Besides, as
the ministeriales Van Abcoude, the chapter had the privilege of old to levy the Thirteenth Penny. 134
The chapter however leased these rights to the lords Van Abcoude from the beginning of the
fourteenth century until 1460. After the death of Jacob van Gaasbeek the chapter of Sint Pieter did not
board out the rights anymore to a member of the „ridderschap‟, but to a lot of people whose names are
infamous.135
      Probably, again bearing the scarceness of sources in mind, we can conclude that the structure of
society in Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen must have been much like that in the jurisdictions
administered by the lords Ter Aa and Van Abcoude. Controlling the high jurisdiction, the bishop as a
landlord could levy the land taxes. However, the chapter had a stronger juridical fundament to control
their rights then both ministeriales families. Its property could not be revoked, as happened in the
family Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek‟s part of Vinkeveen. Furthermore, as in Vinkeveen the Thirteenth
Penny was levied in Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen, which is another indication to state that not as


130
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 165, 235-236.
131
    Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the
basis of charters and accounts of the chapter in HUA 1 (inventory no. 803-904 and 794).
132
    The surface of Vinkeveen must have been around 1312 hectares. However, this last figure includes the
surface of Vinkeveen, the jurisdiction of the lords Van Abcoude as well as Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen. See
footnote 108.
133
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 236; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 231.
134
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 234-238; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 26-28.
135
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 191; Information from notes of Hans Heniger made for a book in
preparation on the history of Vinkeveen, on the basis of accounts of the chapter of Sint Pieter of 1460-1531 in
HUA 1 (inventory no. 794).


                                                                                                            47
much discontinuity between the society before the Great Reclamations and the new society existed as
is generally assumed.



2.4 De Proosdijlanden - The chapter of Sint Jan
         The reclamation of the western part of De Ronde Venen was initiated in 1085 by a charter
concerning an exchange of various properties between bishop Koenraad of Utrecht and the dean of the
chapter of Sint Jan, Anselmus. The chapter of Sint Jan belonged to the newly founded chapters of the
eleventh century, which are discussed in paragraph 1.1. It was composed of twenty canons under the
management of a dean and a doyen. Like all chapters, in order to provide the canons with a prebende
as a compensation for choral prayer, that of Sint Jan was endowed with a starting capital, a dos. The
dos consisted territorial property, immunities en domains, among which nine curtes like an estate in
Everiksdorp close by Utrecht that will be studied in the next chapter, one in the Vuursche and Balgooi
in the neighbourhood of Wageningen, which also will be discussed later. In total the chapter owned
around 1350 „morgen‟ (roughly 1145 hectares) in the Nedersticht.136 In short, the chapter could
already be characterized as a large landowner, when on top of its dos it was donated with a large area
of peat moors to cultivate. In the charter bishop Koenraad donated to Anselmus what was called „yet
another moor in Midreth, what is called in the vernacular Veertighoeven‟137, in exchange for the toll of
Smitshuizen near Emmerik (part of the chapter‟s dos). „Midreth‟ is identified as Mijdrecht and
„Veertighoeven‟ is believed to be in the area around Wilnis. Besides the areas attended in this thesis
that after development were named Mijdrecht and Wilnis, the donation also covered the future
jurisdictions Tamen, Blokland, Zevenhoven and Kudelstaart. The donated area was to be called the
„Proosdijlanden‟ (translated: land belonging to the dean of Sint Jan138). In this thesis solely the
jurisdictions that were part of the circle of De Ronde Venen will be examined, so for the sake of
convenience in this thesis the name Proosdijlanden will indicate Mijdrecht and Wilnis exclusively.
Apart from the property rights over the land, the donation of wilderness included the donation of the
right to raise recognition rent, tithe, „keurmede‟, the right to the lakes, woods and fishing rights and
the right to exert secular powers, namely the low and high jurisdiction.139 This last element of the


136
    For more information Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 25, 30-37, 63-73, 111-112, 191, 196, 467.
137
    Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟ 60-61.
138
    The dean of Sint Jan administered the property of the chapter. This property was distributed into two funds,
the dean‟s fund (bona prepositi), which was intended to maintain the dean only, and the stipendium fund (bona
stipendialia) which functioned to maintain the canons. De Ronde Venen formed part of the bona prepositi, hence
its name („proost‟ is translated as dean). Within the chapter of Sint Jan in the course of the twelfth century a
power struggle developed between the dean and the canons, in which the canons resisted the attempts of the
deans to pull more property towards them. This struggle hardly affected the management or exploitation of De
Proosdijlanden. These were and remained possession of the dean. Therefore the relationship between canons and
dean, important for scholars such as Doeleman or Palmboom, who study the chapter into detail, will be left out
this thesis. For an ample discussion, see Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 63-109, 112-113.
139
    The high jurisdiction included the right to try in capital cases, to condemn to death penalty, to collect fines,
and the exclusive rights to levy several taxes. This will be discussed in more detail below.


                                                                                                                 48
donation is unusual; as we have seen the bishops of Utrecht often included the low jurisdiction in
donations or enfeoffments, but as a rule hardly ever boarded out the high jurisdiction.140 The
enumerated rights were given to the dean of Sint Jan under the condition that the chapter would
execute the reclamation of the donated wilderness. Thus, the bishop appointed the chapter as the
vercoper of the western part of De Ronde Venen.141 The charter of donation that remains today is
unmasked as a falsum and plausibly dates from the twelfth century; however, the content is valued to
be reliable and to revert to an original from 1085, the year in which the charter is postulated.142
      Usually the donation is explained from the previously mentioned struggle between the bishop and
the counts of Holland. The counts of Holland were effectively pushing westward at the cost of
territory of the Nedersticht. In the Episcopal counteroffensive, around 1070 bishop Koenraad was even
defeated and captured at the fortress of IJselmonde. To put an end (temporally) to the struggle,
agreements on the border between Holland and the Nedersticht were made. The course of the borders
in the area of wilderness that overlapped both territories however remained unclear as it is difficult to
draw frontiers through uncultivated land. To ensure himself that the wilderness would be reclaimed in
his name in this indeterminable region, as well as to have a solid power block against Holland at his
disposal as soon as possible, the shocked bishop Koenraad endowed his „manager‟ in this fringe in
such a way, that he would be invited to make haste in developing the land. Bishop Koenraad
formulated the charter as such that the chapter would get the privilege of raising taxes and controlling
the low and high jurisdiction, not until the donated land would be inhabited. In order to receive income
from this property, fast exploitation of the land was needed for the chapter of Sint Jan. 143 Moreover,
besides functioning as a bait, the donation of the high jurisdiction was an assurance that the chapter
would be able to preserve its property whenever possible threats from Holland arose. Having these
unusual extended privileges gave the dean a solid basis to protect De Proosdijlanden in front of a
court; until the fifteenth century in front of the papal court and subsequently at the Habsburg‟s Court
of Mechelen.144 I consider protection of the bishops‟ sphere of influence against the threat from
Holland to be a valid explanation for the unusual power the donation endowed the chapter with, since
the threat from Holland definitely was and remained present. It is plausible as we have seen that the
bishop insisted on the reclamations of Wilnis to proceed under the auspices of the chapter of Sint Jan
140
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 40; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10.
141
    For an extended analysis of the contents and origin of the charter, see: Ibidem 39-58;
http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 26; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint
Jan 73, 106, 130, chapter IV.
142
    It is beyond the scope of this thesis, but an extensive discussion of whether the contents of the falsum contain
possible interpolations exists, see: Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...26; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 71, 215-
222; Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 41-48; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 106.
143
    Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 230; Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 56-57, 86; Palmboom,
Het kapittel van Sint Jan 190.
144
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 86; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 190; About
the power block of Sint Jan as a buffer, see: Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter en de macht‟ 201; Van
Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis in de middeleeuwen‟ 62-63; Bos and Mur, „De ontginning‟ 18;
http://www.vensteropdevecht.nl/index2.htm; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 24-25; C. Dekker, „De ontginning‟
133, 141.


                                                                                                                 49
instead of under the ministeriales family Van Abcoude, to be sure that the high jurisdiction was
supervised solidly by the chapter of Sint Jan in that jurisdiction on the fringe as well. We came across
the capture of the bishop Koenraad and Doeleman describes how immediately after the reclamations
were finished around the end of the twelfth century, conflicts with the counts of Holland arose on
rights and privileges in the area around De Ronde Venen.145 A few examples; repeatedly the authority
over Zevenhoven, a jurisdiction in De Proosdijlanden on the west bank of the river Kromme Mijdrecht
and thus property of the chapter of Sint Jan, was threatened until in 1290 it was officially split up
between the Counts of Holland and the chapter of Sint Jan. The worldly administration in the southern
part of the jurisdiction was controlled by the Counts of Holland and in the northern part by the dean of
Sint Jan.146 Likewise the jurisdiction Waverveen, adjoining De Proosdijlanden, was located within the
circle of De Ronde Venen and was reclaimed on the initiative of the bishop of Utrecht as will be
discussed into more detail later. Yet in 1252 we find in the sources that the jurisdiction suddenly is in
the hands of powerful counts from Holland. So Holland actually gained territory in De Proosdijlanden.
Oftentimes when discussing this struggle, scholars refer to the fact tat up to this day the shape of the
border between the province of Utrecht and that of Holland clearly shows that De Ronde Venen form
an striking bulging into the province of Holland.147 The conflicts in De Proosdijlanden will be
elaborated further below.
      Having drawn the measures of De Proosdijlanden and looked at possible causes for the content of
the donation, we turn to the structure of society. First the distribution of ownership of land will be
considered, followed by an analysis of the distribution of income from surplus-extraction from the
land.


The distribution of landownership
      With the charter of 1085, the chapter of Sint Jan became landlord of land that, when bringing forth
yields, would bring in to the chapter the recognition rent, tithe and income from the arch diocese as
well as revenues from the low and high jurisdiction. In order to cultivate the peat bogs, the chapter as a
vercoper contracted colonists according to the cope system. As a result the chapter itself owned very
little land in the part of De Proosdijlanden that was situated in De Ronde Venen.148
      The colonists living in De Proosdijlanden that to a large extent developed the land, maintained
themselves as has been described above. In the fourteenth century, Philips van Leiden travelled
through De Proosdijlanden and commented; „These people stand out in unpretentiousness and are
satisfied with unrefined board, are not inclined to aim for the acquisition of money, do not seek


145
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 114; De Bruijne, De Ronde Venen. Een sociaal-
geographische studie 29-30; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 228-229.
146
    Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 28.
147
    Maps that illustrates the struggle geographically well, can be found on:
www.stedengeschiedenis.nl/Downloads/WG/TWG2003_059-068.pdf.
148
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 196, 199, 473.


                                                                                                         50
adornment of clothing, dress in a woollen cloth of a fixed, solid kind; white, blue, grey or dark. These
people are God-fearing and excel by a surplus of loyalty.‟149 In the same account he observes that De
Proosdijlanden were quite prosperous.150 The peasants in De Proosdijlanden experienced the same
developments on their land as the rest of De Ronde Venen. From about 1350 the problems in water
balance must have risen to such an extent that the yields of grain, rye and barley must have
diminished. When their land was protected from water troubles again by dikes and windmills, the land
use became marker-oriented, with a specialization in export products such as dairy products, peat and
hemp.
      The composition of the group of residents working the land in De Proosdijlanden seems to have
been the same as in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. In sources the free colonist-peasants are
mentioned as „the owners of a complete farm‟ („hoeve‟)151. These landholders were free to have the
disposal over themselves and their land, they exerted influence on local administration and justice by
residing in the „ding‟ at the Proostenhuis as is discussed above. Smallholders probably resided in De
Proosdijlanden as well, who as in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen did not have much influence. 152
More information about them can not be extracted from the source material. Names, descent or the
exact situation of their farms are not revealed. The residence of peasant-ministeriales who reclaimed
peat moors and subsequently held their land in property is also to be expected for De Proosdijlanden,
being a border region between Holland and Utrecht. For De Proosdijlanden however I am of the
opinion to have found some concrete evidence of the existence of a group of peasant-ministeriales.




Fig. 5: „Mijdrecht, view on the castle‟. Drawing in Indian ink by L. P. Serrurier (ca. 1730).
                                        Source: Topographical Map, RAU-1635, found in:
                                                 Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 105


149
    Quote, see: Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 32.
150
    Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 32. For further information on the prosperity of the landholders in De
Proosdijlanden, see: Ibidem 32-33; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 306-309.
151
    See footnote 18 about measurements.
152
    Rinsema, De Ronde Venen...31.


                                                                                                            51
      Although the major part of De Proosdijlanden appears to have been in the hands of colonist-
peasants and their descendants, the chapter nevertheless had kept a small quantity of land to itself in
Mijdrecht and Wilnis. The canons did not work this land themselves though; the dean of Sint Jan as
early as the eleventh century, so directly after the reclamations had commenced, gave out these
possessions.153 We can recover the amount of land the dean had in property in De Ronde Venen on the
basis of two sources. First the Proestienboec contains details of around 1362-1365 and of older date
about the vassals the dean of Sint Jan gave out the land to and secondly a register of fiefs contains
elaborate information on pawning between about 1362-1382. The information collected from these
sources is very likely to be comprehensive, since they were formulated in order to have an overview of
all the vassals of Sint Jan.154 In Mijdrecht the chapter of Sint Jan pawned two times 2.5 „akker‟ close
to the church; 1 „akker‟ with „what is hammered on it‟, not localizable; several very little pieces of
land, 4 „geerdes‟ in the tithe block called Soddrechter tithe, 3 „geerdes‟ in the tithe block Hofland and
half a „geerde‟ which cannot be localised; 2 „morgen‟ and a „hoeve‟. In Wilnis close to the church on
the Willense Zuwe Sint Jan owned 1/2 „akker‟ with a farmstead on it and 1 „akker‟ and two times 1/2
„akker‟ which are not localizable.155 This comes down to approximately 31.87 hectares of land in
possession of the chapter of Sint Jan. To put this amount in a very approximate perspective; the size of
De Proosdijlanden in the Middle Ages is not indicated in sources, but we can give a broad idea of it.
The surface area of Wilnis must have been between 1303 and 1360 hectares and Mijdrecht somewhere
in between 2890 and 3060 hectares.156 Thus, the chapter of Sint Jan owned less then 1 percent of the
land in De Proosdijlanden in the period that is studied here. This amount hardly increased in time. As
we will see in the chapter on society in the southern part of the river Vecht, although in a later period
the chapter of Sint Jan started to increasingly collect property of land, this was not the case in De
Ronde Venen. Seventeenth century sources in the archives of Sint Jan reveal that not much changed in
the amount of land that the chapter boarded out.157 Despite of the modesty of this figure, this property
of land in the hands of the chapter of Sint Jan is important to examine.



153
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 199-200, 245, 471.
154
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 191-192, 196-197, 377.
The square measures valid for De Ronde Venen as far as is known on the basis of which the next calculations are
based are:
„Morgen‟= 0.85 hectares.
„Akker‟= The exact surface area of an „akker‟ in De Ronde Venen is not known. Palmboom agrees with Van der
Linden that it should be amongst 2.5 and 4 „morgen‟. If we take the average of that, 1 „akker‟ is 3.25 „morgen‟
which is 2.76 hectare.
„Geerde‟= 14 square meter, which is 0.0014 hectares.
„Hoeve‟= 16 „morgen‟ which is 13.6 hectare, a farm that should be composed of enough land to upkeep a family.
Palmboom does merely mention the surface area‟s, she does not convert them into hectares. I decided to do so to
get a very rough image of the size of landownership of Sint Jan in De Ronde Venen.
155
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 196-198.
156
    See page 35.
157
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 199, 323, 450.


                                                                                                            52
      For remarkably, Palmboom found data in the sources that indicate that this land was given out to
ministeriales of the chapter of Sint Jan. Hence just like the bishops of Utrecht, the chapter seems to
have employed the services of bound vassals. As Episcopal ministeriales, those of the chapter of Sint
Jan show up in charters as witnesses. For example, in a charter of 1185, a woman named Bavenkendis
donated a couple of her mancipia to the church of Sint Jan, men as well as women and children. The
following year also a man called Arnold Scapekin donated nine of his serfs to the chapter. These two
donations occurred under the condition that these mancipia would henceforth receive the status of
servants of the chapter of Sint Jan.158 Palmboom suspects that the chapter pawned these servants with
fiefs in return for their services. The hypothesis that these bound servants functioned as ministeriales
is supported by the fact that Palmboom found a few of the names that are mentioned in the charters
subsequently mentioned as ministeriales in registers of the chapter on pawning. In charters of 1185
and 1186 Wouter van der A and his son Dirk van der A are mentioned as witnesses for the chapter. At
the end of the twelfth century one of the little pieces of land in possession of Sint Jan was in the hands
of a family Van der A. It is plausible that this is the same family Van der A. Another example is a
charter of 1180 in which a certain Arnoud en Johan are mentioned as witnesses, who also seem to
have held land from the chapter, although neither the location in De Proosdijlanden nor the size of
these fiefs is known. In the same charter a Rudolf van Wilnis is mentioned, probably also holding
land. These ministeriales most likely held a piece of land of those 31.87 hectares of land belonging to
the chapter of Sint Jan.159 Only a few names remain from the scarce number of sources, amongst them
no important ministeriales families. Probably around twenty ministeriales must have been pawned
with land in De Proosdijlanden.160 Since their family names are infamous, they were not mentioned as
milites and the size of the land they held was modest, we consider it plausible to conclude that these
ministeriales were peasant-ministeriales.
      Palmboom presumes that the chapter needed trustworthy men that were bound to the chapter by a
personal and unfree relationship to ask for assistance in times of need, since the chapter had no other
means of force then excommunication.161 It seems plausible that the chapter had organized a
arrangement for itself inspired by the security measures set up by the bishops of Utrecht in the
disputed region between Holland and Het Sticht; employing ministeriales to be able to turn to them for
help as a safeguard against Holland when territorial struggles arose.
      Thus, we consider these data to confirm Buitelaar‟s findings on the existence of peasant-
ministeriales in the fringe area between Holland and the Nedersticht. Palmboom‟s demonstration of
the plausibility of the existence of ministeriales in De Proosdijlanden, has brought me to pose that
these can be regarded as peasant-ministeriales. Unfortunately the registers on pawning do not reveal
much about the location of the ministeriales‟ land. At any rate, the fact that more then a century after

158
    Ibidem 200-202.
159
    Ibidem 208-210.
160
    Ibidem 208-209.
161
    Ibidem 200-205, 208-210.


                                                                                                       53
the commencement of the reclamations in De Proosdijlanden the chapter of Sint Jan owned constraint
servants that lived on the chapters land endorses the doubts that have been expressed towards the
accepted view of society on the new land in the theory about the cope system. In De Proosdijlanden, as
elsewhere in the borderland of the reclamations between Holland and the Nedersticht, the supposed
categorical freedom among the peasants needs to be nuanced.


The distribution of income from surpluses of the land
      Thus, as elsewhere in De Ronde Venen, land in De Proosdijlanden was for the largest part in the
hands of the colonist-peasants and their descendants, whether free landholders, peasant-ministeriales
or smallholders. It has not been the property of land that benefited the chapter in De Proosdijlanden:
„Their active participation in the reclamations [in De Ronde Venen] did not bring the chapter a large
extension of their landownership. They farmed out the reclamations to a third party that paid a low
reclamation rent. Concluding, landed property remained limited in this region, in contrary to the many
other rights that the chapter acquired there.‟162 The benefits of putting efforts and capital in the
reclamation of De Proosdijlanden for the chapter lied in the rights to collect income from the surpluses
won from this land. The instruments of surplus-extraction in De Proosdijlanden were entirely
controlled by this large landowner, as large landowners did in the rest of De Ronde Venen as well as
had been argued. The allocation of rights to surplus-extraction in De Proosdijlanden had taken a
deviant form from the way the right to collect surpluses from land in cope societies was generally
distributed however. Elsewhere in cope reclamations the bishops of Utrecht took the position of
landlord and exerted the high jurisdiction. As we have seen, in giving out concessions of wilderness to
chapters or ministeriales, the bishops usually did give out the tithes and the (income coming from) low
jurisdiction, but preserved the high jurisdiction, which included the right to levy the land taxes
„morgengeld‟ and the entreaty. Yet, remarkably, in the charter of 1085 the chapter of Sint Jan was
benefited with the high jurisdiction over De Proosdijlanden. Thus instead of the bishops of Utrecht, in
De Proosdijlanden it was the chapter of Sint Jan that had the right to collect income from surpluses
from the land in De Proosdijlanden extracted through the land taxes connected to the right to exert the
high jurisdiction. In contrast to the policy of the bishop as a landlord in the eastern part of De Ronde
Venen, the chapter of Sint Jan as a landlord in De Proosdijlanden did not board out the rights to levy
recognition rent, tithe nor the right to exert the low or high jurisdiction. In brief, although most of the
land in De Proosdijlanden was in hands of peasants, the chapter had all the instruments of surplus-




162
   Quote, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 473, see also: Ibidem 196, 199. Palmboom mentions
furthermore on page 222-223 that the Lords of Zuilen levied a rent which was not modest and uniform as the
reclamation rent. Thus Palmboom concludes that this must have been a rent that is to be compared to a manorial
rent, not a reclamation rent. She deduces that the Lords of Zuilen must have owned land in De Proosdijlanden.
Unfortunately she does not expand on this any further. Since the information is merely a remark, I do not
investigate possible property of the Lords Van Zuilen here.


                                                                                                            54
extraction in its possession. This could bring in a considerable income from land, which will be
elaborated on now.
      Especially Doeleman has looked into the contents of this high jurisdiction in his standard work on
the institutional and juridical position of the chapter of Sint Jan in De Proosdijlanden. High
jurisdiction first of all included the right to deal with capital crime. Throughout the Nedersticht, as the
high jurisdiction was exerted by the bishops of Utrecht, serious offences were tried at the bishop‟s
court. In De Proosdijlanden however, criminals were tried at the castle Proostenhuis by a bailiff, a
representative for the dean. For that purpose in Mijdrecht just outside the village gallows were set
up.163 It also included, of particular interest for our research, the privilege to be exempted from the
normally Episcopal general taxes, which were in principle compulsory in all other jurisdictions in the
Nedersticht. De Proosdijlanden did not have to yield the Episcopal land taxes nor the „huisgeld‟,
„which is explained by the right [of the chapter of Sint Jan, EH] to exercise the high jurisdiction.‟164
      The chapter of Sint Jan did not refrain from enjoying the benefits a second privilege connected to
the high jurisdiction. The right to exert the high jurisdiction namely allowed the chapter itself to
collect those taxes that were normally reserved for the bishops. Thus, apart from the income from land
that was included in the charter, such as the recognition rent, the tithe and the „blijde inkomsten‟ (a tax
each new dean was allowed to collect from the landholder on his appointment), the chapter requested a
„morgengeld‟ each leap-year. This land tax, was considered as remuneration for the fact that the deans
protected the landholder against unusual taxes and the collection of taxes by foreign institutions. 165
Nevertheless, it must be noted that the peasants in De Proosdijlanden cannot be considered as mere
victims of greedy large landowners; the landholders were so influential that they had to be consulted
about the level of this tax.166 Hence, although most of the land in De Proosdijlanden was in hands of
peasants and the chapter itself did not possess much land in De Ronde Venen, it did receive a
considerable income from De Ronde Venen. The revenue the chapter received from the above
mentioned fiefs was petty; vassals merely paid „heergewaden‟ (a remuneration they paid once when
they took the possession of a fief) such as a few white doves or a sparrow hawk for half an „akker‟, or
a „quarter‟ (40 kilo‟s) for an „akker‟ in De Proosdijlanden.167 Nevertheless the income collected from

163
    Ibidem 73; Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 103; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde
Venen 15
164
    Quote, see: Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 142. See also: Ibidem 140, 143, 153, 168-
169; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde Venen 16; Avis states that therefore no sums or names are mentioned of
taxed landholders in De Proosdijlanden. See: Avis, Indirecte belastingen 80-83; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10.
165
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 140, 143, 153, 168-169; Avis, Directe belastingen 8;
About the relationship between the high jurisdiction and the right to refuse general taxes yet levying these by thr
exectutor of the high jurisdiction, see: Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10.
166
    Although ample sources about the institutional structure of De Proosdijlanden exist principally from the
beginning of the sixteenth century, it is legitimate to outline the structure of society for previous centuries on the
basis of these sources as well. Older sources confirm these sources and in a period in which customary law was
seen as an authority, it is valid to presume that priviloges have a much older fundament, see: Doeleman, De
heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 100, 104, 136-141, 167-170.
167
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 202, 209, 210, 245, 196; Palmboom considers this to be the main reason
why the chapter did not pawn more land to vassals. The canons had protested against this habit, since the chapter


                                                                                                                   55
surpluses from the land in De Proosdijlanden through the many other instruments of surplus-extraction
the chapter of Sint Jan had at its disposal, such as the tithe and the land tax, has formed an important
share of the sources of income for the chapter in general. De Proosdijlanden were one of its most
lucrative possessions.168
    Moreover, on the basis of its right to exercise the high jurisdiction, the chapter of Sint Jan had the
privilege to prohibit other landlords, such as the bishops of Utrecht or the counts of Holland, to burden
their landholders in De Proosdijlanden with taxes. This explicit power to forbid foreign institutions to
tax their residents caused several conflicts between the chapter of Sint Jan and the bishops of Utrecht.
The bishops increasingly desired to levy supplications, explicated by the fact that their growing
territorial power was accompanied by growing financial troubles. Wherever on their territory they had
boarded out the right to high jurisdiction, subsequent bishops tried recapturing this right in order to
prevent missing out on revenues from surplus-extraction.169 The chapter‟s right to high jurisdiction
was frequently disputed by bishops. The first to dispute the chapter‟s privilege was bishop Guy van
Avesnes in 1305. Three-quarter of a century later the dean Peter van Velde had to set up a „turbe‟ (an
inquiry) amongst the landholders in De Proosdijlanden in order to prove he owned the right since
human memory to exert the high jurisdiction. The fiercest attempt was carried out by bishop David of
Burgundy in 1477, who even sent soldiers to Mijdrecht to knock down the gallows - with dead bodies
still hanging- and to arbitrarily arrest residents.170 Also attempts have been undertaken by bishops to
again try to impose taxes on the landholders in De Proosdijlanden. For example, in 1512 bishop
Frederik IV van Baden ordained a „morgengeld‟ to be brought in by the residents in De
Proosdijlanden.
    The dean of Sint Jan at that time, Johan Inghenwinckel, turned towards the papal court to
challenge this ordinance. On the basis of the charter of 1085 pope Frederik IV abandoned his
resolution. In 1524 an Episcopal endeavour to raise a „huisgeld‟ in De Proosdijlanden was also
prevented by the dean‟s opposition.171 Also the counts of Holland were continuously aiming to
appropriate the right to exert the high jurisdiction in De Proosdijlanden. For example in 1311 the
chapter of Sint Jan to this end went to court and won a juridical case when the counts of Holland
disputed the chapter‟s right again.172 Although especially in the fourteenth century the survival of Het
Sticht as Episcopal territory was severely threatened „[t]he Sticht did not loose territory everywhere




missed out on a lot of income from land by pawning vassals. The dean had to promise in the fourteenth century
that he would not pawn more vassals and ministeriales.
168
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 307, 447-449.
169
    Ibidem 2; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 209-213; About the bishops‟ growing financial
trouble, see: Ibidem, „De mijter en de macht‟ 187.
170
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 73, 228-229; Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 40,
88-90, 96, 129-141; Avis, Directe belastingen 80-83.
171
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 142.
172
    Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De jurisdictie‟ 228-229.


                                                                                                          56
however: first and foremost because the jurisdiction was in the hands of a chapter (...) De Ronde
Venen around Mijdrecht remained in the hands of Het Sticht.‟173
      These successful protests to protect the rights of De Proosdijlanden by the deans of the chapter of
Sint Jan obviously did not merely serve to safeguard the resident‟s welfare, yet to safeguard the
chapter‟s benefit as well. The chapter would have been unable to collect tithes from its residents in
case these would have been stripped bare by foreign taxation.174 More effective protests in order to
protect the privileges of De Proosdijlanden were undertaken. The landholders of De Proosdijlanden
were also guarded against having to perform duties to lords other then the dean of Sint Jan. In 1566 for
example, the dean of Sint Jan brought about that the landholders were not compelled to travel to
Utrecht to break the ice covering the castle moat of the fortress Vredenburcht.175 In all these cases, the
deans turned to a higher court, such as the Papal court in Rome, to dispute claims that went against the
rights registered in the charter of 1085. On the basis of this charter in which the chapter of Sint Jan
was given the high jurisdiction of De Proosdijlanden, a right once included to give De Proosdijlanden
a firm basis in order to function as a power block against the territorial threat of Holland, the deans
were always put in the right.176
      According to Doeleman and Palmboom the above sketched structure of society that took shape
during the Great Reclamations lasted for centuries.177 What can we conclude from these data about the
relationships between groups in society? First of all, we can state that the distribution of
landownership in De Proosdijlanden as in the rest of De Ronde Venen in some respect fitted to the
accepted image of the cope system. Conform the standard theory, land was hardly in the possession of
the landlord, yet in the hands of the peasants themselves. The chapter of Sint Jan owned less then 1
percent of the surface. As in other cope societies, landholders in De Proosdijlanden did have certain
collective duties towards the authorities, but they enjoyed personal freedom and in return for a small
recognition rent could dispose of their land freely. Landownership in the cope system moreover
entailed a large measure of influence on local administration and thus quite a strong position, unusual
for peasants in the high Middle Ages. This was exceptionally clear in the case for landholders in De
Proosdijlanden. Besides the administrative matters in which also in the eastern part of De Ronde
Venen representatives of the landholders had to be consulted by the dean and bailiff, such as public
173
    Ibidem, „De mijter en de macht‟ 202.
174
    Ibidem 169.
175
    Ibidem 153, 163-164.
176
    Ibidem 140-142, 167-170; The fact that the chapter of Sint Jan controlled almost the total administration of
De Proosdijlanden - all taxes and all levels of juristiction- and so successfully protected these rights, brings
Doeleman, Rinsema and Van Ginkel-Meesters and Lägers to even label the deans of Sint Jan as a sovereign
rulers. For the deans of Sint Jan had a very strong power base not only as a religious ruler, but also as a worldly
landlord. Palmboom however justly counters this view by stating that the dean missed a few rights that are
essential for labelling a position to be sovereign, such as a military force or the right to operate independently in
dealings in water management. As such, we cannot equal the dean‟s power to that of the bishop of Utrecht. For a
more in-depth discussion of the sovereignty of the deans of Sint Jan in De Proosdijlanden, see: Palmboom, Het
kapittel van Sint Jan 73, 73 footnote 54; Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 29-40; Rinsema,
De Ronde Venen... 29.
177
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 104; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 28-29.


                                                                                                                  57
works for water balance or jurisdiction, landholders in De Proosdijlanden enjoyed even more influence
on their situation. They had to be consulted over the sum of the four-yearly entreaty levied by the
chapter of Sint Jan. Often the landholders after negotiations in the ding in Mijdrecht managed to
stipulate for a lower amount.178
      Altogether in general the peasants in De Proosdijlanden enjoyed a better position then the ones in
the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. While the residents of Oudhuizen, Demmerik, Vinkeveen and
Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen had to cough up the Episcopal land taxes, of which the sum and the
frequency of imposition continuously rose, the landholders in De Proosdijlanden were safeguarded
against this burden owing to the chapter‟s privilege to guard its possession against external or irregular
taxes. While the peasants residing in the eastern part oftentimes had to pay even on a yearly basis,
amounts on which the landholders could not exert influence, those residing in De Proosdijlanden only
paid a tax once every four years of which they could bargain the sum. In Oudhuizen, Vinkeveen and
Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen the situation was even worse, for the residents there had to pay the
Thirteenth Penny on top of the general taxes. Thus, being a landholder in De Proosdijlanden was a
much more profitable position then in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. Doeleman in the line of
Van der Linden even characterizes the relationship between landholders and their landlord, the chapter
of Sint Jan, as one that „to the modern scholar brings up the association with democratic
relationships.‟179
      Nevertheless, as we have also seen for the part of De Ronde Venen that was administered by the
chapter of Sint Pieter, the lords Van Abcoude and Ter Aa, this categorical freedom and powerful
position of the residents on the new land of De Proosdijlanden requires nuancing. Influence on local
administration was not granted to all landowners. Although we do not know percentages, after the
reclamations also in De Proosdijlanden it happened that the original „hoeves‟ were sold or devolved in
smaller parcels by the proprietors of the land. Thus smallholders came to reside in De Proosdijlanden
as well. Not owning a complete farm meant exclusion of local administration. Moreover, well into the
thirteenth century, even people that did not enjoy personal freedom inhabited De Proosdijlanden,
supposedly a free society on the new land. On the basis of Palmboom‟s research on ministeriales of
the chapter of Sint Jan that supported Buitelaar‟s conclusions, I have argued that these must be
considered as peasant-ministeriales. Society was not as „monolithic‟ as Van der Linden describes, but
quite multi-layered. However, much more research has to be done on this subject. De Ronde Venen in
this sense offer a pool of research possibilities.




178
    Doeleman, De heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 136-141, 167-170; One of the reasons that are
mentioned for the powerful position of the landholders, is that the dean did not have many vassals and
consequently lacked the military means to enforce the residents to simply subdue to his wish. The dean as far as
is known, never summoned his vassals in struggles, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan ; Doeleman, De
heerschappij van de proost van Sint Jan 109, 167-170.
179
    Quote, see: Ibidem 169. See also: Ibidem 103-105, 167-170.


                                                                                                              58
      Second of all, the distribution of surplus from the land in De Proosdijlanden sketches an image of
a society in which the position of residents was quite profitable for centuries, and in which problems
were intercepted through innovation and specialization, but where excess to the profits of surplus-
extraction remained in the hands of the elite. All was collected by the chapter of Sint Jan, an institution
that can be characterized as a rich large landowner. The relationships within the elite in De
Proosdijlanden were very dissimilar from the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. In his expanding
power, there the bishop collected taxes and even confiscated possessions from ministeriales, while, in
De Proosdijlanden the bishop could hardly exert influence. Despite all the bishop‟s attempts to reclaim
it, the high jurisdiction and all the profitable rights connected to that remained in the hands of the
chapter. Indirectly the struggle between the counts from Holland and the bishops of Utrecht that took
place on a broader level then society in De Ronde Venen resulted in a deviant society in De
Proosdijlanden. The donation of the high jurisdiction in De Proosdijlanden to the chapter of Sint Jan in
a defence against the threat of Holland as we have discussed, created a society in which the peasants
owning „a complete farm‟ had an unusual political influence and the chapter of Sint Jan had an
unusual powerful position.



2.5 Waverveen- counts of Holland
      The wilderness that was to become the jurisdiction Waverveen, was donated by the bishops with
inclusion of the recognition rent, the tithe and the lower justice to the chapter of Sint Marie. Very
soon, it cannot be traced when exactly, the chapter gave out all its donations to the lords Van Amstel,
ministeriales of the bishop. After the murder on Floris V (1268), it became the possession of the lords
of Holland.180 In view of the fact that we are concentrating this thesis on land and surplus-extraction in
Het Sticht, we will not investigate Waverveen further, being a part of Holland. Nonetheless, it is
another indication of the power of the counts of Holland.




180
  De Bruijne, De Ronde Venen. Een sociaal-geographische studie 29-30; Van Ginkel-Meester, De Ronde
Venen 17, 18; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 214; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen... 10-11, 38.



                                                                                                        59
2.6 Conclusion
    The aim of this chapter has been to examine the structure of society in De Ronde Venen between
953 and 1528 by studying the distribution of landownership and way the income earned from the land
was distributed among the different groups in society. Although translated and processed sources on
this region are scarce and much more research is needed, we have been able to draw some interesting
conclusions.
    During the early Middle Ages the territory of De Ronde Venen belonged to the property of the
Saxon emperors. Their worldly vassals managed manors on the banks of the rivers encompassing the
wilderness that De Ronde Venen were at that time on the eastern side. The bound , landless peasants
working the land in these domains used the edges of the peat moors to for gathering wood, fishing,
hunting, holding life stock and some arable farming has taken place on irregular block allotments. Due
to profound institutional changes in the Holy Roman Empire in which the Saxon rulers started to
favour bishops as their representatives rather then their untrustworthy aristocratic vassals, in Neder-
Lotharingen the bishop of Utrecht became the prime representative for the emperors. In this
institutional discontinuity the bishops of Utrecht came out as very influential landlords, having been
donated with the greater part of property of land and instruments to collect surpluses from yields of the
land in the Nedersticht. In this position the bishops clashed with some of their vassals who acted as
sovereign landlords themselves, such as the counts of Holland. In order to administer their heavily
expanded tasks of being worldly and religious leader of Het Sticht and Nedersticht and to cope with
their competing vassals, the bishops expanded their administrative apparatus by founding chapters and
appointing unfree servants in their armed forces and administration, so-called ministeriales.
Appointing these servants offered the bishops the ability to dodge applying their insubordinate vassals
as representatives. In all these institutional changes the large plain of peat bogs west of the river Vecht
that comprised De Ronde Venen, was donated by Otto I to bishop Balderik in 935. Land in De Ronde
Venen thus changed hands.
    At first for over a century in De Ronde Venen nothing changed for the serfs using the peat moors.
However, scholars emphasize that in society on the old land two important developments took place;
demographic growth and an ever increasing rivalry over territory and rights between the bishops of
Utrecht and the counts of Holland. Due to an increased need for arable land and the desire to have
territorial supremacy over Holland, bishop Willem of Utrecht in the beginning of the eleventh century
kicked off systematic reclamations of the Holland-Utrecht peat plain according to the cope system. In
the rivalry between the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht within two centuries in the whole
of the Holland-Utrecht peat plain reclamations started, amongst which De Ronde Venen.
    According to the generally accepted view of society that developed with the Great Reclamations
on the new land, in the cope reclamations a uniform society was built up in which the colonist-
peasants firstly enjoyed personal freedom, secondly were full proprietors of their land and could



                                                                                                        60
dispose of their land freely, laid down in a contract, and thirdly exerted an unprecedented influence on
local administration. The structure of society that emerged here is considered as a severe blow for
feudalism, not only in the reclamation regions, but on the old land along neighbouring rivers as well.
Supposedly for the mancipia residing on old-land manors, such as the servile tenants inhabiting the
banks of the river Vecht and its tributary which prior to the reclamations had used De Ronde Venen‟s
peat bogs, this cope system brought revolutionary new possibilities for freedom and near democratic
relationships. They could move to the reclamation regions to work as cope colonists, but the new-land
system was soon transported to the old land.
    On the basis of findings of Buitelaar however, which are confirmed Van Winter and by data we
found in the dissertation of Palmboom, we must conclude that the accepted account paints a too black-
and-white picture of discontinuity in society as a result of the Great Reclamations. When society in De
Ronde Venen is examined, the view of a profound break with the structure of society on the old land
cannot be upheld. Buitelaar discovered in charters of the thirteenth century that the bishops of Utrecht
and the counts of Holland in the border region between Holland and Het Sticht owned ministerales
living in the reclamations, who carried insignificant family names and who were not milites. Thus,
they must have been peasant-ministeriales. Apparently, centuries after the reclamations had been
initiated and at a point in time when according to the opinion traditionally acknowledged the new free
cope society should have long been established, unfree peasants lived in the border region between
Het Sticht and Holland, which contains the entire Ronde Venen. For De Proosdijlanden we found
concrete sources that indeed suggest the existence of peasant-ministeriales in possession of the chapter
of Sint Jan. When more sources on De Ronde Venen are translated and analysed, for example the
accounts of the chapter of Sint Pieter, we might be able to say something about the amount of
residents in De Ronde Venen that can be considered as peasant-ministeriales. On the basis of the
source material analysed up to now, though impossible to state quantitative data, we can at any rate
conclude that they existed and that the supposed categorical freedom peasants enjoyed in society on
the new land must be toned down. Furthermore, more data on De Ronde Venen demand a nuancing of
the idea of discontinuity between society before and after the Great Reclamations. In Vinkeveen,
Oudhuizen and Abcoude-proosdij-inVinkeveen the chapter of Sint Pieter and the ministeriales Van
Abcoude could levy a land tax, the Thirteenth Penny. This tax was an old-land levy that had been
transported from the old land. The fact that manorial institutions from the old-land „feudal‟ society
have been taken along to the supposedly „near-democratic‟ new-land society, indicate that these
societies had more in resemblance then is assumed.
    More comments can be made on the generally shared opinion of society in the reclamation regions
based on information from De Ronde Venen. In the course of time, smallholders are mentioned to
reside in De Ronde Venen, who owned pieces of reclamation parcels that were split up. Not owning „a
complete farm‟ meant that one was excluded from political influence. Thus, the unprecedented
influence on local administration for landholders in the reclamation areas was less thorough as is


                                                                                                     61
accepted. In fact, society in De Ronde Venen does not appear to have been as uniform as is claimed in
the cope theory. More and actually quite diverse groups inhabited the peat reclamations besides free
peasant-colonists, who owned their land and exerted political influence. A second group was
composed of the bound peasant-ministeriales who contrary to the colonist-peasants lacked personal
freedom and sometimes held their land in fief from the locator or vercoper. Moreover, this group
enjoyed special rights fixed in the ministeriales’ juridical codex. A third group was compiled of
smallholders who did enjoy personal freedom and ownership of their land, but lacked political
influence. I consider this society to be rather multi-layered instead of monolithic. Only in the course of
the thirteenth and fourteenth century ministeriality gradually faded and the politically active groups of
landholders merged to become the assertive peasantry that is valued so characteristic for the
reclamation areas of the Holland-Utrecht lowland.
    What can we say about the relationships in society between these three groups? At any rate in both
the eastern part of De Ronde Venen as De Proosdijlanden land was above all in the hands of peasants,
hardly in the possession of landlords. The amount of land a farmer held, whether enjoying the right to
personal freedom or not, determined his political influence. Smallholders were not represented in local
administration where the landholders were consulted by the dean and bailiff in administrative matters
such as public works for water balance or jurisdiction. Thus their interests must have been less well
looked after. Within the group of peasants who could exert political influence, there was the group that
could not dispose of their personal freedom. Although being a peasant-ministerialis was at any rate a
much more profitable position then being a serf on the old land in for example Abcoude or Ter Aa,
one remained property of ones landlord (bishop or chapter of Sint Jan). Ministeriales could be
exchanged at will, as we have seen, or being asked for services for its landlord. Although the free
peasants and smallholders could dispose over their land at will and had full control over their lives in
contrast to the ministeriales-peasants, the latter must have enjoyed the privileges of their code. This
brought them advantages over the other peasants such as being tried in front of a distinct court of
justice exclusively legitimate for ministeriales, which was less severe and they received lesser sums of
fines. Again, unfortunately we cannot dispose of more precise data on the ratio between these groups
in society.
    In brief, for De Ronde Venen in general we have established that there wasn‟t such discontinuity
in society as is generally received to have developed during the Great Reclamations. Society on the
new land has not been as revolutionary new as is claimed. However, the structure of society did
experience profound transformations thanks to the Great Reclamations. The serfs who enjoyed limited
freedom and access to the distribution of property of the land they worked in the manors on the old
land, from the end of the eleventh century could either receive sovereign freedom by becoming a free
coper or go into a more profitable form of lack of freedom; ministeriality. They thus were exempted
from several duties and levies other bound subjects were obligated to, such as the payment of




                                                                                                       62
„keurmede‟. In society after the Great Reclamations peasants did gain more sovereignty and influence
on local administration then before the cope system.
    With the changes caused by the Ottone system and the cope system also the distribution of income
from surplus-extraction changed. Whereas before the nobility profited from surplus-extraction, in the
Ottone system the bishops were donated with worldly powers, including the right to collect income
from surpluses from land on their territory. To be able to avoid their aristocratic vassals, the bishops of
Utrecht made use of ministeriales and clergymen, whom they benefited with beneficia and donations
that often included the access to instruments of surplus-extraction. In the concessions of wilderness to
the new elite in De Ronde Venen in all cases the right to exert the low jurisdiction and thus the right to
levy the tithe and collect the recognition rent was included. With a little bit of difficulty we were able
to establish who functioned as locatores or vercoper in which jurisdiction in De Ronde Venen. In
Demmerik the ministeriales Ter Aa profited from the recognition rent and the tithe; in Vinkeveen and
Oudhuizen the lords Van Abcoude profited from the recognition rent, the tithe and the Thirteenth
Penny; in Vinkeveen the chapter of Sint Pieter also profited from the recognition rent, the tithe and the
Thirteenth Penny, which the chapter leased to the lords Van Abcoude from the beginning of the
fourteenth century until 1460; and in De Proosdijlanden all profits from surplus-extraction from the
land were in the hands of the chapter of Sint Jan. Especially the rich ministeriales family Van
Abcoude has exerted a lot of power in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen, which can be inferred from
the fact that it controlled two jurisdictions, the taxes in Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen and low
jurisdiction in Demmerik. The bishops nevertheless had the most powerful position in society in the
eastern part of De Ronde Venen. Through the high jurisdiction the bishops as a landlord enjoyed the
right to impose profitable taxes in the eastern part, such as the land taxes „morgengeld‟ and entreaty.
Besides they had the power to demand rights to other taxes back as in the case of Jacob van Gaasbeek.
    In De Ronde Venen the introduction of the cope system has clearly been advantageous to serfs
who around 953 had the customary right to use the wilderness, when we look at the distribution of
land. With a plot of land to reclaim came the exclusive property right to it, came more influence on the
governance of their society, came personal freedom and freedom from the obligation to work the land
of their lords anymore and came prosperity. However, the new system has not caused transformations
in the distribution of income from surplus-extraction. The instruments that gave access to excess
yields from land remained firmly nestled in the hands of the elite throughout the period studied in this
thesis. The switch within the elite in the Ottone system by which the nobility in Het Sticht lost its
control over surplus-extraction to clergymen and ministeriales does not seem to have made any
difference for serfs. Tithe and rents were collected by chapters or ministeriales and the bishops levied
increasing amounts of land taxes, especially in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The profits of
peasants‟ land could still be laid hands on.
    In De Proosdijlanden however we find a deviant situation. Whereas in the eastern part of De
Ronde Venen the landholders could not influence the sum of the land taxes imposed on them, since the


                                                                                                        63
bishops negotiated these with the States of Utrecht, landholders in De Proosdijlanden had to be
consulted about the amount of the entreaty imposed by the chapter of Sint Jan. Thus the structure of
society in De Proosdijlanden can be regarded as more democratic as in the eastern part of De Ronde
Venen, under the condition that we leave smallholders out of the discussion of course. Although I
cannot demonstrate this with data, it is plausible that the residents of the Proodijlanden have been
more prosperous then those living in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. They could negotiate lower
amounts of taxes, they were exempted from the Episcopal taxes and were not obliged to pay the
Thirteenth Penny.
    Although not as profound and swift as is often assumed, we can conclude that in De Ronde Venen
profound transformations have taken place in the structure of society (as far as one can speak of a
society when referring to mancipia using the edges of peat moors) in the eleventh century with the
introduction of the cope system during the Great Reclamations. In this system the structure of society
actually reversed; simple peasants received personal freedom and were distributed with land, while the
elite hardly held land in property, an unprecedented event. And with their property of land, these
peasants could exert influence on local administration, a novelty as well. Although as before the part
of their yields they had left after consuming the indispensable could be collected from peasants and
peasants did not share in the distribution of the income collected from these surpluses, the overall
situation for peasants in the reclamation region seem to have improved when compared to the old land.
Whether colonist-farmer, peasant-ministerialis or in the course of the centuries smallholder, land could
be utilized, sold, devolved or divided according to own insight, less duties had to be performed and
administration could be checked. Especially for De Proosdijlanden these changes were impressive.
The relationship in society in which the elite of large landowners possessed all and simple, unfree and
landless peasants nothing, seems to have equalized. The above described structure of society that took
shape during the Great Reclamations lasted for centuries. There are no indications that anywhere in De
Ronde Venen ministeriales or chapters increased their property of or control over the land. Nor the
settling of the land, the commercialization and neither the devastations from war seem to have altered
the relationships in society structurally. The only change was that gradually the differences between
peasant-ministeriales and other peasants faded, and that the land gradually increasingly was
partitioned. Until the end of the period of research in 1528 however peasants in De Ronde Venen
remained a strong position and were quite prosperous.




                                                                                                     64
3. Society on the old land along the southern course of the river
Vecht
      In this chapter the distribution of the property of land and the income from surpluses from land on
the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen and
Breukelen between 953 and 1528 is studied. In the pre-industrial period as has been enunciated, land
and income derived from land were the most important means of subsistence and wealth. Exploring
the development of access to the property of land and surplus-extraction for groups in society thus
means looking into the structure of society. From the literature dealing with the region in this period, a
dichotomy emerges. Most scholars assume that the structure of society before the eleventh- and
twelfth-century large-scale reclamations east and west of the river Vecht differed quite a lot from the
situation as it developed during the reclamation period. Also the erection of castles between 1250 and
1350 is considered to have been of importance for the distribution of land and rights in society along
the river Vecht. First, this chapter will discuss the situation between roughly the tenth to the twelfth
century. Subsequently the findings of scholars on the new structure of society after the Great
Reclamations will be outlined and we will see whether the situation on the old land in the southern
part of the river Vecht had transformed as fundamentally as is being stated. In the study of the
property of land and the revenues from surplus in this region the influence of castles will also be
considered. The chapter ends at the off-siding of the bishops of Utrecht by the Habsburg rulers.
      First and foremost „old land‟ needs to be defined. As has been discussed in chapter 1 of part 2, the
higher banks of the river Vecht have been inhabited since the early Middle Ages, some parts of it even
since the Roman era.181 Habitation was particularly concentrated on the sandy soil of the riverbanks,
which were about half a kilometer wide. Also used by the early inhabitants was the adjoining land that
consisted of clay from the river basin, clay on peat soil, and the peat soil a bit further from the river
that was reclaimed in early small-scale initiatives in block allotment.182 This land thus was inhabited
well before new land created in the Great Reclamations was occupied. On the old land in the southern
part of the Vecht region especially castles were erected from the thirteenth century. Therefore society
on the old land in this part, in the Middle Ages downstream divided in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng,
Maarssen and Breukelen, is the area of study for this chapter. Sometimes in the source material, for
example in the rent registers of the chapter of Sint Pieter on its property on the old land of Maarssen


181
    See footnote 26. In the southern part of the river Vecht in the Roman era, Zwesereng was called Suegna,
Maarssen Marsna and Breukelen Attingahem, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 110-113; C. Dekker,
„Landschap en bewoning‟, 70; W.A.M Hessing, „De Romeinen in Utrecht‟, in: C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 45;
C.Dekker, „De stichting van parochies‟, in: C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 146;
http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/Demo.swf.
182
    See footnote 54. Especially from the banks of the river Vecht between Utrecht and Breukelen early
reclamations were undertaken already before the tenth century, see: Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 7-8; See also:
Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 171-172; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 97, 384; M. Zeilmaker, Buitenplaatsen
in Utrecht (Utrecht, 2004) 23; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 232-233.


                                                                                                               65
and on the new land of Tienhoven, no clear distinction between the old land and the new land is made.
However, scholars have often been able to make quite a sharp distinction between old and new land,
since the geographical borders between old land and new land are quite clear. The reclamations of new
land were set up directly adjoining the old land, as is clearly visible in figure 2 on page 23. The
frontier between old and new land is generally formed by quays and watercourses. In some cases these
already had been put up before the reclamations in order to protect the old land against flooding from
the higher situated peat bogs, such as in the case of the Otterspoorbroekse Dijk in Breukelen that
divided the old land of Breukelen from the moors of the future reclamation Otterspoorbroek. Also the
Zogwetering („Zogwatercourse‟) became the obvious eastern border between old and new land in
Maarssen and Breukelen.183 Most quays and watercourses date from the period of the Great
Reclamations. „Most reclamation activities had to start with the digging of frontier watercourses and
putting up quays. These were situated right at the border with the peat bogs (…)‟ 184.The jurisdictions
that subsequently were established on the old land generally cover the breadth and depth of the old
land that was in use before the reclamations started, as prove Buitelaar's and Manten‟s descriptions of
the situation and borders between old-and and new-land jurisdictions.185 Illustrated underneath is one
of the detailed maps of the situation on the old land during and after the reclamations found in
Buitelaar‟s De Stichtse ministerialiteit en de ontginningen in de Vechtstreek. On this map it is clear
that the watercourses and dikes often form the border between old and new land. It has been possible
overall to find data that specifically deal with the old land. Thus, when referring to Everiksdorp,
Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen in the Middle Ages, just that area is referred to that was situated
at old land on the river banks.



3.1 Society before the Great Reclamations
      In this paragraph the distribution of landownership and surplus-extraction will be discussed for the
old land along the southern part of the river Vecht before the second half of the eleventh century. It is
generally accepted among scholars that a new distribution of the property of land and surpluses from
land was created when the Great Reclamations take off; „in the middle of the eleventh century in the
period that the bishop dissolved the organisation of his old manorial property along the river Vecht
and created new legal relations in connection to the new reclamations.‟186 Therefore we must first
study the situation before the Great Reclamations. Due to the scarcity of sources dealing with the early

183
    A.A. Manten, „Dijkaanleg om het Ronde Dorp van Breukelen in de 11 e en 12e eeuw‟, Tijdschrift Historische
Kring Breukelen vol.12, no.1 (1997) 22; Idem, ‟Breukelen aan de oostelijke Vechtoever tijdens de
Middeleeuwen‟, Tijdschrift Historische Kring Breukelen vol.2, no.1 (1987) 15-16.
184
    Manten, „Dijkaanleg om het Ronde Dorp‟, 22.
185
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 215-216; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 181; A.A. Manten, „Het
ronde dorp van Breukelen buitendijks‟, Tijdschrift Historische Kring Breukelen vol.3 (1988) 33-36; Idem,
„Dijkaanleg om het Ronde Dorp‟ 22, 24. J. Witte for example was able to do make a distinction in „morgengeld‟
registers between data dealing with Maarssen and Maarsseveen, as we will see in 3.1.2.
186
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 216.


                                                                                                             66
and high Middle Ages in the Vecht region, this is no simple endeavour and often scholars had to use
retrogressive methods using late medieval material.



3.1.1 The introduction of the Ottone system along the southern course of the river
Vecht
      At the beginning of the tenth century the territory subject of this chapter was part of the „gouw‟
Niftarlake, an administrative unit within the Holy Roman Empire that covered the land adjoining the
river Vecht. 187 Dealing with the period before the introduction of the Ottone system, Niftarlake was in
the hands of aristocratic vassals, the Frisian counts of the family of Gerulfings, who officially
functioned as representatives for the Frankish rulers. This family had been endowed with this region as
beneficium in return for their loyalty and administrative duties.188 Niftarlake can be considered as an
economically prospering region. After the turmoil caused by the Vikings, agriculture bloomed and the
river Vecht flourished as a trade route between the town of Utrecht and the Zuiderzee as well as for
regional trade. The number of settlements increased in Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen.189
      The Gerulfings present a perfect example of the semi-sovereign vassals that that made the Saxon
emperors decide to favor bishops as representatives in the management of their vast empire instead of
nobles. As aristocratic vassals did throughout the Holy Roman Empire, although they held the „gouw‟
in fief, the Gerulfings however practically functioned as sovereigns on their beneficium. In 939 count
Radbod joined in a conspiracy against the rule of king Otto I190, since the latter‟s attempts to confine
count‟s powers worried Radbod. As a punishment, according to the Ottone system, Otto I donated the
Gerulfings‟ possessions in the „gouw‟ Lek and IJssel to bishop Balderik in 944. In response to the
destruction of their powers, likewise Radbod's brother Hatto revolted against Otto I and bishop
Balderik in 949.191 Implementing the Ottone system, the emperors supported the bishops of Utrecht in
their struggle against the Gerulfings to retrieve Niftarlake for the possessions of the church of Utrecht.
In 949 the bishop was donated all kinds of privileges in the „gouw‟ Niftarlake, like the toll of Muiden.
In 953 as has been discussed bishop Balderik was donated with the peat moors adjoining the river
Vecht to the east and the west, more privileges in the Vecht region and land in Loenen that Hatto had
held in fief. As we have seen, the bishops were gifted with land in Maarssen and Zwesereng and
possibly in Breukelen too. In practice, this meant the end of the „gouw‟ Niftarlake. The bishops of
Utrecht received these possessions as donations, not as beneficia.


187
    The Frankish word for county, see: D.P. Blok, De Franken in Nederland (Bussum, 2nd ed. 1974) 84.
188
    Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 127-129; Van Winter, „Bisschop Balderic‟ 103-105; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 37-39, 115-117.
189
    Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 130-132, 139; C. Dekker, „Landschap en bewoning‟ 71, 73; Van Doorn,
Langs de Vecht 7-8; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 171-172; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen… 24;
http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/Demo.swf.
190
    Otto I was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 962 by Pope Johannes XII.
191
    Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 127-129, 133-139; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 37-39.


                                                                                                         67
    Thus, when we look at the distribution of the property of land, we can conclude that with the
introduction of the Ottone system the nobility lost control of land adjoining the southern course of the
river Vecht and the bishops of Utrecht became the largest landlord of the old land along the river
Vecht. Did the bishops preserve the property of land they received around 950? Which groups in
society controlled the revenues collected from land? What was the position of the people working the
land in the distribution? In order to gain more insight in the distribution landed property and the
income derived from it, the form of exploitation of the land before the large-scale reclamations starting
halfway the eleventh century will be surveyed. In the following chapter findings of different scholars
will be put together and analyzed in order to draw a picture of the structure of society on the old land
along the southern course of the river Vecht.




                                                                                                      68
Fig. 6 KAART JURISDICTIONS ALONG VECHT Buitelaar, De Stichtese ministerialiteit 168




                                                                                      69
3.1.2 The manorial system
      A difficulty encountered when studying the form of exploitation of land, is that generally few
sources survive giving an impression of the structure of society dating from before the thirteenth
century. This holds true especially for the Vecht region. Scholars looking into the region of subject for
the greater part have had to turn to using retrogressive and comparative methods in order to get an
image of society along the river Vecht.
      The generally accepted vision on the structure of society in the greater part of the Low Countries
above the great rivers192, including the „gouw‟ Niftarlake, under the Frankish rulers of subsequently
the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Holy Roman Empire between the seventh and eleventh
century, states that this region has been organized according to a loose form of the below discussed
manorial system. This indicates that the landlord‟s land, that of the emperors, their vassals or those of
the bishops as royal representatives, was worked by serfs that had to hand in a large part of the yields
to the landlord‟s representative in the form of a tithe and several other levies. Much of the surplus
from the yields thus went to the landlords. The serfs were constrained and generally did not own the
land they worked. The landlord‟s representative, the villicus, resided on a domain on the manor, a
curtis. From this curtis the villicus probably administered justice and collected the remittance in kind
and rents.193
      However, several indications exist that along rivers in Het Sticht in the region above the great
rivers, the Frankish rulers and subsequently the bishops of Utrecht had a much stronger grip op society
on their domains and that they controlled the surplus of yields even stronger then is generally thought.
C. Dekker has done extensive research into society along the river Kromme Rijn in the Middle Ages, a
region about which more source material exist then about the Vecht region. Like the river Vecht, the
Kromme Rijn is a river in Het Sticht above the great rivers. Yet C. Dekker found many similarities
between the form of exploitation of land along the Kromme Rijn and the regions along and below the
great rivers.194 Buitelaar in his turn found indications that many similarities between this society along
the Kromme Rijn and the river Vecht existed. In this paragraph first the findings of C. Dekker, which
according to Buitelaar apply to the river Vecht, will be discussed. Second, the plausibility of C.
Dekker‟s hypothesis seems to be supported by arguments from a recent perspective among historians
on the early medieval Frankish exploitation of what is the present-day Netherlands. These will be
discussed subsequently. Third, in the next paragraph will be thereupon continued with a discussion of
the source material from the Vecht region and Buitelaar‟s argumentation in favor of the plausibility of
a similar structure of society on the old land in the river Vecht and Kromme Rijn region.

192
    The great rivers are the Rhine, the Meuse and their tributaries. The rivers Lek, Merwede, Nederrijn, Nieuwe
Maas, Nieuwe Waterweg, Oude Maas, Waal, and usually the IJssel are considered a part of this.
193
    Blok, Franken in Nederland 98-99; Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 43-44; Explanation of and
references to other scholars representing this position, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 125-127, 127
footnote 105.
194
    C. Dekker, Kromme Rijngebied 27-161.


                                                                                                                70
      In his study of sources of the period before the Great Reclamations and on thirteenth and
fourteenth century material, C. Dekker concluded that the Episcopal domains in the Kromme Rijn
region show all characteristics of a classical manorial organization of land exploitation. In this
manorial system, that developed in the eighth and ninth century in the Frankish empire, the property of
the landlord was partitioned in two shares, a demesne or terra indominicata and common land or terra
mansionaria. The demesne was exploited directly for the landlord and thus all yields fell to him. The
other part was divided among the people working the land, serfs or mancipia, who had a farmstead on
this land and were bound to it, but did not own the land they worked. In return for the use of this farm
and land, each serf had to perform corvee on the demesne; under the surveillance of the villicus the
serfs had duties such as ploughing, sowing and harvesting or baking bread. Besides the duties,
surpluses from their land had to be handed over to the landlord in the form of a tithe of the harvest
each year (a tenth of the cattle for example).195 Next to the demesne and common land, uncultivated
lands (for example the backland and the peat moor adjoining the arable lands) formed a part of a
manor. The serfs had a customary right to use the wilderness, as has been outlined in the previous
chapter, for example for grazing cattle or hunting. Some manors contained pieces of land which the
serfs could hold in return for paying a manorial rent, a manorial levy. Measured by medieval
standards, although the landlord remained the landowner, this land can be considered as property of
the serfs, since to some extent they could decide what to do with the land. In the manorial system all
serfs and their heirs had the customary right to eternal use of their land. In the early Middle Ages, a
period in which money was scarce, the tithe and manorial rent were paid in kind, but in due time these
could be paid in coins too. Usually these domains were controlled from a curtis as administrative and
governmental centre. The villicus, the representative of the landlord who was recruited from amongst
the mancipia, was responsible for the administration, jurisdiction, surplus-extraction and organization
of the corvee on the demesne. From the introduction of the Ottone system, the bishops as landlord
esteemed these servants as his ministeriales.196
      C. Dekker found indications from the dichotomy between terra indominicata and terra
mansionaria. People farming the land appear in the sources who did not hold land for a manorial rent
but merely worked the demesne. Besides these mancipia other serfs seem to have resided on the
manors along the Kromme Rijn that could hold a farm for a manorial rent but had to perform corvee
and pay „keurmede‟ in case of decease.197 He found indications of curtes on which villici resided who
plausibly organized corvee amongst the serfs, since he found thirteenth and fourteenth century sources
195
    Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 61. In an average manor in the Low Countries, the demesne
was between 25 and 70 hectare in size. The total manor was about three times bigger, thus between 75 and 100
hectares. The parcels of demesne were spread among the parcels of the serfs.
196
    For an outline of the classical manorial system, see: Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 42-43, 46-
57; C. Dekker, „Landschap en bewoning‟ 72; Idem, „De vroegste goederen‟ 93-94; Palmboom, Het kapittel van
Sint Jan 112, 129-130; Blok, De Franken in Nederland 93, 98-99; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 125-
128; Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 46-48; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 229-
230.
197
    C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 229-230.


                                                                                                               71
describing driving-, baking- and brewing duties that must be considered as remnants of manorial
corvee duties.198
      According to the common opinion the classical form of the manorial system is especially found on
the royal property in the core regions of subsequently the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Holy
Roman Empire. This core region would roughly cover the area between the Loire and the Meuse.
Peripheral areas of the empire, such as the central part of the present-day Netherlands in which
Niftarlake and the Kromme Rijn region were situated, were usually exploited from a curtis, by a
villicus and using serfs, but without demesne and corvee. The property of the Frankish rulers and
thereafter of the bishops of Utrecht above the great rivers is looked upon as too fragmented and too
small to be able to organize a strict tillage of a demesne and corvee.199
      Besides the indications he found in the source material on the Kromme Rijn, C. Dekker refers to a
study of Rösener, which is also mentioned by Palmboom, to confirm his hypothesis. The findings in
this study denote that also in marginal areas of the Carolingian and later Holy Roman Empire domains
might very well have been organized classically. Rösener studied the system of exploitation of the
property of the convents of Werden and Corvey in Saksen, considered peripheral regions as well. In
the source material from these areas Rösener found references to classical manors with curtes, terra
indominicata, mancipia and corvee. If land in these environs was organized in a classical manorial
way, accordingly this system might be found in other marginal areas of the empire, such as the
northern Netherlands.200
      Rösener‟s study in itself would provide a cogent argument to found a discourse on the plausibility
of the existence of classical manorial organization of the Kromme Rijn and Vecht region on. However,
I propose an even stronger foundation. As Blok already concluded in 1974, thereby opposing the
common opinion expressed by Verhulst , many indications exist that the Netherlands above the big
rivers, thus including Niftarlake, might rather be considered as a central region than as a marginal area
of the Frankish and Holy Roman Empire. This view is confirmed by present-day research.201 Aken, the
Carolingians‟ capital, was situated right at the border with Dutch territory. Nijmegen was one of their
most important royal seats surrounded by the emperors‟ favorite hunting ground. Other important
cities on Dutch territory were for example Domburg, Zaltbommel, Tiel, Leusden, Amersfoort, Elst,
Medemblik and Vechten. Dorestad can be considered as a trade metropolis. Towns at an estuary, such
as Muiden at the river mouth of the river Vecht, were of great economical interest. Utrecht was one of
most important outposts of the Frankish culture; a school was connected to the Episcopal church and
198
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 95-96, 125-128, 150-152; C. Dekker, Kromme Rijngebied 151-159;
Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 129-131.
199
    Blok, De Franken in Nederland 99; Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 43, 47; For a description of
the common opinion, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 129; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 125-
126.
200
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 129-131.
201
    Blok, De Franken in Nederland; A book in which this position is discussed is expected in early 2008, about
which Van Bavel was kind enough to share some conclusions: B.J.P van Bavel, Economic and social history of
the Low Countries in the Middle Ages (2008)


                                                                                                            72
from there missionaries departed.202 I agree with Van Bavel that it is very likely that trade routes to the
sea such as the rivers Kromme Rijn and the river Vecht must have been of central importance to the
Frankish empire as well. Namely, „a flourishing trade and large circulation of money‟ 203 existed
between the Franks and the Frisians, a pre-eminent mercantile nation.204 In this movement upwards to
the north the river Vecht played an important role as the connection between the central rivers river
region, confirmed by the importance of Muiden and the habitation of Maarssen, Loenen and Breukelen
at the river Vecht as has been showed previously. The river Vecht flourished as „a very important
artery that formed the connection between the countries of the Baltic Sea and Utrecht and the
remaining Rhine region‟205, as well as for regional trade.206
      According to Blok, around the towns of importance he mentioned, influence on the territory was
exerted by the Frankish rulers by running royal domains, or by vassals copying the structure of the
royal domains. These domains were organized according to the classical manorial system. Blok found
that in the northern part of the Netherlands at any rate the banks of the Oude Rijn in the Holland-
Utrecht peat region were organized as such.207 For regions that in the Ottone system became the
property of the bishops of Utrecht, such as land in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Amerongen, Doorn,
Soest, Zeist) it has been shown that these plausibly were organized as classical manors.208 If the
Kromme Rijn and Vecht played an important part in the Frankish trade to the north as has been made
credible, thus the land along the river most likely must have known a similar structure of society.
More research is needed however in order to verify these probabilities.
      Thus, a region that contained so many important trade routes, centers of trade such as Dorestad,
Domburg and Muiden and imposing cities such as Utrecht and Nijmegen, cannot be considered as a
peripheral area. As such, the chance that as elsewhere in the core regions of the Frankish empire the
land along the rivers were arranged as royal domains organized according to a classical manorial
structure thus is significant. The manors might have been medium-sized though when compared to
other core regions. Along the river Vecht, as a route in the important flourishing trade with the
Frisians, society plausibly too has been organized as such. Above all, if even land in peripheral regions
was characterized by a manorial structure of society as Rösener showed, it is even more credible that
land along important trade routes in a core region of the Frankish and subsequently German empire
society was organized as such.


202
    Blok, Franken in Nederland 72, 74-75, 78, 111, 114, 120; Donkersloot-de Vrij, M., De Vechtstreek : oude
kaarten en de geschiedenis van het landschap (Weesp, 1985) 13, 14.
203
    Blok, Franken in Nederland 101.
204
    Ibidem 101-104; Van Bavel, Economic and social history.
205
    Donkersloot-de Vrij, De Vechtstreek 14.
206
    Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 130-132, 139; J.M. van Winter, „De komst van het christendom‟, in: C.
Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 82-83, 86; W.A. van Es, „Utrechts oudste stad‟, in: Idem 97; Van Doorn, Langs de
Vecht 7-8; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 171-172; Rinsema, De Ronde Venen… 24;
http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/Demo.swf; Donkersloot-de Vrij, De Vechtstreek 13, 14.
207
    Blok, Franken in Nederland 72, 78-79.
208
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 128; Van Winter and C. Dekker., „De vroegste goederen‟ 94.


                                                                                                             73
3.1.3 The form of exploitation of land along the southern course of the river Vecht
      Buitelaar, Palmboom, Van Winter and C. Dekker himself consider it to be possible that society on
the old land in the Vecht region resembled that of the Kromme Rijn.209 The domains of large
landowners in „(…) the Kromme Rijn region, along the river Vecht and the Oude Rijn (…)‟ were
organized in such as way that „[f]ree peasants who owned their land are not or scarcely found here. It
is possible that land was leased by free peasants, but it is more likely that it was worked by serfs under
supervision of a „meier‟ [villicus] who himself also was in servitude. The way the land was worked is
called the manorial system (…)‟.210 Due to the scarcity of sources, this conclusion is reached largely
using retrogressive methods on the basis of late medieval sources.
      First of all it is substantiated that the agricultural-geographical structure of the Kromme Rijn and
Vecht region had many similarities. Both were river landscapes in which the same toponym appear in
fieldnames from medieval parcel inventories. As applies for other rivers in Het Sticht, such as the
Hollandse IJssel and the Lek, for the Kromme Rijn, the fieldname eng indicated the higher sandy river
banks on which research has shown arable land was situated. In the Vecht region too from medieval
parcel inventories can be derived that often the fieldnames for the river banks contained the element
eng, such as Zwesereng or the Westenge tithe (nearby Maarssen). In the Vecht region another name for
eng is hoge land (translated as „land that is situated high‟). We find several areas by the toponym of
Hogeland (for example an area that belonged to the chapter of Sint Jan nearby Zwesereng). In the
Kromme Rijn region names of areas in the lower clay soil adjoining the river banks often the words
meent, weide or made can be found. It has been established that areas going by these names were
common fields used for grazing cattle or as hay land. It is probable that in the Vecht region the same
system of land use was applied. For example a parcel called op der maten on the west side of the river
Vecht in Maarssen adjoined the Hoge land there, and next to the banks on western side of the river in
Breukelen an area called meente stretched. In the Kromme Rijn region names in which the element
veld can be recognized hinted at extensive cattle grazing of the serfs‟ animals on the banks of the peat
moors. In the Vecht region an example of this fieldname is Opt Velt nearby Maarssen. For the
Kromme Rijn region these fieldnames indicated that the land was exploited in a manorial context.211
The similarities in fieldnames might indicate the same system was used in the Vecht region, however
not necessarily.212 More proof nevertheless of the similarities between the two regions and the
possibility of the existence of the manorial system is found.

209
     Ibidem 93-94; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 129-131, 186-187; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit
214, 127-132.
210
     Van Winter and C. Dekker., „De vroegste goederen‟ 93-94.
211
     C. Dekker,„Landschap en bewoning‟ 72-73; Idem, „De ontginning‟ 131, 136; Idem, „De ontginningen van het
Kromme Rijngebied‟, 230; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 179; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 95, 123-127,
178; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 130, 135-136, 146.
 212
      Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 384-385.


                                                                                                             74
      For second of all, also in the Vecht region the existence of curtes that were administered by a
villicus has been demonstrated. In the previous chapter a curtis in Abcoude has been discussed and the
possible existence of a curtis in Ter Aa has been mentioned as well. For the southern course of the
river Vecht in late medieval property inventories of land on the river Vecht curtes are mentioned too,
to which I will now direct the attention to.



Everiksdorp
      Everiksdorp, which from 1249 appears in charters as Hogeland, was situated on both sides of the
river Vecht in a bend between the city of Utrecht and the jurisdiction Zwesereng.213 This area had
already been donated to the church of Utrecht in 723 by Karel Martel.214 The bishop of Utrecht
donated the domain to the chapter of Sint Jan as a dos at its foundation in 1050. The land most likely
contained a curtis of old, since in a Episcopal charter for the chapter of Sint Jan from 1216 a curtis in
Everiksesdorpe is mentioned. Between 1156 and 1186, a ministerialis who named himself after the
domain, Arnold van Everiksdorp, appears four times in charters as a witness for the chapter of Sint
Jan, for example concerning a donation of mancipia to the chapter. Arnold‟s name leads to the
suspicion that he might have been in charge of the administration and exploitation of this property. It
thus is not inconceivable that he descended through succession from the villicus that the chapter
appointed to manage the curtis.215 As has been mentioned, it often happened former villici were
appointed as ministeriales.216 The land attached to it was 90 „morgen‟ in size. Besides being
landowner, the chapter was donated the lower jurisdiction in Everiksdorp too and thus it possessed the
right to levy the tithe.217



Zwesereng
      This area was situated on the western bank of the river Vecht.218 In Zwesereng the land was the
property of the bishop of Utrecht and the convent of Egmond. A curtis to which about 32 „morgen‟
were linked, belonged to the bishop. A curtis existed on the land of the convent as well. The latter had
bought land of the church of Utrecht in the beginning of the eleventh century, possibly from the


213
    Some discussion exists between scholars about the situation of Everiksdorp/Hogeland. Doeleman claims it
was situated on the new land in Achttienhoven, see Doeleman, De heerschappij van het kapittel van Sint Jan 50-
53; However Palmboom and Buitelaar show convincingly a curtis by the name Everiksdorp existed on the old
land. Thus Everiksdorp, later called Hogeland must have been situated on the old land, see: Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 129, 264; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 178-181.
214
    Ibidem 120.
215
    Ibidem 179, 280, 281; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 264.
216
    See the previous chapter and Van Winter and Buitelaar, „Stad en veen‟ 23.
217
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 112, 120-121, 131, 178-185; C. Dekker, „Voortgang van de ontginning‟,
in: Idem, Provincie Utrecht 159; Van Winter, „De opkomst van ministerialiteit en ridderschap‟ 171; Buitelaar,
De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129, 264.
218
    Ibidem 109-110


                                                                                                           75
convent of Werden that held land in the Vecht region since the Christianization activities by the
missionary Liudger. The surface area of Zwesereng is unknown and it is not possible to recover the
size of the property of the convent. However, it is known that the convent purchased a lot of land.219



Maarssen
      As has been mentioned, the 679 „morgen‟ of arable old land in Maarssen came into the hands of
the church of Utrecht in the tenth century. Most probably the Episcopal property was administered
from a curtis by a villicus. 220 Very little sources remain from the Middle Ages about Maarssen. Due to
this lack of sources it cannot be certain, but it seems as if the ministeriales Van Maarssen, who in the
reclamations were employed in Maarsseveen and Tienhoven, descended from this villicus. As we have
seen, it often happened on the old land that the villicus of old received concessions in the wilderness
adjoining to his beneficum. The family Van Maarssen probably named itself after their beneficium in
Maarssen.221 In view of the location of the future thirteenth-century castle Ter Meer and the fact that
residing in Ter Meer implied the right to levy the tithe in Maarssen, the curtis probably was situated at
the spot where Ter Meer was built. The assertion of D. Dekker that the reinforcement Ter Meer existed
already in 1083, founded by a certain Hemericus van der Meer, according to Meierink cannot be
confirmed by archives.222



Breukelen
      Due to the scarcity and indistinctness of the sources about Breukelen, discord exists about the
identity of the landlord in the period preceding the Great Reclamations. Scholars agree however that it
is very plausible that a curtis existed in medieval Breukelen on the basis of tenth century recordings of
a manor Ten Poel and of the imposition of „stroyelgeld‟.223 Agreement also exists about the site of the
curtis. It was probably situated at the „eng‟ on the west bank of the river, on the river island in the
Bisschopsgerecht, later on called Breukelen Ronde Dorp.224



219
    Ibidem 129-132, 384-385; Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 140.
220
    Before the restructuring of the bishop‟s possessions on both the old and the new land during the Great
Reclamations the Episcopal property contained Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht and Oostwaard. The jurisdiction
Oostwaard remained in the hands of the bishops until 1200, see: http://www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Oostwaard.htm;
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 269, 271.
221
    Ibidem 268-272; R. van Maanen, „Een curtis in middeleeuws Maarssen? Feiten en hersenspinsels‟,
Historische Kring Maarssen vol.21, no.3 (1994) 44-48.
222
    The oldest known proprietor of the castle Ter Meer is Frederik van der Meer, who was in 1394 enfeoffed with
it by the bishop of Utrecht, see: Olde Meierink, Kastelen 306-308; D. Dekker, Toestanden 11; Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 268-272; Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 44-45.
223
    The levy „stroyelgeld‟ according to Buitelaar was a remnant of the corvee due on the manors along the river
Vecht, as will be discussed below, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 215, 224-225; Manten, Breukelen
en omgeving 46-47.
224
    Ibidem 47, 195; Idem, „Het ronde dorp van Breukelen‟ 33-34; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 215.


                                                                                                            76
      Scholars who studied Breukelen have come to the conclusion that the locator who initiated the
reclamations in Otterspoorbroek and Oud-Aa plausibly descended from the villicus on this curtis.225
Buitelaar concluded however on the basis of the sources, that the curtis became Episcopal property in
the second half of the tenth century, and that the curtis Ten Poel, also named the Dolre-estate, was a
beneficium of the ministeriales family Van Dolre or Van der Poel. Manten disputes the idea that the
bishops of Utrecht confiscated Breukelen from the Gerulfings however and claims that the curtis Ten
Poel must have been an aristocratic farmstead, property of the free and noble family Van Dolre, loyal
to the Gerulfings. This family according to Manten gave out its property as a landlord to its related
vassal Van der Poel. This discussion must be looked into, since if Manten is right, contrary to the
general opinion that the nobility in Het Sticht played a marginal role226, the distribution of land in the
southern part of the river Vecht would reveal a different image nevertheless.
      Buitelaar is of the opinion that it has been the bishops of Utrecht who laid hands on the land in
Breukelen and the land along the tributary Aa. He suspects that until about the second half of the
eleventh century the bishop‟s property was administered from the curtis by a villicus whose identity it
is impossible to recover. Probably the origin of either the ministeriales family Van Dolre (the first
reference to a ministerialis Van Dolre dates from 1178) or the ministeriales family Van der Poel
(references to ministeriales Van der Poel date from the end of the twelfth century) can be lead back to
this unknown early Episcopal servant.227 These families of ministeriales have been mobilized as
locator in the reclamations in Otterspoorbroek and Oud-Aa. Which family originates from the villicus,
Van Dolre or Van der Poel is unclear according to Buitelaar.228 He acknowledges that it is not directly
demonstrable that the bishop was the landlord of the curtis in Breukelen, but he states that the levying
of the land tax „stroyelgeld‟ in medieval Breukelen, a tax in Het Sticht predominantly in the hands
bishops, indicates that this was the case. Moreover, other examples of this structure exist for the
southern part of the river Vecht. In Everiksdorp and Maarssen we have also seen that the bishops of
Utrecht in the tenth century owned the land of a former curtis of Niftarlake, of which the villicus was
mobilized as ministerialis on the new land. According to Buitelaar, until the start of the Great
Reclamations the bishop remained the landlord of almost all land in Breukelen, which was
administered by his villicus-ministerialis, and of which the bishop controlled the lower jurisdiction.229
      Manten however draws radically different conclusions on the basis of the available source
material. The fact that it is impossible to establish with certainty that the curtis at Ten Poel in the
Ottone system fell to the bishop of Utrecht joined with the fact that the former manor Ten Poel is only


225
    Ibidem 224-225; Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 153, 219-221, 223.
226
    The only fairly influential and wealthy nobility of old; so influential before the „ridderschap‟ developed, were
the families Uten Goye and Van Cuyck, see: Olde Meierink, Kastelen 12-13; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 81-83, 213, 383, 387, 390; Van Winter, „De opkomst‟ 173, 176; Van den Hoven van Genderen,
„De mijter‟ 179, 204.
227
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 103, 222-225, 222 footnote 290, 223 footnote 291.
228
    Ibidem 215, 224-225.
229
    Ibidem 215-216, 219-221.


                                                                                                                 77
referred to in the sources as an Episcopal fief as late as 1394, has lead him to dispute the bishop as
proprietor of land in Breukelen. He is of the opinion that the villicus of the curtis Ten Poel was known
to be loyal to the count of Niftarlake and by no means of the intention to resign himself to the
authority of the bishop. The property of the land in Breukelen remained in the hands of the manager of
Ten Poel. This villicus who after the disintegration of the „gouw‟ Niftarlake became proprietor of the
land in Breukelen and the banks of the river Aa, where later the castle of Ruwiel was built, must have
been a member of the family Van Dolre. Manten derives this conclusion from the fact that the family
Van Dolre acted as landlord by pawning a vassal, the family Van der Poel, with the fief Ten Poel and
the administration of the curtis. Ministeriales were vassals of the bishop who administered, but not
owned land, and thus could not act as a landlord by boarding out land. Therefore the family Van Dolre
cannot have been ministeriales before the Great Reclamations. Manten considers the families Van
Dolre and Van den Poel to be of noble origin. Nobles could very well possess land. Furthermore,
Manten poses that the bishop, alarmed by the presence of this family of independent noble landowners
in Breukelen, initiated the building of the castle Ter Aa around 1050. There he housed his trustworthy
ministeriales family Ter Aa with the assignment to keep an eye on the noble landlords in Breukelen. In
his turn, Manten claims, the lord of Ten Poel around 1100 built a castle in Ruwiel for his youngest son
to counter the power exerted from Ter Aa. The line of Van Ruwiel is considered by Manten as
independent of the bishop of Utrecht as well, on the basis of the fact that a large allodium on the old
land along the Aa was connected to the castle, which is an unusual property for a ministeriales family.
The two related families, that of Van Ruwiel and the lords of Ten Poel, according to Manten
cooperated against the power of the bishop. The reclamations of Oud-Aa and Otterspoorbroek have
started before the great spur of reclamations in the second half of the eleventh century. According to
Manten these reclamations were done on the initiative of the lords that resided at Ten Poel and the
family Van Ruwiel, thus violating the wilderness regality the bishop had received in 953, as we have
seen in the previous chapter. In reaction to this offence the bishop confiscated the land of the noble
landlords of Ten Poel, probably during the episcopate of bishop Godebald (1113-1127). For from that
moment onwards in the source material on Breukelen we see the bishop of Utrecht acting as the
landlord over the goods on the eastern and western banks of the river Vecht at Breukelen and over the
allodium of Ruwiel, with the exception of Breukelen Ronde Dorp. Manten considers it
comprehensible that after this rebellious history, the bishop not only kept the high jurisdiction of
Breukelen, but the low jurisdiction as well to himself.230
       Manten is right when he claims that there are no explicit references in the sources, such as
Episcopal accounts, that the curtis Ten Poel fell into the hands of the bishop after the „gouw‟
Niftarlake was dissolved in the second half of the tenth century. He is also correct that a Van Dolre,
Gerard van Dolre, is mentioned in source material as a miles and thus on first sight could be


230
      Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 46-47, 153, 156, 160-161, 169-170, 192-199, 289, 291-292.


                                                                                                     78
considered to be of noble origin. Moreover, it is indeed quite curious for a family of ministeriales to
posses a large allodium, as Van Ruwiel did, and other sources mention the dubious reputation of the
ministeriales Van Ruwiel as well.231 It is also quite curious for a ministeriales family to be able to
donate land, as Buitelaar advocates. We also agree that it is uncommon that the bishop in the twelfth
century so prudently not only kept the high jurisdiction but also the low jurisdiction for the larger part
to himself.
      However, question marks need to be posed at some of Manten‟s arguments. His argumentation,
intended to show that the curtis in Breukelen until the twelfth century remained independent of the
bishops of Utrecht, leans for a large part on the assumption that the families Van Dolre and Van de
Poel were of noble origin. I did not find references in his book to source material to confirm this
proposition. Conversely, source material seems to indicate the opposite. In charters both families
advance as ministeriales families. In the twelfth and thirteenth century the family Van Dolre played an
important role in Het Sticht and a Reinier and Hugo van Dolre are mentioned as ministeriales in 1178.
The family Van den Poel is mentioned less frequently, but is also referred to as ministeriales of the
bishop.232 Manten might have come to his assumption that the family Van Dolre must be considered a
noble family on the basis of a reference in sources in which a Gerard van Dolre is called a miles.233
But this source dates from around 1320, when the „ridderschap‟ had developed as an estate and
ministeriales could call themselves miles. Carrying this title in the thirteenth century does not refer to
noble origins of a family. Thus the argument that Breukelen was property of a noble family must be
rejected.
      Indeed it is quite remarkable for a ministeriales family to actually be able to donate possessions, as
happened in 1298 when the Berend van Dolre donated his property in Breukelen to his cousin Gijsbert
van der Poel.234 He seems to have acted as a landlord. Considering this fact it is clearer why Manten
concluded that the family residing of Ten Poel must have been of aristocratic origin. However, the fact
that Gerard van Dolre was in the position of pawning in this case does not imply that he was the
landlord in Breukelen. Plausibly the family Van Dolre had received a specific kind of fief from the
bishop when the reclamations commenced around Breukelen, called a „mini-jurisdiction.‟ These fiefs
were actually regarded as property and thus could be donated, while the benefactor in fact could not be
considered as the landlord. The existence of „mini-jurisdictions‟, attended to by C. Dekker and
Buitelaar, will be discussed in the next paragraph. It does not indicate that Breukelen did not form a
part of the property of the bishops of Utrecht as we will see. In that paragraph will also be explained
that the bishop did give out the low jurisdiction in Breukelen, yet in a rather deviant form.



231
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 381-382; www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Ruwiel.html; Ruwiel in the fourteenth century
was a robber castle, see: Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 207.
232
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 222-223, 223 footnote 291.
233
    Ibidem 223, 223 footnote 291; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 381-382.
234
    Ibidem 381-382; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 222-223.


                                                                                                          79
      Manten‟s arguments in favour of a cooperation of the families Van Ruwiel and Van Dolre and its
vassal Van der Poel against the bishop does not hold water either. First of all we have not been able to
find a kinship between the family of Van Ruwiel and Van der Poel as Manten maintains. His claim
cannot be checked, since he omitted a footnote. Moreover, other scholars indeed mention the
untrustworthiness of the family Van Ruwiel; however, this applies only in the fourteenth century. In
the period before the twelfth century, the period that is discussed here, the ministeriales Van Ruwiel
have been loyal to the bishop.235 The family Van der Poel are mentioned as loyal ministeriales as we
already have noted. No other scholars mention rebelliousness of this family. Furthermore, no other
literature refers to an assumption of power by the bishop in Breukelen in the twelfth century. Thus, a
power block against the bishops of Utrecht in Breukelen seems unlikely.
      The possibility to check Manten‟s sources are limited, due to a limited footnote system. Added to
the above remarks the fact that acknowledged academics on the basis of their thorough research have
come to the conclusion that the nobility played a marginal role in Het Sticht and was in fact by-passed
by the bishops of Utrecht in their policy of appointing ministeriales it is not very likely that Manten‟s
theory is correct. We consider Buitelaar‟s interpretation of the scarce source material the most
plausible one. The curtis in Breukelen until the large-scale reclamations started was the property of the
bishops of Utrecht, not of a persistent, headstrong noble family of old. The family Van der Poel or
Van Dolre functioned as villicus from the curtis.


      After this lengthy discussion concerning the property of the curtis in Breukelen, we continue our
exploration of the possibility that landlords owning land along the southern course of the river Vecht
also used a classical form of the manorial system. For the bare fact that a record is passed down that
mentions the existence of a curtis is no proof that these functioned as classic manors, from which the
mancipia were controlled, the tithes were collected and where the serfs had to perform their corvee on
the demesne. However, more references to a manorial structure add to the idea that this was the case.
Namely third of all, as C. Dekker did, Buitelaar found references to the existence of mancipia resident
in the Vecht region. In the previous chapter has been shown that in the reclamation areas people were
described and donated as property. For the old land along the river Vecht these kinds of charters
describing serfs have been found too. For the period before the Great Reclamations a charter of 953
survived in which Otto I donated people he owned residing in Muiden to the church of Utrecht.236 In
sources dating from after the reclamations, indicating the existence of mancipia during the early
Middle Ages, still serfs show up in the Vecht region. Buitelaar mentions sources that refer to mancipia



235
    The first rebellious Van Ruwiel was Amelis, lord Van Ruwiel, who in a conflict between the count of Holland
and the bishop Jan van Arkel in the turbulent period of the latter‟s episcopacy (1326-1364), chose the side of
Holland. Possibly Van Ruwiel had to pay for his treachery and the castle was destroyed by the bishop‟s armed
forces in 1353, see: Olde Meierink, Kastelen 382; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 222-223.
236
    Ibidem 137.


                                                                                                            80
from Abcoude.237 These mancipia probably were bound to a varying extent. Most will have been
solely employed at the demesne, but some might have been allowed, next to performing corvee, to
hold a farm for a manorial rent. Over such a farm these kinds of serfs could exert a kind of informal
property right. A last argument in favour of the existence of mancipia along the river Vecht is, that it
would be very curious if not more constrained people existed when bound servants of the bishops,
ministeriales, could occupy such important positions.238 Thus it is likely that mancipia will also have
resided in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen, and Breukelen, although they have not explicitly been
established in the sources dealing with these manors. Palmboom has specifically studied one curtis;
Everiksdorp. In the source material on Everiksdorp, she did not find references to mancipia. A lack of
remaining source material might be an obstacle here. In the sources dealing with the chapter‟s curtis in
Balgooi, situated in the river region at present-day Wijchen, she did find mancipia mentioned.239 The
organization of the exploitation of land of Balgooi might very well have resembled that in
Everiksdorp, since as I have argued above, the river region, that of the Kromme Rijn and the Vecht
region plausibly must all be considered as connected in quite a thriving trade movement north within
the Frankish empire. Thus land along these rivers is likely to have been organized in the same manner
as the domains in the core regions of the Frankish empire. The fact that serfs did reside in the
possessions of Sint Jan in Balgooi adds to the plausibility of the supposition that the curtis of Sint Jan
in the Vecht region was organized employing mancipia as well. Palmboom does not reject that this
curtis might have functioned in the classical manorial context.240
      Fourth of all, just as C. Dekker has found for the thirteenth and fourteenth century that corvee was
performed in the Kromme Rijn region, duties such as wagon-, baking- and brewing-duties, Buitelaar
did so for the Vecht region. C. Dekker ingeniously shows that these duties must be remnants of the
„classical‟ corvee.241 Buitelaar found that well into the late Middle Ages in the jurisdictions Ruwiel
and Mijnden and for the southern course of the river Vecht in the jurisdictions Zwesereng, Maarssen
Bisschopsgerecht, Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht and Breukelen-Proosdijgerecht van Sint-Pieter a
yearly levy called „stroyelgeld‟ had to be paid. This had to be handed over on the day before Sint
Maarten, the tenth of November, to the bishop‟s rent master in Zeist. Buitelaar bases his case that this
levy indicates the existence of corvee in the Vecht region on several facts. The „stroyelgeld‟ was only
levied on old land adjoining the river Vecht, not in the new reclamation regions. Thus it must be an
old tax; I propose a comparison with the in a previous chapter discussed Thirteenth Penny. Moreover,
from practically all other areas in Het Sticht where „stroyelgeld‟ was levied, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug
(Zeist, Driebergen, Leersum, Maarn, Maarsbergen and Doorn), the Kromme Rijn region (Houten,„t


237
    Ibidem 137-139.
238
    Ibidem 127, 128, 132-143; Van Winter, „De opkomst‟ 172; for the existence of serfs, see also: Blijdenstein,
Tastbare tijd 17.
239
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 167, 169.
240
    Ibidem 112, 150-152, 170-173, 185-187, 280, 281, 475.
241
    Ibidem 129-130; C. Dekker, Kromme Rijngebied 151-159; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 126.


                                                                                                              81
Goy, Bunnik, Werkhoven and Cothen) and Leusden and Vleuten has been established that these
possessions of the Utrecht church most probably have been exploited in a classical manorial
context.242 Moreover, on the day before Sint Maarten more payments had to be done that originated in
the old manorial system, such as manorial rents. „Stroyelgeld‟ might have been a substitution in
money for the right to use the common lands, or for the corvee of old to accommodate the bishop‟s
horses.243
      This remnant of corvee has been found for all manors except for Everiksdorp. Palmboom has not
found other remnants of a manorial levy for the curtis in Everiksdorp. However, again she mentions
that this might be due to a lack of sources, since for Sint Jan‟s curtis in Dolder she did find that
mancipia who worked the demesne had to perform corvee.244
      Recapitulating, due to the scarcity of source material about the Vecht region not much is known
about the structure of society for the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht before the
Great Reclamations. The received vision on this region is that that at the staring point of this thesis
when the bishops of Utrecht inherited the structure of society of the „gouw‟ Niftarlake, land above the
river region was exploited by the landlords in a loose form of the manorial system. In this system the
land was worked by serfs, who were administered by the landlord‟s representative. This villicus was
responsible for the collecting of levies, such as the tithe and of „keurmede‟. The mancipia however did
not have to perform corvee, since the land was not partitioned in common land and a demesne. The
curtis thus in this view is regarded as merely an administrative and juristic centre. Until the Great
Reclamations, the property of land and of income from surpluses from the land is seen to have been
distributed to the landlord and his villicus.
      However, information from the sources on the river Vecht and a comparison with the Kromme
Rijn region has given rise to the supposition that the old land in Breukelen, Maarssen, Zwesereng and
possibly Everiksdorp was exploited according to a classical form of the manorial system. On the basis
of agricultural-geographical similarities Palmboom and especially Buitelaar consider the Kromme Rijn
and Vecht region commensurable. In his study of the Kromme Rijn, contrary to what is generally
accepted, C. Dekker found that, although situated in a supposedly marginal area of the Frankish
empire, land along that river was operated in a similar way as happened in the core regions of the
empire. Rösener‟s study of Werden and Corvey is referred to in order to substantiate that the classical
form of the manorial system was more frequently applied in marginal regions of the empire. We have
found moreover that also parts of the territory above the big rivers should be considered to be a central
region in the Frankish empire, being a region that contained many important trade routes and
significant centers of trade and culture. The river Vecht and the Kromme Rijn plausibly were part of a
flourishing trade movement through the river region north with the Frisians. As such, it is indeed


242
    Ibidem 128-129, 384-385; Van Winter and C. Dekker, „De vroegste goederen‟ 94.
243
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129.
244
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 112, 185-187, 475.


                                                                                                      82
likely that the land along these rivers was exploited as other royal domains in the core region of the
empire; as in the less forceful style of the manorial system, serfs were constrained and did not own the
land they worked. Other then in the loose form, the land was divided in common land and demesne.
Mancipia in the classical manorial system could use a part of the landlords land in return for working
the demesne, performing all kinds of corvee and paying a tithe. They had the customary right to
eternal hereditary use of it. Some serfs could hold a farm and land for a manorial rent and have their
land more freely at their disposal. The mancipia were administered by a villicus who resided on a
curtis and who supervised the corvee. The fact that the total yields of the demesne benefited the
landlord, while in the form of exploitation ascribed to the land above the region between the great
rivers no demesne existed, must have resulted in more revenue from surplus for the landlord in the
classical manorial system.
    As for the Kromme Rijn region, of all the elements composing a classic manorial system
references are found in the source material for the river Vecht. Too few sources exist to say anything
with certainty, but it is plausible to conclude that the domains on the old land along the upper course
of the river Vecht were exploited classically too. Landowners possessed the same kind of medium-
sized domains along the Vecht region as they did in the Kromme Rijn region. Landowners along the
southern course of the river Vecht were first and foremost the bishops of Utrecht. They owned a curtis
in Zwesereng, Maarssen, to my opinion in Breukelen and until 1050 in Everiksdorp. From its
foundation the chapter of Sint Jan held Everiksdorp in property. A second curtis in Zwesereng was
held by subsequently the convent of Werden and Egmond. Similar toponyms in have been found in the
Kromme Rijn region and in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen, conforming the
assumption that the old land in the Vecht region was divided into a demesne and a communal land.
The existence of curtes in the Vecht region has been convincingly demonstrated. The curtis in the
property of the chapter of Sint Jan was probably administered by a ministerialis that descended from a
villicus, such as Arnold van Everiksdorp, of the curtis in Zwesereng it is unknown, the curtis in
Maarssen by the ministeriales Van Maarssen who possibly were the successors of the Episcopal
villicus serving the curtis at Ter Meer, and that in Breukelen by either the family Van Dolre or Van der
Poel who might have been relatives of the villicus that resided on the curtis. Indications of the
existence of mancipia are found in the Vecht region, although not directly for Everiksdorp,
Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen. Thirteenth century lists of the levying of „stroyelgeld‟, a
plausible remnant of corvee, in the Vecht region, for the southern part in Zwesereng, Maarssen and
Breukelen, makes it presumable that corvee existed before the Great Reclamations. In neither of the
cases references to holders of manorial rent land are found. It might be the case that they did exist but
that source material listing them for the river Vecht did not survive. For regions with which the Vecht




                                                                                                      83
region shows resemblances such as the Kromme Rijn region and the river region, references to holders
of manorial rent are handed down. 245
      For Everiksdorp Palmboom found no mancipia, depended farms or remnants of corvee
certificated. The curtis in Everiksdorp might merely have been an administrative centre, where merely
justice was administered and where the remittance in kind and manorial rent were collected.
Palmboom nevertheless found indications for a manorial system for Balgooi, a curtis of the chapter of
Sint Jan in the river region, a society which that along the river Vecht is likely to have resembled.
Thus it is also not impossible that the curtis in Everiksdorp was organised as a classic domain.
      For Everiksdorp and the property of the convents in Zwesereng fewer indications survive, but for
the rest of the old land along the upper stream of the river Vecht a classical manorial structure of land
exploitation seems presumable in the period before the Great Reclamations. Thus the relationships in
society before the second half of the eleventh century on the old land along the southern course of the
river Vecht thus can be characterized as follows. The property of land and revenues from surpluses
from the land were even more firm then is generally expected in the hands of the elite; from 953 for
the largest beneficiaries were the bishops of Utrecht, followed by the convents of subsequently
Werden and Egmond and the chapter of Sint Jan. Peasants did not own the land they worked, nor
posessed their freedom. Most of the surplus from their yields was collected. In the classical manorial
system peasants could have held land by paying manorial rent for a piece of land. However, such rents
are not found for the old land on the banks of the southern course of the river Vecht.



3.1.4 Conclusion
      Since I have given a few sub conclusions, this one will be relatively compact. In paragraph 3.1 we
have studied the distribution of land and of income from surpluses of the land from 953 until the
period of the Great Reclamation, starting around 1050, along the southern course of the river Vecht.
The wilderness east and west of the river Vecht then had hardly been brought in development. Merely
the inhabitants of the river banks had developed the customary right to use edges of the peat bogs for
gathering wood, hunting and pasturing life stock and possibly some arable farming on small pieces of
block allotment as we have seen in the example of the eastern part of De Ronde Venen. Thus around
953 we are dealing with the structure of society on the old land that used a small edge of the
wilderness. Around 953 the bishops of Utrecht replaced the noble family of Gerulfings in their „gouw‟
Niftarlake as representatives for the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. In the Ottone system the
domains that the autonomously proceeding aristocratic vassals administered, in the case of the river


245
   Manorial rent has been found in source material for comparable regions such as old land along the Kromme
Rijn and old land in the property of the chapter of Sint Jan in Beusichem and of the convent of Mariënweerd in
the river region between the Lek and the Waal, close to the Linge, see: C. Dekker, Kromme Rijn 296, 562-563;
B.J.P van Bavel, Goederenverwerving en goederenbeheer van de abdij Mariënweerd (1129-1592) (Hilversum,
1993) 234, 237-240; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 342-345.


                                                                                                             84
Vecht the family of Gerulfings that several times stood up against their emperors, were donated to
bishops. The literature on the Vecht region demonstrates remnants of a classical form of manorial
exploitation that have been found in source material for the period when the „gouw‟ Niftarlake became
Episcopal property or thirteenth century material that can be retrogressively applied. As on their
domains on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, in Zeist and along the Oude and Kromme Rijn, the bishops of
Utrecht plausibly continued this system of their predecessors whom they replaced. This conclusion
seems all the more presumable, since according to new insights in medieval studies the territory
encompassing present-day Netherlands cannot be considered as a marginal area. It had too many
important towns and trade routes to be considered as such. The rivers in the central area of this domain
plausibly were part of the considerable trade with the Frisians in the north. Since Frankish royal
property and property of vassals in the core regions (and often in the marginal regions as well as the
study of Rösener has shown) were organized classically, it is probable that along the river Vecht and
the Kromme Rijn indeed classically exploited manors existed. The curtes that were found in both
regions thus did not function as mere administrative and juridical centres, but conversely as classical
manors from which mancipia were controlled, corvee and the work on the demesne was regulated and
where the tithe and possible manorial rent from the communal land were collected.
    Thus, when we look at the distribution of the property of land between 953 and about 1050, we
can conclude that the bishops of Utrecht were the largest landowners in the southern part of the river
Vecht. They owned the 62.5 „morgen‟ administered from the curtis in Everiksdorp since 723 which
they thereupon donated to the chapter of Sint Jan as dos in 1050. From 953 they also possessed a
curtis in Zwesereng to which about 32 „morgen‟ were linked, as well as 679 „morgen‟ in Maarssen and
a curtis of which the size is unknown in Breukelen. The convents of Werden and subsequently of
Egmond possessed a second curtis in Zwesereng of which the size is unknown and 12 „morgen‟ in
Breukelen.
    For the Episcopal curtes in Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen all indications of a manorial
system have been found. Toponyms similar to those in the Kromme Rijn region have been found,
indicating a partition of the land in terra indominicata and land that could be worked by mancipia.
The existence of mancipia is shown to be plausible, and remnants of corvee are found for all three
jurisdictions. In Maarsen the curtis probably was administered by forebears of the ministeriales Van
Maarssen, and in Breukelen in my opinion by those of either the family Van der Poel or Van Dolre.
Probably the domains were indeed exploited according to the classic manorial system, entailing that
landownership in the region of study most likely was hardly in the hands of the serfs working the land.
The bishops of Utrecht owned the demesne and the communal lands. The mancipia could not decide
on the allocation of their land or sell it. They did have the customary right to pass their land on to
heirs. On top of that, they were the bishop‟s property. Surpluses from the land, like the harvest from
the demesne, the tithe and manorial rent in this structure of society also were concentrated in the hands
of the bishops. Probably the villicus got his piece of the pie as well as a reward for his services.


                                                                                                       85
    For the curtes in Zwesereng and the 12 „morgen‟ in Breukelen which were the property of the
convent of Egmond and in Everiksdorp the case is less clear. No levy of „stroyelgeld‟ is found in the
sources and Palmboom found no indications of mancipia in Everiksdorp. It is possible that these
curtes were merely administrative centre. For Everiksdorp however it is also not impossible that the
curtis was organised as a classic manor, since two other curtes in the property of the chapter Sint Jan
most likely were classically exploited.
    Thus looking at the distribution of land and surpluses on the old land along the southern course of
the river Vecht between the tenth century and the start of the Great Reclamations halfway the eleventh
century, we can conclude that with the introduction of the Ottone system, a change in society within
the elite took place. The villici serving the nobles often continued their service as ministeriales of the
bishops, the aristocratic vassals of the Frankish rulers in Niftarlake however lost their land in the favor
of the bishops of Utrecht. Nevertheless, the relationship between groups in society on the whole
remained unchanged. The classical manorial structure of exploitation, already developed under the
Carolingians, was continued by the new elite; the bishops and his lay and ecclesiastic vassals. For
Everiksdorp and the property of the convents in Zwesereng and Breukelen fewer indications survive,
but for the rest of the land along the southern course of the river Vecht it is probable that land and the
right to extract surpluses from land, sources of income and power, remained in the hands of the elite.
Serfs had little influence, not even over their own lives.
    It is accepted as common knowledge among scholars studying the high Middle Ages of the central
part of the Low Countries that a discontinuity existed in the structure of society before and after the
Great Reclamations. Also the rise of castles along the river Vecht is supposed to have had profound
influence on society along the river Vecht. These assumptions and the checking of them to the
available information for the southern Vecht region will be dealt with in the next paragraph.




                                                                                                        86
3.2 Society after the Great Reclamations
    It is generally accepted that fundamental changes in the structure of society seem to have taken
place in the eleventh and twelfth century on the old land adjoining the areas in which cope
reclamations were being undertaken, thus also in the southern part of the river Vecht. As has been
discussed, for society on the new land the cope framework behind these reclamations resulted in new
relationships in society. Colonists on the new land in the cope contracts received personal freedom,
thorough influence on administration and the property of their land, albeit the previous chapter has
tried to show that this development was a more gradual one then is generally thought. This new
situation in the cope regions in the generally accepted account of society in the Holland-Utrecht peat-
pasture region caused dissolution of the (classical) manorial structure of society on the old land as
well. In paragraph 3.2.1 the general view of the changes on the old land resulting from the Great
Reclamations will be discussed in more length. In the subsequent paragraph another phenomenon will
be discussed that is generally thought to have had profound influence on society on the old land along
the river Vecht. Especially during the thirteenth and fourteenth century many castles were erected on
the banks of the river Vecht that supposedly usurped an important position in the distribution of land
and income from surplus from land. In paragraph 3.2.3 we will look at the four different cases in the
southern Vecht to work out whether these changes, the dissolution of the manorial system during the
reclamation period and the influential changes that were brought about by the erection of castles from
the thirteenth century, indeed have taken place in the region we examine and in how far common
opinion holds water for the southern Vecht region.



3.2.1 Dissolution of the manorial system
    The changes that are supposed to have taken place on the old land during the reclamations,
meaning the end of the manorial system that are mentioned in the literature, are twofold. Firstly the
idea is that the weakening of the manorial system of land exploitation involved a restructuring of the
property of land and of income from revenues collected from the land among Episcopal servants.
Secondly the changes are supposed to have taken place in the exploitation of the land. Inspired by the
new sovereign freedom that was offered to residents on the new land, personal freedom was within
surveyable time transported to residents on the old land. This implied that serfs from that moment no
longer were bound to the land they worked. A system of tenant-farming developed. In the following
the transformations mentioned by scholars leading to the disappearance of the manorial organisation
of land will be discussed.




                                                                                                    87
Redistribution of land and rights to surplus-extraction
      The first change in society on the old land along the cope reclamations in the peat region of Het
Sticht that emerges from the literature when generally describing the reclamations, contains that the
bishops (and chapters) as landlords restructured their property. In the process of reclamation, the
bishops donated more of their property on the old land to chapters from which they could undertake
activities on the new land. Adjoining to their dos and to their newly donated property on the old land
the chapters received wilderness to reclaim. Convents often bought land from the bishop. Likewise the
bishops also gave out wilderness adjoining the curtis where their ministeriales administered the
Episcopal domains on the old land. Thus these former villici could function as locatores in the
reclamations. In pawning these undeveloped lands as fiefs, beneficia, the bishops often gave out their
property of the low jurisdiction, including tithe and reclamation rents, to the ministeriales. 246 Thus
from the eleventh century, in order to offer the locatores and vercopers a profitable situation from
which they could undertake reclamations activities, the bishops of Utrecht restructured their property.
In the process of reclamation, thus it is thought that large landownership and the right to collect levies
over surpluses from land along the river Vecht were no longer solely in the hands of the bishop. As a
result of this redistribution of Ecclesial property many different proprietors existed on the old land
who could dispose of their property to own insight. The ministeriales families could receive the
permission of the bishop to give out their fief in lease if they wanted. By chapters, convents and
ministeriales, land and the right to extract income from surplus from land were given out in fief or
lease, often resulting in double or threefold absent ownership. Property is a complicated term in the
Middle Ages as has been explained in part 1. Especially from the thirteenth century various types of
rights to land existed on the old land. Here it is of importance that the beneficia of ministeriales in due
time were regarded as near property. The lords usually had hereditary rights to it and the right to sell
or lease it.

      Whether this holds true for the southern Vecht region we will discuss below. However generally,
in this process of redistribution the bishops of Utrecht lost quite some sources of income from surplus-
extraction to the ministeriales and chapters, whereas the bishops increasingly needed funds. For
example, as has been described in the previous chapter, in order to be able to counter Holland‟s
territorial claims and to administer their vast property. The resources from their Episcopal domains
could not meet all their expenses. In order to meet this deficiency, the bishops created the discussed
general taxes which were in principle compulsory for all the land over which they were juridically
landlord. The entreaty, originating in 1131, became a yearly recurring tax. However, increasing
amounts of groups received exemption of the obligation to produce this tax, and as a result around the
fourteenth century the bishops missed out on much income. Therefore from 1303 a new land tax, the

246
  C. Dekker, „Voortgang‟ 159; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 121-123, 129-131, 214-215; Van Winter,
„De opkomst‟ 170-171; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 283, 290; Van Winter, „Stad en veen‟ 23.


                                                                                                          88
„morgengeld‟, was levied. Now „ridderschap‟ and clergy were obligated to pay as well.247 Thus,
although chapters, convents and ministeriales controlled a large part of the surplus-extraction from
land since the redistribution, the bishops of Utrecht continuously managed to distribute income from
surpluses from the land to themselves.




Sovereign freedom and lease
      The second change in society developing during the Great Reclamations according to the
generally accepted view is a restructuring of the exploitation of the land. It is generally accepted that,
quoting Buitelaar‟s formulation of this view, „the freedom [the colonists on the new land came to
enjoy] must have been quickly transplanted to the settlements on the old land, whereby these
settlements on the old land were transformed to the „new-land model‟.248 Van der Linden is of the
opinion that the elite which was in the property of land, in Holland and Het Sticht, found the system of
sovereign freedom to be of great benefit looking at the enormous dedication the colonist-peasants
showed in reclaiming the wilderness in the Holland-Utrecht peat regions in return for their freedom.
They decided to offer this freedom to the mancipia on the old land as well. Others put forward that the
serfs residing on the old land could now simply move to areas in which personal freedom and the
possibility of landownership for serfs was established. To preserve their workforce, landlords had to
offer more profitable circumstances on the old land as well. Whichever, the general opinion claims
that the manorial system slackened since a profitable alternative had developed in the cope
reclamations.249
      This change in the position of the peasants resulted in a new system of exploitation of the curtes
on the old land. The manorial system could no longer endure without mancipia. Where a classical
form of the manorial system was applied, corvee was untenable. Free peasants could not be obligated
to perform corvee on their landlord‟s land, and institutions such as the demesne and statute labor were
abolished. The curtis was not exploited directly any longer, but the land belonging to the curtis,
including the demesne, was given out in lease to the peasants who had worked the land in servitude.
The tenants as before did not own their land, but had had to compensate for their use of the landlord‟s
land by paying rents. Peasants who had held land in return for a manorial rent however were lucky;
since they had the customary right to their land, they could continue to pay the manorial rent instead of
rent.250 Since the twelfth century the use of money had gained importance in the economy, thus the

247
    See footnote 68; Avis, De directe belastingen 1-13; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 6-7, 10.
248
    Buitelaar, Ministerialiteit 211.
249
    Van der Linden, „Het platteland in het Noordwesten‟ 74, 76-78; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 211;
Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 155, 181, 291; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 17; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint
Jan 185-186; Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 162.
250
    Due to the depreciation of coinage, the fixed sum of the manorial rent in relation to the amount of rent
demanded was lower. Moreover, due to the same customary right, the holders of land in manorial rent continued
to enjoy eternal hereditary rights to the use of their land, which was a right lease holders never enjoyed.


                                                                                                            89
payments were often in cash. The function of manager of a curtis, supervising the corvee and levying
all payments in kind became redundant. Around the beginning of the thirteenth century the curtes did
not function anymore.The classical manorial system was replaced by a leasing system.251
    In the new structure of exploitation of land, the compensation for the use of the landlord‟s
property could take two forms. In a hereditary lease the land was leased to a tenant-farmer and his
descendants eternally against a vast yearly sum. In a life-long lease or time lease the tenant-farmer
leased the land for his life span. After the tenant‟s death the property passed to the landlord again. The
advantage of hereditary lease over the adjustable life-long lease for a landlord was that in times of bad
harvests these rents remained relatively high. The disadvantage of a hereditary lease when compared
to a life-long lease at the same time was that the rent of the land was fixed and thus could not be
adjusted to changing economical circumstances. In case of inflation the loss of value could not be met
by raising the rent. Also the danger existed that the tenant in hereditary lease in due time would act
increasingly as the owner of the land and would attempt to quit paying the rent. For a tenant one of the
disadvantages of a life-long lease was that ones offspring could not profit from ones investments in
ones leased land. Often a mix between the two was agreed to; a life-long lease of which was arranged
that it would stretch over more then one generation.252
    In paragraph 3.2.3 we will turn to our four case-studies in the southern part of the Vecht region in
order to see whether the discussed changes also took place there.



3.2.2 The erection of castles along the river Vecht
    Another development in society on the old land needs to be discussed. On the banks of the river
Vecht, especially in the southern part of its course, and the banks of its tributary the Aa, from the
thirteenth century onwards a number of fortifications emerged. Especially between 1250 and 1350 a
busy building activity was displayed, thus in a period well after the reclamations. Around 1400 along
the river Vecht more then 30 of these fortifications, often extended to castles, had been erected.253 The
riverbanks offered perfect circumstances for the building of castles. The sandy soil was firm enough to



Although for the southern part of the Vecht region no records of manorial rent have been found in source
material, for comparable regions such as old land along the Kromme Rijn and old land in the property of the
chapter of Sint Jan in Beusichem and of the convent of Mariënweerd in the river region between the Lek and the
Waal, close to the Linge, a survival of manorial rent land advanced from the sources. See: C. Dekker, Kromme
Rijn 562-563; B.J.P van Bavel, Goederenverwerving en goederenbeheer 234, 237-240; Palmboom, Het kapittel
van Sint Jan 342-345.
251
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129-131; Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 283, 290, 291, 292;
Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 161-168.
252
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 293, 294, 297, 447- 448.
253
    An overview of castles along the river Vecht can be found in Donkersloot-de Vrij, De Vechtstreek 16-17 and
in E. Munnig Schmidt and A.J.A.M. Lisman, eds., Plaatsen aan de Vecht en de Angstel (Alphen aan den Rijn
1997) 26-27. See also: Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 20, 179; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 11, 17; Van den Hoven van
Genderen, „De mijter‟ 205-208; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; About nobility and castles in Holland, see:
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 388-390.


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serve as a foundation and water was on hand to be able to dig a castle moat.254 This phenomenon has
to be discussed here, since connected to these castles were land on the riverbanks and rights to income
from land on the old land along the river Vecht. Generally is assumed that chatelaines possessed large
amounts of estate along the river Vecht. This view is well put on the website of the research program
of the Commissie Vecht en Venen: „The countryside was controlled and protected by influential large
landowners, usually the bishop‟s vassals (…). Alongside the river Vecht they built (…) castles. To a
castle belonged a vast amount of land [italicization EH] with several farmsteads, hunting- and fishing
rights.‟255 As we have seen above and will discuss in more length below, the larger part of land and
income from surplus-extraction along the southern course of the river Vecht were in the hands of the
bishops of Utrecht, convents or chapters. In the event that the general outlook about the amount of
land and rights connected to a castle is correct, this subsequently implies that the establishment of
castles changed the distribution of land and instruments of surplus-extraction.
      In the region studied in this thesis during this period the castles founded were the castles of Zuilen
(1247) in Zwesereng; Ten Bosch (1316), Ter Meer (1394), Bolenstein (1340) and Snaefsburg (oldest
mention dates from 1379) in Maarssen; Oudaen (1280), Nijenrode (around 1275) and Gunterstein
(around 1344) in Breukelen.256 In order to interpret their position in society on the old land along the
river Vecht, we must find out how large the share of the chatelaines was in the property of old land
and rights to revenues from land along the river Vecht. This will be done in paragraph 3.2.3. As has
been done for the foundation of chapters and the establishment of the class of ministeriales, first the
explanations will be given that come to the fore in the literature for the erection of castles along the
river Vecht.
      Several factors are mentioned. First of all, the main characteristic of a castle is that it is defensible.
Thus to me it seems that the bloom of castles must indicate a period of dispute. Most scholars confirm
that indeed the primary function of the castles in the Vecht region was a military-defensive one; built
for protection in times of riots. As Smits phrases about Maarssen: „The many pictures known of the
peaceful [seventeenth- and eighteenth-century] country estates do not give rise to the suspicion that
Maarssen a few centuries before had an important military function in the many wars and struggles
fought between competing bishops and counts (…)‟.257 Especially the previously mentioned territorial
struggle between Holland and Utrecht in the Vecht region was so fierce that the erection of many



254
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 17; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 20; http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/demo.html.
255
    http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/demo.html.
256
    Blijdenstein,Tastbare tijd 179; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 17, 143-144, 212-213, 306-308, 351, 414-415, 528-
530; R.C.J. van Maanen et. al., Slot Zuylen, (Oud-Zuilen, 1992) 11; Munnig Schmidt and Lisman, Plaatsen aan
de Vecht 30, 40, 82, 86; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129-130, 265-266, 268-272, 271 footnote 408;
Dukes-Greup,Oudaen 10, 12, 14-16; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 65, 67; D. Dekker, Toestanden 11. Close to
Breukelen, along the tributary Aa-Angstel the castles Ter Aa and Ruwiel (around 1220) and Aastein (around
1400) were also founded. These foundations are not discussed here, since they are situated outside the region
studied in this thesis. Yet they are mentioned here, since these castles are mentioned here and there.
257
    W. Smits „De Snaafburg‟, Historische Kring Maarssen, vol.9, no.2 (1982) 28.


                                                                                                             91
castles was needed.    258
                             Century‟s long conflicts kept arising about the newly reclaimed land that was
economically interesting; about borders, possession of land, rights to surpluses, drainage and the
course of canals to be dug. In order to be able to call upon loyal servants residing on strategically
places on whom they could count when times got heated, the bishops of Utrecht as well as the counts
of Holland gave out castles with land and rights connected to it in fief to loyal ministeriales.259 The
bishops of Utrecht generally controlled the southern part of the river Vecht but in the northern part of
the river Vecht they could not bind their vassals to them. The territory there was in the hands of the
counts of Holland (castles such as Mijnden, Cronenburg and Muiden) and Gelre (the castle in Loenen
was a fief from the count of Gelre). The counts of Holland not only exerted influence in the northern
segment of the river Vecht however, yet also were able to obtain bases in the region studied in this
thesis. As we will see, the castles of Gunterstein and Nijenrode and at a later date Zuilen were fiefs
from Holland. Also Bolenstein from 1444 came in the sphere of influence of Holland.260
      A second explanation for the construction of castles is the economical importance of the river
Vecht and its tributary the Aa-Angstel. At any rate in the tenth and eleventh century, but maybe
before, the river afforded a trade connection between the German Rijn land in the east, the Zuiderzee,
the towns in Holland in the west and those in Flanders in the south, and „[t]he Vecht as a trade route
with the countries of the Baltic was of vital importance for the town of Utrecht.‟261 The river‟s
importance as a trade route increased with the rise of towns in the thirteenth century as a result to
increasing interregional trade and to the increase of newly reclaimed, economically remunerative land
on either side of the river Vecht. Holland as well as Het Sticht tried to exert influence in this
economically valuable and thus politically interesting region, which is another explanation for the
fierceness of the struggle between Holland and Het Sticht and the need for castles.262 In the


258
    Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 178; W. Smits „De Snaafburg‟, Historische Kring Maarssen, vol.9, no.2 (1982) 28;
Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 9, 14; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 205-
208; Donkersloot-de Vrij, De Vechtstreek 15; Zeilmaker, Buitenplaatsen 8.
259
    Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 14, 17-18, 351; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 20, 171,
172, 178, 179; Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 14-16; for examples of the struggles between Holland and Het Sticht, see:
Van Winter, „Het opdringen‟ 181- 186; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 187-190; Donkersloot-de
Vrij, De Vechtstreek 14.
260
    Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 179; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 86.
261
    Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 171, 172-178.
262
    An example of this struggle over the river Vecht was the tug-of-war over sluices in the course of the river
Vecht. In order to control floods of the river due to a high sealevel, in 1228 in the river a sluice at Otterspoor,
bishop‟s property, was placed. The river flowed from Sticht territory to Holland territory (Muiden) and thus the
farmlands and water traffic in the part of Holland was dependent of the operation by the bisop‟s servants. The
outcome of the subsequent lengthy conflict was that the counts of Holland placed a sluice in Vreeland, Holland
territory, in 1326. This made the Otterspoor sluice redundant and diminished the bishop‟s influence over the
river Vecht. In 1356 in answer to this he sent troops to Vreeland and demolished the sluice. For more
information, see: Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 171, 172, 178; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 17-18, 351; Van Doorn,
Langs de Vecht 7-9; E.B.J. Postma, Nijenrode (Breukelen, 1972) 5-6; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht
86; Dukes-Greup,Oudaen 14-16; A.A. Manten ‟Het gebied van Breukelen aan de oostelijke Vechtoever tijdens
de Middeleeuwen‟, in: Tijdschrift Historische Kring Breukelen vol. 2, no.1 (1987) 18; Van Winter and Buitelaar,
„Stad en veen‟ 12; Smits, „De Snaafburg‟ 28; Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 130-132, 139; Rinsema, De Ronde
Venen…24; http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/Demo.swf.


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continuously discordant situation the bishops and the counts of Holland on the basis of their ius
aperturae had the right to quarter troops in the castles in their sphere of influence.263
      If the river Vecht had become an important trade route as early as the tenth century and possibly
before, why did the construction of fortifications along the river fail to occur for centuries? This had to
do with the previously outlined fact that the bishops of Utrecht tried to control and by-pass the nobility
in Het Sticht. Allowing noble families to build fortifications would mean allowing them more power.
An entrenchment in a castle could offer an insubordinate noble the possibility to resist or attack the
Episcopal powers. In contrary to the surrounding areas of Gelre and to a lesser extent Holland where
nobility preserved an important role in politics and had the possibility to erect castles, around 1000 in
Het Sticht only the town of Utrecht had a fortified citadel. When the bishops had managed to offside
the nobility by the creation of their large apparatus of loyal servants, ministeriales, they could become
more coolant when it came to the erection of fortifications. Loyal ministeriales families could build
castles with the bishops‟ approval.264
      Besides the military function, scholars mention a social function of castles to be of central
importance. By the thirteenth century many ministeriales families had become very influential; „In
theory they remain bound servants, but their social position has raised them to be the new nobility of
Het Sticht.‟265 Joined with the small minority of nobles the ministeriales formed an estate, a relatively
closed elite; the „ridderschap‟. Many of these ministeriales families, such as the family Van Zuilen,
Van Nijenrode and Ter Aa, politically determined their own course and economically gained riches in
their fiefs that were situated for the greater part in the reclamations.266 Being so influential, the need
for status symbols rose, like impressive, costly buildings such as castles.267 Meirerink even poses that
the building of castles was „contagious‟; when one prominent family resided in a castle, others could
not stay behind.268
      A fourth explanation advanced for the erection of castles is that they functioned primarily as
centers of control over the rural society along the river Vecht. This view is clearly phrased on the
website of the Commissie Vecht en Venen: „Castles were the local centers of power. The early


263
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 14.
264
    Ibidem 12-14; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 213, 383; Van Winter, „De opkomst‟ 179; Van den
Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 204-208; The only two influential noble families in politics of Het Sticht were
the families Uten Goye and Van Cuyck, see: Olde Meierink, Kastelen 12.
265
    C. Dekker, „De ontginning van het Kromme Rijngebied‟ 235; Many families of ministeriales had become so
selfcontious that they often turned against the bishop whenever it suited them. Notorious are the revolts by
ministeriales of 1122, 1133, 1152 and 1159-1160 against bishop Govert in collaboration with the count of Gelre.
The ministeriales family Van Montfoort for example reached such independence that it determined its own
course, completely loose of the bishop. For more information on rebellious ministeriales, see: Olde Meierink,
Kastelen 13-14; Van Winter „De opkomst‟ 173; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 83-85, 383.
266
    Ibidem 94; 383, 387, 392; C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 235-236; Van Winter,
„De opkomst‟ 173-176.
267
    Donkersloot-de Vrij, De Vechtstreek 15; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 205-208; Olde Meierink,
Kastelen 17-18.
268
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 17-18.


                                                                                                            93
medieval manors were situated on and along the riverbanks, thus on the old land. This explains why
castles are concentrated along the rivers.‟269 Their control over society along the river Vecht in this
account must be seen in the light of the rise of banal power. In this period in the Low Countries, lords
were able to gain rights which allowed them to exert a strong influence over rural regions through the
right to collect all kinds of levies, such as tollage and amounts for the use of the mill. Thus enjoying
income from all kinds of instruments of surplus-extraction, amongst which those related to land, these
lords desired to be capable of controlling their privileges and to show off their power and wealth by
founding castles.270
      In the following exploration of the distribution of land and income from surplus from the land in
the southern part of the Vecht region the share of the above mentioned eight castles will be
incorporated. In the light of this needs to be mentioned that over the land belonging to a castle,
normally general taxes had to be paid. Not until 1536, when most castles were incorporated in a list of
castles, „ridderhofsteden‟, these residences were exempted from paying taxes.271



3.2.3 Changes in society along the southern course of the river Vecht during and after
the Great Reclamations
      In this paragraph we will work out on the basis of the available data in the literature about the
jurisdictions on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht, whether the structure of
society indeed changed during eleventh and twelfth century, as is advanced in the general literature on
the Vecht region. Were land and income from revenues from the old land in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng,
Maarssen and Breukelen actually redistributed and did the manorial system indeed dissolve? Also the
matter of landownership and share in surplus-extraction of chatelaines will be looked into.

Everiksdorp
      As has been discussed, although not conclusively demonstrable, it is possible that Everiksdorp
before the reclamations commenced was exploited from a curtis according to the manorial structure,
first under the auspices of the bishop and from around 1050 of the chapter of Sint Jan. Data about the
dos Everiksdorp in more abundance survived for the thirteenth century. On the basis of leases from a
Proestienboec containing a list of vassals and data from between about 1362 and 1365 and before, and
thirteenth-century rent-rolls of the town of Utrecht, it can be established that from the thirteenth
century the form of exploitation in Everiksdorp changed.272 The chapter of Sint Jan as a landlord
appears have given out land in feud and in lease.273 Since Everiksdorp is the only part of the southern


269
    http://contentlab.cs.uu.nl/vecht/demo.html.
270
    Van den Hoven van Genderen, ‟De mijter en de macht‟ 205-206.
271
    Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 18, 28.
272
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 181, 184, 192.
273
    Ibidem 181, 292-293; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 264.


                                                                                                     94
Vecht region about which the literature offers a more detailed idea of the position of tenants, the lease
conditions of the tenants will be discussed more comprehensively.
      In 1273 a Jutta van Hogelanden is reported to be pawned with the 28 „morgen‟ land from the
chapter of Sint Jan, which her father, the miles Jan van Hogelanden had held before her.274 In the
beginning of the fourteenth century 5 „morgen‟ of the 28 „morgen‟ that had the destination of fief land,
had been given in feud to Vastert Uteneng, a vassal that rented the adjoining lease lands as well, and
20 „morgen‟ to Ermbrecht the baker.275 In 1367 Jacob Uteneng bequeathed the 5 „morgen‟ of his father
Vastert and in 1382 Dirk Ermbrechtszoon, the baker‟s son, was pawned with his father‟s fief.
However, in 1392 the chapter demanded the 20 „morgen‟ of Dirk Ermbrechtszoon and farmed in out
in hereditary lease to the Carthusian monks, who founded a convent called Nieuwlicht on their
„property‟. Around 1417 the 5 „morgen‟ of which the last reference was that it was in the hands of
Jacob Uteneng, probably was demanded too and given to the expanding convent.276
      The other 61.5 „morgen‟ of Sint Jan‟s property in Everiksdorp was given out directly in lease and
the chapter could levy rent. The oldest lease dates from 1292. The manorial form of exploitation of the
curtis in Everiksdorp, whether or not classically, thus no sooner then the thirteenth century changed.277
In 1292 all fields in Everiksdorp (then called Hogeland) were life long leased to Govert Vastertszoon,
with the insurance that his heir could succeed him as tenant-farmer of Sint Jan.278 The amount of rent
Govert had to pay gives an impression of the level of rents in the thirteenth century. Govert paid 394
mud oats a year, in kind, an amount that had to correspond with the yields the land would have
brought in to the chapter in the time it was a functioning curtis. Palmboom found that this rent could
not be raised by the chapter until the end of the fourteenth century. This was a very unfortunate
situation for the chapter, since during the fourteenth century Europe had to deal with inflation. The
rent thus relatively reduced in value.279 Elsewhere she describes how Jan, son of lord Roetert, was able
leased a part of Govert‟s 61.5 „morgen‟, rights he had earned by warranting Govert‟s rent when the
latter had a conflict with the dean of Sint Jan. In 1314 and 1315 namely due to abundant rainfall
harvests failed. Out of precaution against the possibility that Govert would not be able to pay his rents,
the chapter of Sint Jan took possession of Govert‟s yields. In order to regain his confiscated yields,

274
    Ibidem 183-185; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 264. Of this 28 „morgen‟ land during the 1330‟s 3
„morgen‟ was lost, when the town of Utrecht wanted to cut of a curve in the river Vecht. The chapter made an
agreement with the town that it could have 3 „morgen‟ of the chapter‟s land to dig the New Vecht, in return for
compensation, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 181-183.
275
    These 25 „morgen‟ together were situated in the Hogeland and were called Bloemendaal, see Palmboom, Het
kapittel van Sint Jan 183-186.
276
    Ibidem 184-185.
277
    Ibidem 290-293, 397.
278
    Ibidem 295. Palmboom has studied the form of lease in the property of the chapter of Sint Jan. From the
moment the chapter starts to let out land on lease, in the ratio hereditary lease and life-long lease, the chapter
more frequently gave out land in life-long lease. From the 200 studied leases from the period 1249-1400, 31
were in hereditary lease, 31 in time lease and 102 in life-long lease. The latter two came down to the same, about
10 to 12 years, see: Ibidem 458.
279
    The inflation was caused by a shortage of silver combined with nevertheless large scale coining, Ibidem 303-
304, 459-460.


                                                                                                               95
Govert took two warrants, Johan Rotardzoon and Willem Govertszoon van Jutphaas. However, Govert
eventually was not able to pay his rent and in 1316 was severely fined by the chapter, and lost a part of
his land to his warrant Jan, lord Roetert‟s son.280
      As it was agreed to that after his death Govert‟s heir could succeed him, in 1338 the lease was in
the hands of his son, Vastert Uteneng, who was also a vassal of the chapter. In the contract between
Utrecht and the dean of Sint Jan about the New Vecht had been concurred too that after Vastert‟s
death his land would be taken over by the town of Utrecht. In 1350 the chapter pawned the lands to the
town in hereditary lease. The chapter took the opportunity to finally raise the rents of the lease lands.
The town of Utrecht had to bring in 450 mud oats, the equal of that in money was paid after 1380. At
the end of the fourteenth century the town had all 61.5 „morgen‟ in lease-hold property, which Utrecht
on its part gave out. It split up the land into small parcels, which it gave out to members of Utrecht
guilds.281
      Besides land, the chapter in its dos was donated with the lower jurisdiction in Everiksdorp too,
thus it possessed the right to levy the tithe.282 The income extracted from the harvest‟s remains for a
large part was in the hands of the chapter, which collected the tithe and rents. The bishops of Utrecht
however collected the general taxes. The chapter as the landlord should pay these taxes, but probably
the chapter averted the general land taxes when levied by the bishop to their tenants, as can be inferred
from many tax registers. „The tax duty did not lie with the landowners, but with the tenants.‟283
      In brief, although in the source material specifically on Everiksdorp, no mancipia or „stroyelgeld‟
are mentioned, it is not unlikely that before the reclamations the curtis was organised in a classical
manorial way. After all, other curtes in the property of the chapter of Sint Jan probably were, as well
as the rest of the old land along the southern part of the river Vecht. From source material from the
thirteenth century we can infer that the 90 „morgen‟ land the chapter of Sint Jan had in property in
Everiksdorp were organised in a different manner. Instead of managing its domain itself, the chapter
had redistributed its land by giving 28 „morgen‟ out in fief and 61.5 in lease. The manorial structure of
exploitation largely disappeared. How the fief land was exploited we have not been able to infer, but
the 61.5 „morgen‟ of leased was given out to tenants. The rent had to correspond with the yields the
land would have brought in to the chapter in the time it was a functioning curtis. Tenants enjoyed
personal freedom and paid for the use of their land instead of being obliged to work on it. A demesne
thus cannot have continued to exist. However, the dissolution does not seem to have occurred during
the Great Reclamations as is generally assumed. The first lease was given out as late as in 1292. The
280
    Ibidem 305-306; The conflict about the payments of the rent between Govert and his warrants and the chapter
in 1316 was settled by the bishop. His verdict was severe. Govert had only paid over 150 „mud‟ of the 394 „mud‟
oats due. The fine for every „mud‟ that was not provided, 16 „solidi‟ had to be paid with 9 „solidi‟ added to that
for each „mud‟ that the chapter had to purchase in order to make up for the shortage of oats, see:
Ibidem 181-183.
281
    Ibidem 182-183, 295, 306-307.
282
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 112, 120-121, 186-187; C. Dekker, „voortgang‟ 159; Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 129, 264.
283
    Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 6; See also: Avis, De directe belastingen 8; Van Winter, „Stad en veen‟ 10-11.


                                                                                                               96
manorial system in Everiksdorp thus remained intact longer then is assumed; instead of the eleventh to
twelfth century, according to Palmboom the manorial system, notwithstanding in a classical form or
not, was not fully replaced earlier then the fourteenth century.284
      Moreover, indications exist that institutions that were remnants of the manorial system survived
well into the fourteenth century. As we have seen previously, the existence of unfree residents did not
entirely vanish according to Buitelaar. He claims that the image of unfree, landless peasants en masse
acceding to sovereign freedom cannot be tenable. In the beginning of the thirteenth century the bishop
still owned peasant-ministeriales. Apparently these unfree servants cannot be considered as simply a
relic of the past. They must have remained very important to the bishops, for we have seen that the
bishop negotiated in length with the count of Holland about the possession of these people. As well as
in the reclamation regions around the river Vecht, on the old land references to the existence of unfree
peasants survived even in the fourteenth century. Buitelaar mentions sources that refer to mancipia
from Abcoude, and sources that refer to „keurmedeplichtigen‟ on the old land along the Kromme Rijn
in Het Sticht.285 Buitelaar also adduces the fourteenth-century Codex of justice of the Dom church of
Utrecht by Hugo Wstick as a source that supports the idea that bound Episcopal subjects were no odd
phenomenon. He points to the fact that the descriptions of and terminology for bound residents, such
as servi and peasants who had to pay „keurmede‟, in charters of the eleventh century and in the Codex
show striking similarities. Apparently these estate categories remained usable concepts until the
fourteenth century.286 Thus, it can be concluded that plausibly also on the old land along the river
Vecht in Everiksdorp the manorial system did not dissolute as rigorously as is often posed. In society
after the Great Reclamations too, although we cannot find out any percentages, peasants lived who did
not enjoy personal freedom. The chapter of Sint Jan might have owned a few mancipia. This
conclusion is buttressed by the fact that C. Dekker found for the old land along the Kromme Rijn, the
region to which society along the river Vecht resembled, that manorial institutions survived as well
into the fourteenth century.287
      Also the generally accepted idea that as a sign of the vanishing manorial system a profound
redistribution of land and the right to surplus-extraction occurred appears to be incorrect, depending
on the available literature. The chapter of Sint Jan indeed had given out land to agents, but remained
the landlord of all 90 „morgen‟. Neither the peasants nor the holders of fiefs possessed their land. The
withdrawal of surplus from land as well remained in the hands of the elite. The chapter of Sint Jan
levied surplus in the form of tithe and rents. Income from the land in the form of land taxes such as the
entreaty and later the „morgengeld‟, which the chapter probably averted to the tenants, went to the
bishops of Utrecht.


284
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 290-293, 297.
285
    See paragraph 2.1 of part 2; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 137-139.
286
    Ibidem 135-136.
287
    C. Dekker, „De ontginningen van het Kromme Rijngebied‟, 236-337.


                                                                                                      97
    At first sight in the new structure of society the position of peasants seems to have improved when
compared to the manorial system. After all, most peasants were no longer bound to the chapter or
forced to work the chapter‟s land through duties, could work their leasehold to ones own insight and
paid a relatively low rent that could not be raised by the chapter until the end of the fourteenth century.
Yet, as in the manorial system, tenants still did not own their land. Even worse, unlike during the
manorial exploitation they now had to pay rent in order to use the land on top of the tithe and the
general taxes. And a lot can be held against being a farmer in the manorial system, but the mancipia at
any rate were ensured of the inheritance of their land to their offspring by customary rights. The
tenants in Everiksdorp at best received an initially hereditary life-long lease agreement, but that did
not protect tenants such as the family Uteneng to loose their land at the end of the fourteenth century
to large landowners such as the convent of Nieuwlicht and the town of Utrecht. Moreover, indeed the
chapter was not able to raise the rents until the end of the fourteenth century, but it wringed out its
tenants in a different manner. The example of Govert Vastertszoon misfortunate situation due to
failing harvests caused him substantive fines and the loss of a part of his land to his warrant. And at
the end of the fourteenth century, the chapter of Sint Jan was eventually able to raise rents. To me the
farmer‟s position actually seems to have become weaker with the dissolution of the manorial
organization of land.
    Concluding, first of all, the generally accepted idea that during the Great Reclamation the manorial
system dissolved seems incorrect for Everiksdorp when the distribution of land and income from
surpluses from the land are studied. No profound redistribution of land and the right to surplus-
extraction occurred and Palmboom mentions that it is not probable that a leasing system existed before
the thirteenth century. Moreover, well until the fourteenth century remnants of the manorial system
survived. Second of all, I do not consider the changes that finally took place in society in Everiksdorp
from the thirteenth century as profound. The situation of the property of land and revenues on the
whole remained as it had been for centuries; the elite, in this case the chapter of Sint Jan, and in the
fourteenth century the Carthusians and the town of Utrecht as large-scale tenants, kept a firm grip on
their land (at the end of the fourteenth century even increasingly) and on surpluses from the land. For
tenants the situation in Everiksdorp did not improve. Neither in the manorial nor in the leasing system
did they own their land and their burdens in fact aggravated. Moreover, unlike in the manorial system,
apparently peasants now could just be deprived of their land.




                                                                                                        98
Zwesereng
      Not much is known about the property of land or the distribution of surplus from land in
Zwesereng. Nor from the curtis that was the property of the bishop of Utrecht, nor from the curtis that
belonged to the convent of Egmond a villicus can be traced that as a ministerialis was employed in the
adjoining reclamations of Westbroek. It is not clear what happened with the land during the Great
Reclamations. Data are known only as early as the thirteenth century. Then the bishop of Utrecht
pawned Gijsbert van Buchorst with his curtis, 32 „morgen‟, which Van Buchorst somewhere between
1227 and 1233 sold to the chapter of Sint Jan. The bishop agreed that it became an allodium of the
chapter. By then the chapter had given out its property in lease, and thus the curtis did not function as
a classical manor any longer, to what extent it ever had. The land was divided in two parcels of 16
„morgen‟ each. One was relieved of the obligation to pay Episcopal taxes, such as the entreaty. The
chapter collected an impressive income from the rents paid by their tenants.288
      The curtis of the convent of Egmond was sold in 1261 to Willem van den Steenhuis.289 For this
part of Zwesereng it has proved difficult to put the information from the different literature together in
order to create insight in the subsequent distribution and exploitation of land. Van Maanen mentions
that from a charter of 1446 emerges that the convent of Oostbroek held property Zwesereng, which it
probably possessed well before that time. How long is impossible to retrieve, Van Maanen
concludes.290 The convent possessed this land until the Reformation.291 I consider it possible that this
property was the former curtis of the convent of Egmond. Van Maanen namely also found that around
1446 and before the land in Zwesereng was still split up between two large landowners.292 With this
information in the back of ones mind, it seems likely that the divide of the land in Zwesereng since the
tenth century persisted. The former Episcopal curtis fell into the hands of Van Buchorst who sold it to
the chapter of Sint Jan, and the former curtis of the convent of Egmond was sold to Van den Steenhuis
and subsequently changed hands to the convent of Oostbroek.
      Around this time in Zwesereng on the western bank of the river Vecht, a castle was built. The
castle of Zuilen is mentioned for the first time in 1247, inhabited by Gijsbert van Zuilen. It was built
on 3 „morgen‟ land held in eternal hereditary lease from the convent of Oostbroek, at any rate from
1449, but probably well before. The lords Van Zuilen also had 2 „hoeven‟ (32 „morgen‟) land in
eternal hereditary lease from the convent.293 This seems sound to me, since many scholars mention the
close bonds between the family Van Zuilen and the convents of Oostbroek and Egmond. The latter
two probably had an interest in Zwesereng, since this was the place of birth of their worshiped Saint
288
    Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 376, 387, 500, 505-506; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129-130,
265, 268.
289
    K. Verboeket, Slot Zuylen, Oud-Zuilen (Amsterdam, 2003) 11; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 30;
Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 129-130, 265-266; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528-530.
290
    Van Maanen, „relatie‟, 83-86, 94-97.
291
    Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 10-11.
292
    Van Maanen, „relatie‟, 76, 79, 83-85, 96-97.
293
    Van Maanen, „relatie‟, 83-85.


                                                                                                              99
Liudger.294 Connected to the castle too was a fief that the bishop of Utrecht had given out to this
family of ministeriales Van Zuilen; they held the low jurisdiction, rent and tithe of Zuilen and
Zwesereng. 295
      The family Van Zuilen is mentioned in sources of Het Sticht Utrecht since 1200 as ministeriales
of the bishop.296 The family offers a good example of ministeriales who had conquered a good
position amongst the bishops‟ servants and thus were allowed to build a fortification. Usually a
member of the family occupied a seat in the town council of Utrecht and in the second half of the
thirteenth century this family played a prominent role in the politics in Het Sticht. Through bonds of
marriage the family was related to the other old influential ministeriales families Van
Abcoude/Gaasbeek and Van Beusichem. This „clan‟ Van Zuilen, recognisable by its shared weapon of
arms, played a very important part in the reclamations and founded several castles in Het Sticht.297 As
an example of the close connection between these families; the tithe of the west bank of Zwesereng in
the second half of the fourteenth century was held in fief from the bishop by the family Van
Abcoude/Gaasbeek.298 The ministeriales Van Zuilen have not been very loyal to the bishop of Utrecht
after the thirteenth century. In return for important political positions they frequently supported the
counts of Holland, which commenced with a pact in 1278 with Floris V of Holland. In a curious
construction, the bishop of Utrecht as well as the count of Holland had a say in the control of the
castle. Although the family Van Zuilen until the sixteenth century are repeatedly reconfirmed as
ministeriales of the bishop, in 1422 the bishop of Utrecht sent citizens of Utrecht to Zuilen to
overthrow the castle the castle.299 In 1273 the family Van Zuilen had died out in the male line, after
which through succession and marriages important noble families were pawned with the castle, such
as the family Van Borselen (1373), Van Culemborg (1485) and Van Rennenberg (1536).300
      Around the residence Zuilen a village developed, in which slowly servitude was dissolved, after
which the tenants had to pay rent in kind. Later this was replaced by a rent in cash. Well into the




294
    For more hypothesis on thr relationship between Saint Liudger, the convent of Oostbroek and the family Van
Zuilen, see: Van Maanen „relatie‟, 83-85, 94-97; Biesma, Ridders in een klooster 26-27; Blijdenstein, Tastbare
tijd 181; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 130-132, 267-268; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528.
295
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 265-268; Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 6, 11; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528;
Van Maanen „relatie‟, 83-85, 94-97.
296
    Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 11; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 30; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit
129-130, 265-266; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528-530; Van Maanen, „relatie‟, 88, 94.
297
    Castles such as Zuylenburg, Zuylensteyn, Nyevelt, Natewisch, Bergesteyn, Beverweerd, Driebergen,
Culemborg, Vianen, Wijk, Westbroek and of coarse Zuilen and residences in the settlements of Abcoude. For
example, Zweder van Zuilen around 1265 was asked by the bishop to found a castle at Abcoude. Thus Zweder
van Zuilen could call himself Van Abcoude as well, see: Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 179. See also: Olde
Meierink, Kastelen 14-15, 529; Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 3-4; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 265-266.
298
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 266; Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 11.
299
    Van Maanen, „relatie‟, 89-91, 94-95; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528-529;Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 3-4, 6-7;
Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 181.
300
    Verboeket, Slot Zuylen 5, 7-9; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 30; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 528-530.


                                                                                                           100
sixteenth century the inhabitants of especially Zwesereng lived of cattle holding to supply the town of
Utrecht with meat and dairy products.301
      In short, we can conclude that for Zwesereng the generally shared opinion that on the old land
along the river Vecht during the reclamations east and west of the river Vecht the manorial system
dissolved on the basis of the available literature seems incorrect. The property of land and the right to
collect surpluses from the land were not reorganised during this period. Until the thirteenth century the
two curtes and their surpluses in Zwesereng remained in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht and the
convent of Egmond. Furthermore we can comment little, due to a scarcity of sources in this area for
the eleventh and twelfth century, on the accepted conception that inspired by the new relationships in
society on the new land, the manorial relationships disappeared. Buitelaar's data on a small amount of
mancipia still inhabiting the Vecht region and the fact that in the jurisdiction Zwesereng after the
supposed dissolution of the manorial system tenants besides their rents still had to pay the yearly levy
„stroyelgeld‟, indicate that portions of the manorial system remained intact. In Zwesereng the
disappearance of the manorial organisation of society must have been a gradual process, a conclusion
again in accordance with the findings of C. Dekker for the congruent society along the Kromme Rijn.
      A restructuring of the land did not take place until the thirteenth century and even then the two
former curtes remained in the hands of large landowners. The bishops‟ land was given out to Van
Buchorst who subsequently sold the 32 „morgen‟ to the chapter of Sint Jan. The property of the
convent of Egmond was bought by Willem van den Steenhuis in 1261, but what happened thereafter is
unclear. I consider it possible that this land was sold to the convent of Oostbroek, considering the fact
that this convent is known to have had possessions in Zwesereng and the fact that land in Zwesereng
had remained split; in 1446 the only landowners were the chapter of Sint Jan and the convent of
Oostbroek. Given the connection between the convents of Egmond and Oostbroek this is not
unthinkable.
      Another redistribution took place in the thirteenth century. Here we come across a castle. The
convent of Oostbroek gave 3 „morgen‟ and 2 „hoeven‟ of their land in fief to the castle of Zuilen.
Moreover, the bishop of Utrecht gave out to his ministerialis Van Zuilen the low jurisdiction,
including the tithe (apparently apart from that in the allodium of the chapter of Sint Jan) and rent over
Zwesereng, which involved that the bishop could just collect the general taxes in Zwesereng. The
chapter of Sint Jan could collect the income from the surpluses, the tithe and rents, over its allodium
and moreover was exempted from paying Episcopal taxes. The destiny of the former curtis of the
convent of Egmond is unclear, but it might be that the convent of Oostbroek could collect the
surpluses there.
      Thus the bishops of Utrecht in the thirteenth century indeed lost their prime position in
Zwesereng. Besides the general taxes (which they could not levy over 16 „morgen‟ in the property of

301
   http://home.wxs.nl/~vera0000/webdoc6.html; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 28; Van Doorn, Langs
de Vecht 25.


                                                                                                    101
the chapter of Sint Jan), they no longer possessed neither land nor surplus-extraction there. After two
unknown men had bought land in this part of the river Vecht, the chapter of Sint Jan and the convent
of Oostbroek became the large landowners and together with the chatelaines of Zuilen the profiteers of
surplus. Added to these facts, we consider the fact that the bishops of Utrecht did not retrieve the low
jurisdiction of Zuilen from the rebellious families Van Zuilen and Van Gaasbeek yet kept
reconfirming them as their servants, and the fact that this family could control despite all quite some
land, as a sign of their apparently declining powers. Relationships within the elite seem to have
shifted; the bishops had to give in to the powers of ministeriales. Thus although the erection of a castle
in Zwesereng did not directly affect the distribution of property of land as often is thought, since the
chatelaines did not own their 35 „morgen‟, the castle did exert quite some influence on 35 „morgen‟
land and controlled quite a part of the surplus-extraction in Zwesereng. Moreover, the bishops had to
tolerate in their sphere of influence from 1278, when the ministeriales Van Zuilen made a pact with
Floris V of Holland until 1422, when the castle was overthrown, that Holland too had influence on an
important castle which controlled quite some land. However, the impact of the castle on the
distribution of property in Zwesereng must not be overemphasized. In Maarssen, which is about the
same size as Zwesereng as we can assess by looking at figure 6, as we will see 47 to 51 „morgen‟ land
was connected to four castles. This was 7 to 7.5 percent of land in Maarssen. The castle of Zuilen with
its 35 „morgen‟ in fief thus must have controlled less then 1/14 part of land in Zwesereng.
    From the literature on Zwesereng we can conclude that at any rate on the land exploited by two of
the major players in Zwesereng, the chapter of Sint Jan and the lords Van Zuilen, in the course of the
thirteenth century the (classical) manorial system had generally dissolved. We find indications of the
new system in which land generally was no longer worked by serfs, but by tenants. The chapter of Sint
Jan enjoyed an impressive income from the rents it demanded of its tenants on its 32 „morgen‟. The
family Van Zuilen levied rents over the peasants who leased land in the village of Zuilen that
developed around the castle. I cannot find whether this village covered all 35 „morgen‟ land the family
held in fief. Accordingly it is probable that the convent of Oostbroek had let out its land on lease too.
Thus bound, landless peasants obligatory working the landlord‟s land generally did not exist only as
late as the thirteenth century. However, the assumption of a discontinuity of the situation before and
after the reclamations does not seem applicable for Zwesereng. The transition was not en masse as is
generally taken on.
    Besides concluding that the changes took place later then is generally assumed, as I did for
Everiksdorp one can wonder whether the mentioned changes in fact can be considered as profound
transformations in society. Property of land and surplus were indeed finally redistributed, but this
happened within the elite. The bishop and the convent of Egmond had sold land and pawned rights to
other large landowners of old and to castle lords. The chatelaines were members of an important
ministeriales family, which was already member of the elite. The manorial system indeed for the
greater part disappeared and the bulk of tenants received personal freedom, but land and income from


                                                                                                     102
surpluses even after the creation of the supposedly change-generating cope system remained beyond
reach of peasants. Just like in the manorial system they did not possess the land they worked,
moreover, in the leasing system they had to pay for using it. It might be the case that the bishops of
Utrecht had first of all lost territory and second of all that the lords of Zuilen and the counts of Holland
gained influence in former Episcopal territory; the relationships between groups in society in
Zuilen/Zwesereng, as Everiksdorp, do not seem to have experienced profound changes.




Maarssen
      Due to a scarcity of sources, the literature does hardly discuss the situation in Maarssen in the
eleventh and twelfth century.302 For the distribution of the property of land during the Great
Reclamations it is known that until 1528, when the jurisdiction was confiscated by emperor Charles V,
the bishops of Utrecht for the largest part remained landlords of Maarssen.303 The surface area of the
jurisdiction was around 679 „morgen‟.304 The only land the bishop renounced were the 112 „morgen‟
on the east bank of the river Vecht which were bought from the bishop by the convent of Oudwijk in
1200. From that moment this area is the jurisdiction Oostwaard..305 The convent, also named the
convent of Sint Stevens, housed 20 to 30 noble ladies who had been ordained as Benedictine nuns.306
Besides the 112 „morgen‟ the convent also received the lower jurisdiction from the bishop and thus
could levy the tithe.307 The jurisdiction Oostwaard remained in the property of the convent until 1589
when the convent was closed due to the Reformation.308
      More surpluses were distributed during the reclamation period. Except for Oostwaard, the bishop
kept the jurisdiction to himself in Maarssen, but gave out the tithe, which he had split up. In the
northern part of the eastern shore of the river Vecht laid the „Allemanstiend‟ (in Diependaal), south of
this block of tithes the Gulden Hoef and lastly a tithe for the rest of land on the western and eastern
banks. Until the second half of the thirteenth century the ministeriales family Van Maarssen as a
reward for its efforts in the reclamations in Maarsseveen and Tienhoven was benefited with fiefs that


302
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 263; D. Dekker, Toestanden, 9.
303
    Ibidem 8, 10.
304
    Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht was about 567 „morgen‟. The distinction between Maarssen and Maarsseveen is
calculated ingeniously by J. Witte by comparing „Oudeschild‟ tax registers on the parish of Maarssen from 1540,
1599 and 1716-1755 with the a more extensive list in the HUA. Information from notes J. Witte he was so kind
to give me access to, on the basis HUA: „Financiele Instellingen‟ access no. 37, inventory no. 1674, Municipal
Archive Maarssen: „Gerecht Maarssen‟, access no. 82 t/m 86 and Archive of the rent-rolls of the Teutonic Order
of Knights; J. Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ uit 1599‟, Historische Kring Maarssen vol. 28, no.2 (2001) 35.
To this the 112 „morgen‟ land that belonged to the convent of Oudwijk should be added. See also Smits,
„Morgengeld‟ 10; „Oudschildgeld‟ is the name for „morgengeld‟ from 1528, see: Van Winter, „Stad en veen' 10.
305
    Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 46; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 13-14.
306
    http://www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Oudwijk.htm.
307
    Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10; Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35; Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 271, 269; http://www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Oostwaard.htm.
308
    http://www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Oudwijk.htm.


                                                                                                           103
for the largest part consisted of tithes; the Allemanstiend, the Gulden Hoef, the tithe on the western
and eastern banks and 5 „morgen‟ land. As has been discussed, these ministeriales plausibly were
connected to the villicus who resided on the curtis in Maarssen. After the second half of the thirteenth
century the family Van Maarssen for some reason disappeared from the stage and had to sell all its
belongings.309




Fig. 7: The situation in Maarssen in 1394, with the tithe blocks of „Allemanstiend‟ and the „Gulden Hoeve‟, and the
jurisdicton Oostwaard of the convent of Oudwijk, projected on a map of 1810.
                                                 Source: A combination of the maps drawn by Van Maanen,
                                                         found in: Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 45, 46




       Due to the lack of source material it is hard to draw any conclusions about the effects of the
innovations in the reclamation regions on the exploitation of the land in property of the bishop or the
convent in Maarssen. The only information I have been able to find are Buitelaar‟s data from which
emerged that it is likely that the manorial system did not vanish during the eleventh and twelfth
century. For he found that even in the thirteenth century in the Vecht region the institution of
mancipia had partly survived. Moreover, by then the levy „stroyelgeld‟, a remnant of corvee, was
levied in Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht. Thus it is possible that the classical manorial form of
exploitation of the land diminished and was replaced by a system of land rent and personal freedom
for peasants, but in any case this was no swift transition.
       For the thirteenth and fourteenth century I have been able to find information might indicate
changes in society. On the bishops‟ land, Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht, a few castles were erected.
Linked to some of them were fiefs of land or rights to income from surplus-extraction. Connected to
the castle Ter Meer, from 1525 called Zuilenburg, situated on the west bank of the river Vecht, were 3
„morgen‟ of land and a number of tithes. Discussion exists about the foundation of the castle.

309
      Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 45-47; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 268.


                                                                                                                  104
Although C. Dekker is of the opinion that the castle Ter Meer in Maarssen was probably founded in
1083 by Hemericus van der Meer310, he does not annotate this nor have I been able to find similar
conclusions with other scholars. Janssen et al even pose; ‟These assertions (...) at any rate cannot be
demonstrated using records.‟311 More likely is the reconstruction of Janssen et al and Buitelaar that the
castle was founded by Frederik van der Meer in 1394, since he is the first mentioned in sources to be
enfeoffed with the castle and 3 „morgen‟ of land on which the castle was built by the bishop.312 A part
of the fief of Ter Meer was a number of rights in Maarssen; the right to levy the Gulden Hoef tithe and
tithe of the old land in Maarssen on both sides of the river Vecht. The family Ter Meer held the fief
that included the castle, the very small surface of 3 „morgen‟ land and the tithes from 1394 until
1525.313 It is not unlikely that the family Ter Meer was linked to the family Van Maarssen; until the
second half of the thirteenth century, the family Van Maarssen as a reward for their service to the
bishop was benefited with fiefs that for the largest part consisted of the same rights as the family Ter
Meer later on held. Both families held the Gulden Hoef tithe and the tithe on the western and eastern
banks. The family Van Maarssen as an extra held the Allemanstiend too. It might be that the family
Ter Meer built a castle at the spot where the family Van Maarssen had managed a curtis.314 In 1525 the
bishop enfeoffed Steven van Nijvelt, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order of Knights with the castle in
Maarssen, who altered the castle and renamed it Zuilenburg.315 In short, the bishops of Utrecht gave in
fief to the castle Ter Meer at any rate from 1394 a modest amount of 3 „morgen‟ of land in Maarssen
and almost all tithes in Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht. This was almost the same fief as the bishops had
connected in the eleventh to thirteenth century to the curtis of Maarssen that plausibly preceded the
castle. Holders of the fief were successively the ministeriales Van Maarssen, the lords of Ter Meer of
whose position we have not been able to find out anything and the leader of a very important monastic
order.

      In the literature on Maarssen, often an estate Ten Bosch is mentioned. Munnig Schmidt and
Lisman are of the opinion that of the Bisschopsgerecht „[t]he domain connected to Ten Bosch
occupied the entire eastern bank of the river Vecht in Maarssen.‟316 They pose that Ten Bosch was a
castle that originated from the ninth century, when it was a fortification against the Vikings. In 1316
the family Van IJsselstein was enfeoffed by the bishop with the domain of Ten Bosch, who thus held
the eastern bank of the river Vecht until 1593.317 This family Van IJsselstein and the estate Ten Bosch
are also mentioned by Smits, Van Maanen and Witte, each on the basis of different sources. Smits


310
    D. Dekker, Toestanden 10.
311
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 306.
312
    Ibidem 306-308; D. Dekker, Toestanden 11; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 268-272.
313
    Ibidem, 268, 270-272; Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 45.
314
    Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 45-47; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 268, 271-272.
315
    D. Dekker, Toestanden 10; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 306-308; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 271
footnote 408.
316
    Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 40.
317
    For the literature and source material Munnig Schmidt and Lisman base their ideas on, see: Ibidem 40, 218.


                                                                                                            105
quotes the Episcopal fief registers dealing with Maarssen of 1387: „her Ghiisbrecht van IJsselsteyne,
ridder, hout die hofstede Ten Bussche mit vier ende twintich mergen lants.‟318 Thus the family Van
IJsselstein, of whom I have not been able to find out more besides their membership of the
„ridderschap‟, held a manor from the bishop with 24 „morgen‟ linked to it. This is confirmed by
another source that mentions in 1396 that Johan van IJsselstein, son of lord Gijsbert, is enfeoffed with
half of the estate Ten Bosch.319 According to the archival material of Witte, from the Oudtschilt
registers found in the municipal archive of Maarssen, Gijsbert van Vianen van Rijsenberg in 1540 held
28 „morgen‟ in fief close to Ten Bosch.320 I conclude that this concerns the land connected to Ten
Bosch, since Gijsbert van Vianen van Rijsenberg was married to the heir of the fief Ten Bosch,
Johanna van IJsselstein, daughter of lord Johan.321 The family Van IJsselstein let out the land Ten
Bosch on lease.322
      Smits emphasizes that in the sources Ten Bosch is only named as „hofstede‟, manor, not as a
castle. In that case Ten Bosch would have to be referred to as „huys‟, country estate, in the archives.
Olde Meierink therefore is of the opinion that the castle Ten Bosch that was built by Jacob van
Campen in 1628 did not have a medieval predecessor, and as such do not discuss the domain Ten
Bosch.323 Buitelaar however on the basis of other source material reaches the conclusion that Ten
Bosch was a medieval castle and besides that it was the ministeriales family Ten Bosch, not the family
Van IJsselstein, who held in fief „[t]he residence Ten Bosch facing the residence Ter Meer (...) from
the bishop of Utrecht in return for its services‟324. Elisabeth Ten Bosch held it in 1316 from the bishop,
she being the heir of her family of ministeriales that held the residence plausibly since 1244.325 Olde
Meierink et al do not discuss Buitelaar's findings nor note to have consulted his sources. They merely
mention that in contrary to Buitelaar they do not think that Ten Bosch existed.326 The fact that in the
most recent and most thorough study among the available literature on the Vecht region quite
convincingly advances that a castle Ten Bosch existed, and that the opposite has not satisfactory been
discussed in other literature makes me conclude the following. Probably around 1244 a castle Ten
Bosch was erected by the ministeriales family Ten Bosch. Whether the 24 „morgen‟ land already were
connected to it from the outset is unclear. Just like the family Ter Meer, the family Ten Bosch
disappeared from history and their fief was taken over by the family Van IJsselstein, at any rate around
1387. It might be that the castle had declined and was replaced by a manor. This is plausible, since a

318
    Smits, „Huis Ten Bosch‟, 34, quote from RAU Episcopal archives inventory no. 270, 270 a.
319
    Van Maanen, „Merenhofstede‟ 2, information from RAU archives from the chapter of Oud Munster inventory
no. 697.
320
    Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35; This information is confirmed by Smits,
„Merenhofstede 1396-1831‟ 2-3.
321
    Smits, „Huis Ten Bosch‟, 34
322
    Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 40.
323
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 546.
324
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 271 footnote 408.
325
    Ibidem 271 footnote 408: Information from RAU handschriftenverzameling no.332-1 fol.63vs (1316
november 28), OSU II no.1019 (1244 augustus 23), OSU II no.1060 (1245 december 12).
326
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 546.


                                                                                                           106
fief as large as 24 „morgen‟ along the southern course of the river Vecht are rarely given out to
families unless the family (had) a castle under its control. Probably from 1244, but at any rate from
1316 the bishop of Utrecht had given out 24 „morgen‟ of his land in Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht to
successively the ministeriales family Ten Bosch and Van IJsselstein. The latter had expanded their
Episcopal fief to 28 „morgen‟ when we find them in the sources in 1540. The family Van IJsselstein
gave out their fief in lease.
      A third castle to which the bishops of Utrecht had connected land in Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht
as a fief was the castle Snaafburg. When or by whom the castle was built has proven to be impossible
to recover. The oldest record of the castle dates from Episcopal enfeoffments from 1379, in which
Hughe van Loenersloot‟s fief of the castle and the 20 „morgen‟ on the old land that were connected to
the castle were confirmed by bishop Floris van Wevelinchoven. It is likely that it had been founded
before this date.327 The family Van Loenersloot was among the bishops‟ ministeriales. The family held
a lot of property in the northern part of the river Vecht above the Angstel. However, already in an
early stage the family acted very autonomously. Besides being in servitude of the bishops of Utrecht,
the family also became a vassal of the Lords of Gelre from 1270 and from the fourteenth century
occasionally supported the counts of Holland.328 However, since the family Van Loenersloot often
served three lords including the bishop, and the Snaafburg was an Episcopal fief, it is probable that
this castle was in control of the bishop. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that relatives of Van
Loenersloot in 1446 gave out in fief the castle with the 20 „morgen‟ to Johan Grauwert. The family
Grauwert was an influential family in the patriciate of Utrecht. Many family members were major of
Utrecht or important chairmen in the Council of Utrecht, and loyal to the bishop. 329 In Maarssen the
bishop as a landlord thus enfeoffed, besides the 27 to 31 „morgen‟ to the lords of castles Ter Meer and
Ten Bosch, another 20 „morgen‟ to the lords of the Snaafburg; successively the independent
ministeriales family Van Loenersloot and from 1446 to the influential town family Grauwert.
      A fourth castle, Bolenstein, was erected in Maarssen by an important family in the town of
Utrecht. D. Dekker is of the opinion that Bolenstein must have been founded by Splinter van
Nijenrode in 1404, but all other literature dealing with the castle‟s history mention 1340 as the year of
building and Derck de Bole, sometimes the referred to as de Bole van Eemst, as its founder.330 The De
Bole‟s were residents of Utrecht and often members of the Council of Utrecht. For example, Gerrit de
Bole at the end of the fourteenth century was a chairman of the Council. Through bonds of marriage
the family was related to another influential Utrecht family, that of Van Drakenburg. As such, I


327
    Smits, „De Snaafburg‟ 28-29; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 389-290; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht
184.
328
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 13-14, 389-290, 351; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 184.
329
    Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35-38; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10-13; Olde
Meierink, Kastelen 414-415; Smits, „De Snaafburg‟, 30.
330
    D. Dekker, Toestanden 11; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 143-144; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 44;
Rientjes, „De ridderhofstad Bolestein‟ 6; W. Smits, „Bolenstein‟ Historische Kring Maarssen vol.11, no.4 (1985)
75.


                                                                                                          107
consider the family was a loyal supporter of the bishop of Utrecht. In 1404 Dirk de Bole dedicated the
castle to the bishop and who returned it in fief.331 In 1444 however the castle came in the hands of the
family Van Nijenrode, known as untrustworthy ministeriales of the bishop as we will see, who held it
until after 1528.332 No records survive that mention territory linked to the castle on the old land near
the river Vecht.
      Thus, in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, of the roughly 567 „morgen‟ that composed
Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht, the bishop gave out about 47 to 51 „morgen‟ of land in fief to lords of
castles that supported him. Of the total amount of land in Maarssen 7 to 7.5 percent of the land was
connected as a fief to castles.
      As we have seen, about the land of the castle Ten Bosch it is known that in the thirteenth century it
was farmed out. Also the property of the convent of Oudwijk has probably been given out in lease. It
is known to be leased as a whole in 1459 to Jacob Wynter. In order to work the land, this tenant of
such a large surface area must have hired people. Probably he gave out the land on his part, since
„morgengeld‟ is levied. It seems to me that being a tenant in Oostwaard could be tough. Elsewhere
tenants could demand a reduction of their rent whenever the bishop had demanded a land tax, such as
an entreaty, in Oostwaard this however was out of the question.333
      On the distribution and exploitation of the rest of land in Maarssen controlled by neither the
convent of Oudwijk nor the castles after the reclamations, the only other information I have been able
to find comes from articles and notes based on the „Oudeschild‟ registers found in the Municipal
Archive of Maarssen.334 On the basis of these registers for the end of the period of study in this thesis,
we can trace the holders of the land in Maarssen and we trace their tenants. With the information
available however it has not been possible to recover for all agents in control of land whether they had
the land in property or whether they held it in fief. Evidently at any rate in the sixteenth century in
Maarssen the manorial system had been replaced by a leasing system of exploitation of the land, since
all land in the registers is let out on lease. Landowners as mentioned above usually averted the tax on
their tenants; „not the proprietors of land, but the consumers [the tenants] had to produce the tax sum,
so the nobility and clergy did not suffer financial disadvantages from this tax [„morgengeld‟]‟ 335.


331
    Rientjes, „De ridderhofstad Bolestein‟ 7; Smits, „Bolenstein‟ 75.
332
    Rientjes, „De ridderhofstad Bolestein‟ 7, 9-10; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 143-144; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen
aan de Vecht 44.
333
    Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 46; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 13-14.
334
    The Municipal Archive of Maarssen stores several lists describing the levying of the Oudeschild (see footnote
304) levied in Maarssen between 1716 and 1755. Each list begins with a reference list of 1599, which
surprisingly contained two names at each parcel. Thorough study showed that the first row of names must date
from about 1540. That is beyond our period of research, and Maarssen then already was in the hands of Charles
V. However, the influence of the Burgundies on the distribution of land profoundly has been that they took over
the Episcopal property. Furthermore they did not redistribute rights to land or surplus. Thus I consider it valid to
state that for the late Middle Ages on the basis of these tax registers we can sketch distribution of land to all the
different agents that held land in fief from the bishop of Utrecht in Maarssen, and of the situation of lease.
Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35-38.
335
    Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10, see also: prov, „De staten‟ 251.


                                                                                                                108
Therefore we find both groups in the tax registers. Around 1540 of the 567 „morgen‟ land in
Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht the total amount of parcels was 131. 58 parcels composing 330 „morgen‟,
were in the hands of non-ecclesial institutions or private persons, which is 58 percent of the land in
Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht. Often it is unclear whether the land was held in fief or property. In due
course some of the initial beneficia were regarded as property.336 Where the literature clearly refers to
fiefs, I will mention this. In the other cases I will consider the landholders as proprietors. Of the non-
ecclesial landholders 52 names are known, but about many of these people no information is available
and most of them owned or held in fief small parcels. Yet we also find large landowners amongst the
non-ecclesial people controlling land in Maarssen, first of all the above mentioned residents of the
castles in Maarssen. Gijsbert van Vianen van Rijsenberg held 28 „morgen‟ in fief close to Ten Bosch
and 20 „morgen‟ connected to the castle of Snaafburg was leased by the lord of the castle, Johan
Grauwert, from the family Van Loenersloot. Jacob van Amerongen, lord of Ter Meer held the fief of
the castle Ter Meer of 3 „morgen‟. Also relatives of the castle lords are found to control land. Witte
mentions Jan de Bole, the former vassal of Bolenstein, who owned 12 „morgen‟, which were leased by
the tenant Egbert Dirxsz; Zoude van Rijn, related to Jacob van Amerongen, owned 28 „morgen‟ in
Maarssen. Besides the members of the „ridderschap‟, another non-ecclesial large landowner held land
in fief from the bishop; the town of Utrecht owned 17 „morgen‟, which it leased to a certain Jacob
Potten.337
      42 percent of these 131 parcels, 44 parcels composing 237 „morgen‟, were in the hands, the larger
part in property, of institutions connected to the church of Utrecht.338 From a „morgengeld‟ register of
1459 for Maarssen, Oostwaard, Maarsseveen and Maarssebroek a similar percentage of landownership
of ecclesial institutions emerged; 43 percent.339 This is a source of before 1528. The similar percentage
for the same region to my opinion indicates that indeed in the distribution of land not much had
changed between 1528 and 1540. According to the 'Oudeschild' registers, among the ecclesial
institutions in Maarssen eleven were connected to Utrecht, like the chapter of Sint Jan, the Teutonic
Order of Knights and the Buurchurch. From the „morgengeld‟ register of 1459 can be inferred that the
chapter of Sint Jan possessed 17 „morgen‟.340 About the land that the chapter of Sint Jan in its turn
leased is known that it demanded a life-long lease solely for the life of that particular tenant on at least
three of its parcels.341 Thus the tenants of Sint Jan did not enjoy a very favourable position. The nuns
of the convent van den Dael had 43.5 „morgen‟ spread over Maarssen and Maarssebroek in property,
the convent of Catherijne 54 „morgen‟ somewhere in Maarssen and Maarssebroek and the chapter of



336
    Information from notes of Witte.
337
    Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35-38; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10-13.
338
    Idem; Ibidem 35- 36, 38; Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 10, 12-13.
339
    Ibidem 10, 13.
340
    Ibidem 10.
341
    Information from notes of Witte; Witte, „Het „Oudt Schiltboucke‟ 35-38; About the property of the chapter of
Sint Jan, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 458 footnote 298.


                                                                                                            109
Sint Pieter possessed 38 „morgen‟ spread over Maarssen and Tienhoven.342 Of the ecclesial institutions
four were from Maarssen, such as the pastor and the sexton.
      Thus, on the basis of the scarce source material and tentative analysis of the available material we
can cautiously conclude that around 1528, the period we end our research, in Maarssen 112 „morgen‟
land was in the property of the convent of Oudwijk and 237 „morgen‟ generally in the property of
other ecclesial institutions. Thus 51 percent of land in Maarssen was in the hands of the church. The
bishop of Utrecht gave out in fief, which gradually could develop into property, 91 „morgen‟ land to
lords of castles and their family, which is 13 percent of Maarssen. 17 „morgen‟ was in the property of
the burgers of Utrecht and 222 „morgen‟ was given out to non-ecclesial persons whose identity is not
known to us. Thus 35 percent was in the hands, in fief or property is unclear, of unknown individuals.
The bishop of Utrecht probably officially remained an important proprietor of land in Maarssen, since
much of the land remained Episcopal fiefs. The land of these landowners or holders of fiefs generally
was farmed out.
      The distribution of surplus-extraction of the land is less complicated to survey. As we have seen,
since the reclamation period the convent of Oudwijk could levy tithes (and possible rents) in the
jurisdiction Oostwaard.343 The family Van Maarssen lost the Allemanstiend, the Gulden Hoef and the
tithe on the western and eastern banks in the second half of the thirteenth century. The family Ter
Meer, possibly linked to the family Van Maarssen, at any rate from 1394 held the residence Ter Meer
in feud of the bishop of Utrecht, and took over the fiefs connected to it; the 3 „morgen‟ of land around
Ter Meer, the Gulden Hoef tithe and tithe of the old land in Maarssen on both sides of the river
Vecht.344 What happened to the Allemanstiend is not clear to me. The rents fell to the holders of fiefs
or property that were let out on lease. Thus the bishop in Maarssen only through his general land tax
could extract surplus from the land.
      Concluding, not much is known about the distribution of land and surpluses or about the
exploitation of land in Maarssen during the period of the Great Reclamations. From the available
information we can gather that the idea of dissolution of the manorial system in this period is partially
tenable. Of the approximately 679 „morgen‟ land in Maarssen the bishops of Utrecht merely
redistributed 112 „morgen‟ to the convent of Oudwijk and gave 5 „morgen‟ land as a beneficium to
their ministeriales Van Maarssen, plausibly descendants of the villicus who managed the curtis in
Maarssen. Connected to this land the bishops included the right to levy tithes. A modest redistribution
thus took place in the eleventh and twelfth century. As for the generally accepted idea that the new
society that developed in the reclamation regions swiftly and profoundly altered society on the old
land in Maarssen few indications are found. The only information I have been able to find are
Buitelaar‟s data from which showed that elements of the manorial system, such as the position of

342
    Smits, „Morgengeld‟ 12.
343
    Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 46; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 268, 270-272.
344
    Ibidem 268, 270-272; Van Maanen, „Een curtis in Maarssen?‟ 45; Van Maanen, „Meerenhofstede 1396-1831‟
8.


                                                                                                     110
mancipia and the obligation of paying „stroyelgeld‟, did not vanish during the eleventh and twelfth
century. Not until the thirteenth century and in fact in abundance in the sixteenth century I have been
able to find information that describes a system of exploitation of land in Maarssen in which land is
leased to free tenants. Thus it is possible that the classical manorial form of exploitation of the land
diminished during the reclamations and was replaced by a system of land rent and personal freedom
for peasants, but anyway this was no swift transition. This is most likely, considering comparable
findings of C. Dekker for the Kromme Rijn region mentioned before, where manorial institutions also
persisted into the fourteenth century.
    From the thirteenth century onwards, the bishops of Utrecht as a landlord gave out their property
in Maarssen on a larger scale. Connected to 4 castles, in total 7 to 7.5 percent of land in Maarssen was
given out in fief to ministeriales of the bishops or loyal prominents of Utrecht. These castles were in
control of the bishops. The ministeriales Van Maarssen, Ter Meer, Van Loenersloot and Ten Bosch
and the independent families of Van IJsselstijn, Grouwert and De Bole were loyal to the bishop of
Utrecht. Only Bolenstein fell in 1444 in the hands of the untrustworthy family Van Nijenrode.
However, Bolestein was a rather insignificant castle with as far as is know no land connected to it.
Around 1528 13 percent of Maarssen was held in fief, which along gradual lines could have developed
into property, by chatelaines or their relatives, 51 percent in property of ecclesial institutions, and 35
percent was in the hands, in fief or property is unclear, of unknown individuals.
From the limited information available so far about the distribution of land in Maarssen, I conclude
that the influence attributed to castles on society on the old land along the river Vecht from these facts
seems rather limited. When compared to the amounts of land held by the bishops, other ecclesial
institutions such as chapters, or the group of small unknown landholders, castles occupied little land.
Only Ter Meer could collect surplus from tithes. More influential seem to have been the convent of
Oudwijk for example.
    At the time of the tax registers the land of these landowners or holders of fiefs generally was
farmed out. At any rate in the sixteenth century in Maarssen land was no longer exploited according to
the classical manorial system. However, again society does not seem to have changed radically.
Although the bishop obviously had not seen the opportunity to remain the most important profiteer of
land and the income from land, he remained thoroughly influential in Maarssen. Much of the land was
Episcopal fiefs and 51 percent of the land was property of ecclesial institutions that indirectly were
part of the bishops‟ church of Utrecht, such as convents and chapters. The „ridderschap‟ improved its
position in Maarssen, but actually this was nothing new either. The influential family Van Maarssen
for example plausibly was related to the villicus that resided in Maarssen and family Ter Meer is likely
to have been connected to the family Van Maarssen. Thus the rights to land and surplus of these
families were simply a continuation of privileges of old in the hands of the same agents. Likewise, the
nuns of the prosperous convent Oudwijk were women from the elite. The property of land and the
income from surplus from the land thus remained in the hands of large landowners well until 1528


                                                                                                     111
when we end our research, landowners who enjoyed that position already as early as around the tenth
century. Although at any rate by the sixteenth century in Maarssen peasants were no longer forced to
work a landlord‟s manor, but could now rent a piece of land, still they did not own their land. In
Maarssen for the convent of Oudwijk and the chapter of Sint Jan we can even conclude that they had a
strong grip on their tenants. For Maarssen it seems that there was no radical change in the strong
control over land and surpluses of the elite throughout our period of research.



Breukelen
      As we have seen above, until about the moment the Great Reclamation land in Breukelen was in
the hands of the bishop of Utrecht. Not much sources on Breukelen in the Middle Ages survive and
again the literature available is scattered, predominantly oriented towards subfields in Breukelen. In
the following the available information is put together.
      In connection with the reclamations, in the eleventh century, the bishop endowed two of his
chapters and gave out goods in fief to ministeriales. First of all he donated the 12 „morgen‟ of land that
used to be in the property of the convent of Werden situated at the border with Breukelerwaard,
together with the lower jurisdiction, to the chapter of Sint Marie shortly after its foundation.345
Secondly the chapter of Sint Pieter was endowed after its foundation with goods; plausibly before long
after 1048 the bishop donated the land and the lower jurisdiction over the old land on the west bank of
the river Vecht called Otterspoor and over the bishop‟s possessions on the east bank of Breukelen,
together named Breukelen-Proosdijgerecht van Sint Pieter. This jurisdiction at any rate in 1139 is
mentioned in the property of the chapter of Sint Pieter. Unfortunately the size of the jurisdictions
Breukelen-Bisshopsgerecht and Breukelen-Proosdijgerecht van Sint Pieter is not known. However,
with the knowledge at the back of our minds that the surface area of the jurisdiction Oostwaard was
112 „morgen‟, comparing the jurisdictions Oostwaard and Breukelen-Bisshopsgerecht looking at
figure 6 we can conclude that the bishop‟s jurisdiction was approximately twice as big as Oostwaard.
A rough estimation of the size of Breukelen-Bisshopsgerecht would thus be 224 „morgen‟. In a similar
comparison, the jurisdiction of Sint Pieter was about trice as big as Oostwaard, thus roughly 336
„morgen‟ in size.
      Thirdly, in his old curtis, from the eleventh century called Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht, the bishop
distributed more of his property. When the reclamations took off, so around the twelfth century, the
bishop gave out the low jurisdiction of Broeklede buitendycks (Breukelen Ronde Dorp, where




345
    This donation probably can be explained by the fact that the chapter of Sint Marie was considered as the heir
of the convent of Werden. The chapter of Sint Marie was founded in 1084, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 216-217.


                                                                                                              112
nowadays the old village of Breukelen is situated346) and of scattered parts of territory in Breukelen-
Bisshopsgerecht in fief to his ministeriales Van der Poel or Van Dolre in return for their services in the
reclamations. On the basis of Episcopal registers of fiefs it can be traced that five pieces of land
including the tithes, amongst which the Westenge tithe and the Evenaars tithe, were held in fief by
these old ministeriales families Van Dolre or Van der Poel, descending from the villicus that before
about 1050 managed the curtis.347 Striking about these scattered fiefs is their size. „Together [these
mini-jurisdictions constituted] hardly a fraction of the bishop‟s jurisdiction (…)‟348 They were so small
that an effective exercise of jurisdiction must have been impossible. C. Dekker has found similar
small-scale fiefs on the old land in the Kromme Rijn region. He supposes that these mini-jurisdictions
in fact were not meant as areas in which the bishop needed assistance in the administration of the
jurisdiction, like in the reclamation areas where the ministeriales functioned as locatores. According
to C. Dekker these mini-jurisdictions must be considered as donations to the bishop‟s servants, as a
lucrative bonus for the ministeriales. Not only did they receive the lower jurisdiction in fief, which
included the right to levy the rent and the tithe, but actually „the property of the land in the mini-
jurisdictions concerned fell to the vassals.‟349 Since these mini-jurisdictions were actually property of
the ministeriales, they on their part could sell it or give out as fiefs to a third party. Double or triple
enfeoffing was a frequent phenomenon in these mini-jurisdictions. Over the mini-jurisdictions no
taxes needed to be paid. Buitelaar considers the small jurisdictions in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht the
bishop gave in fief to the ministeriales families Van Dolre and Van der Poel to be mini-jurisdictions,
and thus the fiefs moreover as property of the ministeriales.350
      It is not known how, but between 1298 and 1372 these mini-jurisdictions, these Episcopal fiefs
that were actually property, fell in the hands of the family Van Vianen. This was not a family of
ministeriales, but an old and independent family of vassals that descended from the noble family Van
Goye. It regularly opposed the bishop in conflicts, for example in the war in Het Sticht of 1353-
1355.351 This family on its part acted as a landlord gave it out in fief to members of the family Van
Nijenrode, which we will meet in the following. The bishops of Utrecht did not reclaim their fiefs,
although the family Van Vianen was no ally. In 1397 for example Otto van Nijenrode still held in fief
the Westenge tithe, on the western bank of the river Vecht in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht, from
Hendrik van Vianen. Van Nijenrode plausibly let out the land on lease. Otto van Nijenrode at any rate

346
    For the precise location of these mini-jurisdictions, see: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 220-222; See
also A.A. Manten, „Dijkaanleg om het Ronde Dorp van Breukelen‟ 25; Idem, „Het ronde dorp van Breukelen
buitendijks‟ 34, 35, 36.
347
    These five pieces of land were part of a larger complex. The rest of the fief however was situated in the
reclamation areas, not on the old land. For the precise location of these mini-jurisdictions, see: Buitelaar, De
Stichtse ministerialiteit 220-222; See also: Manten, „Dijkaanleg om het Ronde Dorp‟ 25; Idem, „Het ronde dorp
van Breukelen‟ 34, 35, 36.
348
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 221.
349
    Quote, see: Ibidem 222; For Dekkers findings on mini-jurisdictions in the Kromme Rijn region, see: C.
Dekker, Kromme Rijngebied 192-193, 219,222, 568-578.
350
    Ibidem 218, 221-223.
351
    Postma, Nijenrode 16; Olde Meireink, Kastelen 12, 14, 201, 203-204, 219, 389.


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in 1397 leased twenty farms in Breukelen Ronde Dorp he had in fief from the family Van Vianen to
simple peasants.352 Thus income from surplus-extraction in the form of the tithe and from rents of the
land they had given out in lease fell to the family van Nijenrode.
      The bishop distributed more of his property in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht, which too soon fell
outside of Episcopal influence. An influential family, originally ministeriales of the bishops of
Utrecht, was donated 4 „morgen‟ of land. Around 1275 Gerard Splinter van Ruwiel, ministerialis and
lord of castle Ruwiel on the bank of the Aa-Angstel, founded the castle of Nijenrode on this allodium
of 4 „morgen‟. The function of the castle is explicitly mentioned to be able to have an extent of control
over the trade over the river Vecht, since the Vecht region saw an economic revival in the thirteenth
century as has been discussed. Thus, although not much land was involved, the castle was important.
Soon this castle and the land in the bishop‟s own jurisdiction however fell out of his sphere of
influence. Van Ruwiel already had an affinity with Holland, and thereupon Gijsbrecht van Nijenrode
in 1311 dedicated his castle and 4 „morgen‟ to count Willem III of Holland. From that moment on
Nijenrode became a fief of the counts of Holland and functioned as a base of operation for Holland in
times of battle. „In general the lords Van Nijenrode remain allied to Holland and in accordance with
the coincidental policy of that province repeatedly battled with or against the bishop of Utrecht.‟ 353 As
such Nijenrode suffered from a violent history of struggle with many bishops of Utrecht. In 1311 for
example the castle was attacked by bishop Van Mechelen as a reprimand for the family‟s disloyalty.
Van Nijenrode developed into a very powerful family, which collected an increasing amount of
scattered property along the river Vecht354; a good example of ministeriales who became players to
take into account for the bishops of Utrecht. Other attacks from Utrecht as a reprimand for its support
of Holland are mentioned in the sources in 1467, 1481, 1507 and 1511.355 The family resided in its
castle until 1537.356 Thus, in his own Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht, the bishop of Utrecht had lost
control over 4 „morgen‟ of land to the family Van Nijenrode and the counts of Holland. This family
Van Nijenrode also held one parcel of 4 „hont‟ and 5 „akkers‟ (together about 1 „morgen‟) somewhere
else in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht as Buitelaar extracted from lists of 1311, 1430-1455 with parcel
descriptions in enfeoffments of the castle Nijenrode.357



352
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 123, 123 footnote 97, 218-220, 222 footnote 289, 223 footnote 293;
Postma, Nijenrode 16.
353
    Postma, Nijenrode 6. See also: Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 21 footnote 278.
354
    For example, as we have seen above, in 1444 the castle of Bolenstein in Maarssen came in the hands of the
family Van Nijenrode, it bought Gunterstein in 1500 as we will see below and for 1444 we find that the family
had had collected land in the southern part of Zwesereng as well. See: Smits, „Bolenstein‟ 75; Rientjes, „De
ridderhofstad Bolestein‟ 9.
355
    Postma, Nijenrode, 5-6, 10-20; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 67; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 86;
Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 14-15.
356
    Postma, Nijenrode 5-6.
357
    Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 103; A „hont‟ as a square measure is a sixth of a „morgen‟, see: Idem,
„Turfwinning in het Nedersticht vóór 1530. Beheerst gebruik van onontgonnen veen‟, Tijdschrift voor
Waterstaatsgeschiedenis vol.5 (1996) 93. An „akker‟ is 0.05 hectares, thus 0.06 „morgen‟.


                                                                                                               114
      Although we are not dealing with huge amounts of land, it is striking that the bishops of Utrecht
around the end of the thirteenth century first of all permitted an independent noble family laying hands
on the mini-jurisdictions who subsequently acted as a landlord and collected their tithe, second of all
put up with the family Van Nijenrode which collaborated with the bishops‟ opponents and third of all
tolerated Nijenrode, a fief of Holland on their own territory of Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht.
      Besides land in the bishops‟ jurisdiction, also in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter land
was redistributed. First of all, apparently the bishop still had a say over the land in Breukelen-
Proosdijgerecht van Sint Pieter, since he gave out quite a fief in this jurisdiction on which the castle
Oudaen was erected. Oudaen was founded in 1280, so in about the same period as Nijenrode, by the
ministeriales Van Loenersloot. Connected to the fief of the castle Oudaen, inferred from enfeoffments,
were 26 „morgen‟ in 1394, 41 „morgen‟ in 1441 and 45 „morgen‟ in 1495. This land plausibly was
usually given out in lease; for 1441 is found that all the land was leased to a certain Johan
Willemszoon.358 Still, since Oudaen was situated in Breukelen-Proosdijgerecht van Sint Pieter, the
lords of Oudaen had to hand over rent and tithe to the chapter of Sint Pieter.359
      The family Van Oudaen was member of the Utrecht patriciate and loyal servants of the bishop of
Utrecht. Many charters survive that confirm this fief to be enfeoffed the lords of Oudaen in return for
their oath of loyalty. For example, around 1400 Zweder van Loenersloot, lord of Oudaen, is mentioned
to be pawned with the castle and 26 „morgen‟ land by bishop Frederik van Blankenheim. Many family
members took important positions in the political arena of the town of Utrecht; Zweder van
Loenersloot for example was major of Utrecht in 1409 and Dirck Taets van Oudaen subsequently in
1418. On the river Vecht banks this family however had less influence then the families residing on
Gunterstein and Nijenrode.360 The function of the castle explicitly was to be able to exert influence
over the economically interesting trade route of the river Vecht.361 After 1451 the name Oudaen
disappears from the sources. Another influential family from Utrecht, Van Drakenburch, resided in the
castle.362 Thus a castle with impressive amounts of land on an Episcopal fief was loyal to the bishop,
but however did not have much influence in the Vecht region.
      Secondly, in another part of Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter a castle was situated,
Gunterstein. It was erected 1.5 kilometers from the Weersloot that formed the border between Het
Sticht and Holland. The surface area of the land connected to the castle was not very large; it could
house the castle, a farmstead and an orchard.363 The oldest written information on Gunterstein is an
enfeoffment of 1386 in which lady Nelle Gijsbrecht Guntersdochter is enfeoffed by the family Van
Beieren, counts of Holland. It was a continuation of the fief her father, Gijsbrecht Gunter, held.

358
    Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 18-20; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 351.
359
    Dukes-Greup,Oudaen 18-20; Manten,‟Breukelen aan de oostelijke Vechtoever‟ 17.
360
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 351; Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 18-20.
361
    Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 10, 12, 14-16; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 82; Olde Meierink, Kastelen
351; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 65.
362
    Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 32.
363
    Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 96; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 212-213.


                                                                                                     115
Therefore I consider the idea in the literature that the castle was established on an earlier date by
Gijsbrecht Gunter is not unfounded. Most likely it was erected around 1344 on an allodium in
Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter held by Gijsbrecht‟s wife, Hillegond van Rijn.364 Plausibly
it initially was a fief of the ministeriales family Van Amstel that after the murder of count Floris V in
1296 forfeited to the counts of Holland.365 The family Gunter was famous in politics in Het Sticht. The
family Van Rijn, comparable with the family Van Zuilen, was one of those families of ministeriales
who had gained enormous political influence in Het Sticht but regularly flirted with the counts of
Holland.366 The allodium was plausibly dedicated to the counts of Holland and received back as a fief.
Holding a fief from Holland and being connected with a Holland-oriented family, I consider it not
surprising that when Gijsbrecht Gunter appears in the sources (in 1344), he was dismissed from the
Council of Utrecht, since he had become a vassal of the count of Holland.367 Gunterstein remained
loyal to Holland and count Willem IV of Holland in 1415 donated the domain as an allodium to the
heir of Gunterstein, Elsabee van Loenersloot. In 1500 the castle was bought by the family Van
Nijenrode, loyal supporters of the counts of Holland as has been shown above.368 However, „[i]n 1511
the House was taken by surprise and taken down by “those from Utrecht”. According to data in the
municipal archive of Utrecht 86 men worked for 4 days on the demolition of the castles Gunterstein
and Nijenrode. The stones were used for the reinforcement of the town ramparts.‟369
      Thus also in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter land had been given out. 26 to 45
„morgen‟ of this distributed land was a fief of a benevolent castle-holder and thus remained in the
sphere of influence of the church of Utrecht, but Gunterstein impudently was a fief from Holland. In
Sint Pieter‟s jurisdiction however the chapter remained the largest landowner of the 336 „morgen‟.
      Besides land, the income of surplus from land was also redistributed in Breukelen. The bishops of
Utrecht relinquished the levying of the tithe with the donation of the lower jurisdiction to the chapters
of Sint Marie and Sint Pieter in their jurisdictions. In Breukelen-Bisshopsgerecht the bishop had given
out in fief the low jurisdiction, thus the tithe, of Breukelen Ronde Dorp, and had „donated‟ the tithe in
the mini-jurisdictions to his ministerales Van der Poel or Van Dolre, in the late thirteenth century
taken over by the family Van Vianen. The chapter of Sint Pieter however lost the tithe of Otterspoor,
levied in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter on the west bank of the jurisdiction, in 1360 to the
family Van Nijenrode. Gijsbrecht van Nijenrode in this year won a juridical conflict over the tithe
between him and the chapter of Sint Pieter and was able to lease the tithe of Otterspoor of the chapter
of Sint Pieter. In return the family had to pay certain obligations, which I cannot retrieve, to the


364
    L.A. Quarles van Ufford, Gunterstein. Een ridderhofstad aan de Vecht (Breukelen, 1970) 9; Olde Meierink,
Kastelen 212-213; Munnig Schmidt, Plaatsen aan de Vecht 96.
365
    Idem; Quarles van Ufford, Gunterstein 9-10.
366
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 14, 212-213, 385.
367
    Ibidem 212-213; Quarles van Ufford, Gunterstein 9.
368
    Ibidem 10-11; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 212-213;
http://www.histkringbreukelen.nl/geschiedkundig/kastelen.htm.
369
    Quarles van Ufford, Gunterstein 10-11.


                                                                                                         116
chapter. When the family would be in default, a family member or guarantors such as the family Van
Loenersloot or Oudaen, would have to voluntarily be held hostage. Several years after the deal indeed
the family refused to pay, but refused to be taken into hostage as well. The chapter however could do
nothing and lost income from the Otterspoor tithe to Van Nijenrode.370 Concluding, important tax
authorities in Breukelen were the chapter of Sint Marie and moreover Sint Pieter. From 1360 the
family Van Nijenrode must be considered as such too, collecting the Otterspoor tithe and the tithe in
the mini-jurisdictions. Yet the largest part of income from surplus in Breukelen still was in the hands
of the bishops of Utrecht. Apart from the mini-jurisdictions and Breukelen Ronde Dorp, they levied
the tithe in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht. Above all, they could levy general taxes.
      About the possible dissolution of the manorial system not much is known for Breukelen. I have
not been able to find information on how the land was exploited in the jurisdiction of the chapter of
Sint Marie, the part of Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht possessed by the bishop nor the part of Breukelen-
Proosdij van Sint Pieter possessed by the chapter. For the part of Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht in the
property of the family Van Nijenrode, it is probable that it farmed out its property. Otto van Nijenrode
at any rate in 1397 leased twenty farms in Breukelen Ronde Dorp to peasants. How the ministeriales
families of Van der Poel or Van Dolre had exploited this land before it fell to the family Van
Nijenrode, I have not been able to find information on. We know that the lords of Oudaen let out their
land on lease; for 1441 is found that all the land was leased to a certain Johan Willemszoon. In order
to work the land, this tenant of such a large surface area must have given it out in lease as well. What
happened to the land of Gunterstein is not possible to deduce from the available literature.
      On the basis of these scarce indications we can draw some cautious conclusions. Many similarities
exist between Breukelen and the rest of society on the land in the southern part of the course of the
river Vecht; as at any rate for Zwesereng and Maarssen, before the reclamations the banks of
Breukelen were plausibly owned by the bishops of Utrecht and organized in a manorial system from a
curtis, ministeriales and chapters were deployed in reclamations that were undertaken from the old
land in Breukelen, the bishops redistributed their land in Breukelen and created jurisdictions and
castles were erected. Therefore I consider it justifiable to assume that a similar structure of land
utilization existed in Breukelen. As we have seen, in Everiksdorp at any rate in the thirteenth century
and Maarssen in the sixteenth century for example the chapters of Sint Pieter and Sint Jan at any rate
had farmed out their land. Plausibly the bishop, both chapters and the ministeriales in Breukelen
exploited their land in the same way as happened elsewhere along the southern Vecht and like the
castle lords Van Oudaen and Van Nijenrode in Breukelen did. By the fifteenth century, plausibly
commencing this process when in the eleventh to twelfth century the reclamations took off, these
agents had given out their land in lease. I conclude that it is likely that also in Breukelen peasants for
the greater part became tenants who were not obligated to work the landlord‟s domain. The old

370
   Manten, Breukelen en omgeving 196, 257-263, 293-295; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 97-99, 220
footnote 282; Dukes-Greup, Oudaen 18.


                                                                                                             117
manorial structure thus had dissolved. At this place I want to refer to Buitelaar‟s findings again that
nuance the idea that a whole new society developed in the period of the great reclamations. As has
been shown above, he found first of all that along the river Vecht even in the thirteenth century, apart
from ministeriales, people resided who were bound to the bishop, in the reclamation regions as well as
on the old land. Second of all he found that peasants in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht and Breukelen-
Proosdij van Sint Pieter even in the late Middle Ages had to pay the remnants of corvee, „stroyelgeld‟.
Thus for Breukelen the idea that during the great reclamations the relationships in society radically
changed cannot be upheld.
    In brief, Breukelen seems to be no exception in the southern part of the Vecht region when it
comes to the dissolution of the manorial system and the redistribution and restructuring of the bishop‟s
property. The bishops distributed land to two of his chapters and to his ministeriales. The chapter of
Sint Marie was endowed with exactly 12 „morgen‟ and the chapter of Sint Pieter with roughly 336
„morgen‟. What happened with the land in possession of the chapter of Sint Marie I have not been able
to retrieve. The bishops and the chapter of Sint Pieter reorganized their land even further. From the old
curtis, from the eleventh century called Breukelen-Bisshopsgerecht, the bishops around the twelfth
century gave out the low jurisdiction and land of five scattered parts of territory in Breukelen-
Bisshopsgerecht as mini-jurisdictions „in property‟ to his ministerales Van der Poel or Van Dolre in
return for their services in the reclamations. In the jurisdiction of Sint Pieter the surface of land that at
a later date is said to could house a castle, a farmstead and an orchard was redistributed. Initially the
chapter had plausibly enfeoffed their ministeriales Van Amstel with this land, but after 1296 it fell to
the counts of Holland.
    The income from surplus was redistributed too. The bishops renounced the lower jurisdiction and
thereupon the tithe in the jurisdictions they had donated to the chapters of Sint Marie and Sint Pieter.
They also „donated‟ the low jurisdiction, thus the tithe, in the mini-jurisdictions to the ministerales
Van der Poel or Van Dolre in return for their services in the reclamations. These families also held in
fief the low jurisdiction of Breukelen Ronde Dorp. However, the largest part of income from surplus
in Breukelen still was in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht. Apart from the mini-jurisdictions and
Breukelen Ronde Dorp, they levied the tithe in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht and could moreover levy
general taxes. The generally accepted idea that a redistribution of rights and land took place during the
reclamations of the peat soil on either side of the river Vecht for Breukelen is correct.
    About the exploitation of land after the reclamations I have not been able to find much. In
correspondence with the data we found on the land of Van Oudaen and Van Nijenrode and for the rest
of the regions in the southern part of the river Vecht, I conclude that it is likely that land in Breukelen
in the fifteenth century is at any rate let out on lease. The dissolution of the manorial system however,
unlike predominantly assumed, was a gradual process. Also for Breukelen goes that up to the
thirteenth century stroyelgeld was levied and that in its surroundings mancipia resided. Besides, again
I want to pose the question if we must consider the introduction of personal freedom and the leasing


                                                                                                        118
system as the form of land exploitation to be a profound change in society, when tenants could still not
posses their land. Their situation does not seem to have improved much. In order to use land they now
besides the tithe and „stroyelgeld‟ had to pay rents and general taxes.
    The share of castles in the distribution of land and surplus-extraction needs to be discussed. From
the late thirteenth century a striking development took place in Breukelen. The bishops as well as the
chapter of Sint Pieter lost control over fiefs on their territory. The 4 „morgen‟ that are connected to the
castle Nijenrode that the bishop donated to his initially loyal ministeriales Van Ruwiel became a fief
of the counts of Holland. This family, which appeared to be supporters of Holland, gained more
influence when the independent family of Van Vianen was able to lay hands on the mini-jurisdictions
in the bishop‟s jurisdiction and subsequently as a landlord enfeoffed the family Van Nijenrode with it.
Thus Van Nijenrode possessed the land and the tithe in the mini-jurisdictions and the tithe of
Breukelen Ronde Dorp. It also held one parcel of 4 „hont‟ and 5 „akkers‟ in Breukelen-
Bisschopsgerecht. In Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter the chapter lost the land on which
Gunterstein would be built to Holland and the family Van Rijn and from at any rate 1344 had to
tolerate a castle loyal to Holland. The only castle loyal to the bishops of Utrecht in Breukelen thus was
Oudaen, built on a fief from the bishops of 26 to 45 „morgen‟ in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint
Pieter. On top of this all, from 1360 the family Van Nijenrode took over the Otterspoor tithe from the
chapter. As for Zuilen, we can conclude from this reorganisation of land and surplus-extraction in
Breukelen that a shift of power within the elite occurred. The bishops of Utrecht apparently were not
in the position to diminish hostile influence on their own territory and regain their land and rights from
disloyal ministeriales and the counts of Holland. The power of the family Van Nijenrode was large,
controlling the tithe of Otterspoor, the mini-jurisdictions in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht, the castles
Bolenstein in Maarssen from 1444, Nijenrode, and Gunterstein from 1500. In the beginning of the
sixteenth century however the bishops of Utrecht seem to have recovered their powers; they were able
to overthrow Van Nijenrode‟s property Gunterstein and Nijenrode and thus restricted the power of the
family Van Nijenrode.
    All the same, the changes connected to the emergences of castles were not too profound. The
largest landowners and profiteers of income from surplus from the land after the restructuring taking
place after the reclamations remained the bishops of Utrecht and the chapter of Sint Pieter. Of their
estimated 224 „morgen‟ land in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht the bishops merely did not possess the
mini-jurisdictions, the 4 „morgen‟ connected to Nijenrode and another parcel of about 1 „morgen‟ in
the possession of Van Nijenrode. The chapter of Sint Pieter possessed the largest part of their deemed
336 „morgen‟; 26 to 45 „morgen‟ land was given out in fief to Oudaen and only the soil of Gunterstein,
indefinable but limited in size was out of their control. Castles thus only held in fief around 1/45 part
of Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht and between 1/12 and 1/7 part (if we assume that the surface
connected to Gunterstein was about 3 „morgen‟) in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter. Of the




                                                                                                      119
entire surface area of Breukelen, including the property of the chapter of Sint Marie of 12 „morgen‟,
the share of land of castles in Breukelen thus was between 1/17 and 1/11 part.




3.3 Conclusion
    Paragraph 3.2 discussed the distribution of the property of land and income from revenues from
land on the old land on the banks of the southern part of the river Vecht during and after the Great
Reclamations. Operating the scattered literature that analyses the scarce source material for this region,
I must conclude that the generally accepted assumption that the (as I have substantiated contrary to
what is generally thought, classical) manorial system dissolved during the large scale reclamations of
the peat bogs east and west of the river Vecht of the second half of the eleventh until the second half of
the thirteenth century, does merely partially correspond with the data found in the literature. The first
idea that the weakening of the manorial system of land exploitation involved a restructuring of the
property of land and income through surplus-extraction does not apply for all four areas inquired into
in this thesis. In Everiksdorp neither the 90 „morgen‟ nor the income from surpluses from land in
Everiksdorp that the chapter of Sint Jan had received as part of its dos were redistributed in the period
of the Great Reclamations. In Zwesereng likewise as far as I have been able to work out in this period
neither land nor rights were redistributed. Until the thirteenth century the two curtes in Zwesereng and
the surpluses collected from them remained in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht and the convent of
Egmond. In Maarssen the bishops of Utrecht remained landlord of most of their roughly 679
„morgen‟, except for the 5 „morgen‟ land they gave out in fief to the ministeriales family Van
Maarssen and the 112 „morgen‟ they sold to the convent of Oudwijk in 1200. Surplus-extraction in
Maarssen however was indeed for the greater part redistributed. The sale of land to Oudwijk included
the property of surplus-extraction. Moreover, until the second half of the thirteenth century the
ministeriales family Van Maarssen held the tithes Allemanstiend, the Gulden Hoef, and the tithe on
the western and eastern banks of the river Vecht, which covered the larger part of the tithes in
Maarssen. In Breukelen a considerable redistribution of both land and surplus-extraction took place in
the eleventh and twelfth century, confirming the generally accepted view. The bishops distributed
around two-third of their land to two of their chapters and to ministeriales; the chapter of Sint Marie
was endowed with exactly 12 „morgen‟ and the chapter of Sint Pieter with roughly 336 „morgen‟. Of
the 224 „morgen‟ land that remained in their hands, the bishops „donated‟ five scattered small pieces
to the ministeriales Van der Poel or Van Dolre as a mini-jurisdiction. The chapter of Sint Pieter might
have also distributed a part of its property during the eleventh and twelfth century. Plausibly it gave
out in fief the land on which around 1344 the castle of Gunterstein was erected to the ministeriales
Van Amstel. About the land in property of the chapter of Sint Marie nothing is known. The income
from surplus in Breukelen was partly redistributed as well. The bishops renounced the lower



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jurisdiction and thereupon the tithe in the jurisdictions they had donated to the chapters of Sint Marie
and Sint Pieter and in the mini-jurisdictions to the ministerales Van der Poel or Van Dolre. The
ministeriales also held in fief the low jurisdiction and thus the tithe of Breukelen Ronde Dorp.
Generally a redistribution of land and surpluses had thus taken place in Breukelen, but the bishops did
preserve some land and surpluses. The largest part of land and income from surplus in Breukelen-
Bisschopsgerecht still was in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht. Apart from the mini-jurisdictions
and Breukelen Ronde Dorp, they levied the tithe in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht.
    As regards the first premise of the general opinion that the manorial system dissolved during the
Great Reclamations, we can conclude that of a profound redistribution of the property of surplus-
extraction and land on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht during the
reclamations of the peat soil on either side of the river is no matter. Redistribution is only found for
Breukelen and concerning the income from the surplus from land in Maarssen, but furthermore in
Maarssen changed little and in Zuilen and Everiksdorp nothing.
    A modest shift did take place during the eleventh and twelfth century within the group of large
landowners and collectors of surplus along the river Vecht. Until the large-scale reclamations of the
peat bogs, the bishops of Utrecht were almost the sole landlord, besides the chapter of Sint Jan and the
convents of Werden and subsequently Egmond. In order to stimulate and reward the reclamation
activities of the chapters, convents and ministeriales, the bishops gave out land and rights to levy
charges to them and thus lost their well nigh monopoly position. Other large landowners and collectors
of revenues from surplus, became the chapter of Sint Jan which remained the proprietor of all land and
income from the tithe, manorial rents and possible rents in Everiksdorp, that of Sint Pieter in
Breukelen which gained land and the Otterspoor tithe and to a lesser extent the chapter of Sint Marie,
and the convents of Egmond and Oudwijk who respectively preserved their property in Zwesereng and
gained land and rights to surplus-extraction in Maarssen. The ministeriales Van Maarssen held modest
pieces of land they had received as beneficia in fief and the bulk of the tithes in Maarssen, and the
ministeriales Van Dolre of Van der Poel in Breukelen held modest mini-jurisdictions and the tithe of
Breukelen Ronde Dorp. Chapters, convents and ministeriales profited from the changes in the eleventh
and twelfth century, but the bishops of Utrecht eventually remained the largest proprietors of land but
also of the largest income from surplus-extraction, since they possessed the right to levy the entreaty.
    The second aspect of the general opinion, that inspired by the new relationships in society on the
new land, the manorial relationships on the river banks of the river Vecht disappeared, on the basis of
the available literature also needs nuancing. For the old land along the river Vecht, thus plausibly valid
for all four areas inquired into in this chapter, Buitelaar found remnants of the (classical) manorial
system even in the period well after the Great Reclamations. Firstly the existence of mancipia still had
not vanished. He found that in the beginning of the fourteenth century the bishop still owned peasant-
ministeriales in the reclamation areas and on the old land. Buitelaar mentions sources that refer to
mancipia inhabited the old land of Abcoude. Mancipia are also a group that is discussed in the


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fourteenth-century Codex of justice of the Dom church of Utrecht by Hugo Wstick. These bound
servants cannot be considered as simply a relic of the past, but remained a living institution. Mancipia
must have remained very important to the bishops, for we have seen that the bishop negotiated in
length with the count of Holland about the possession of these people. Personal freedom for tenants
apparently had not been implemented everywhere. Also the manorial institution of corvee, in the shape
of the levy „stroyelgeld‟ that was part of corvee, survived well into the thirteenth century and in our
region was levied in Zwesereng and in the Bischops‟ jurisdicrtions in Maarssen and Breukelen. We
must mention however that in Palmboom's in-depth study of Everiksdorp neither mancipia nor
„stroyelgeld‟ or other indications of corvee turn up. Yet, this fact might be attributed to a lack of
surviving source material. For other property of the chapter of Sint Jan, the curtis in Balgooi that was
situated in the river region in which society plausibly shared common characteristics with the Kromme
Rijn region and the Vecht region, she did find indications of a classical organization. Also the
probability that this system was preserved in the rest of the Vecht region might indicate that it did not
vanish in Everiksdorp either, being situated along the southern course of the river Vecht. Palmboom
does not reject the possibility that land in Everiksdorp was organized according to the classical
manorial system. Thus unlike what is generally thought, in Zwesereng, Maarssen, Breukelen and
possibly Everiksdorp important characteristics of the (classical) manorial system, that is usually
looked upon as vanished under the influence of the new relationships on the new land, were still intact
after the period of reclamations.
    For all four areas we do not come across concrete evidence, such as leases, for a new system of
land exploitation, in which peasants received personal freedom and could rent land instead of
obligatory having to work the demesne or perform corvee, before 1233 or thereupon. In Everiksdorp
from the end of the thirteenth century the land was no longer directly exploited by the chapter of Sint
Jan, but 61.5 „morgen‟ was given out in lease (the oldest lease dating from 1292). According to
Palmboom a certain measure of manorial relationships persisted in Everiksdorp well into the
fourteenth century. For the chapter‟s property in Zwesereng we find the same system of exploitation
through lease from 1333, as well as for the land controlled by the chatelaines Van Zuilen in Zwesereng
and the lords of Ten Bosch in Maarssen from the end of the thirteenth century. From the fourteenth
century land is farmed out which was held by Van Nijenrode, in the fifteenth century which was held
by Oudaen in Breukelen, and in the sixteenth century all the land was let out on lease that had been
given out or donated by the bishops of Utrecht in Maarssen.
    It might be possible that this new system started to develop before we find it in the sources as is
generally assumed. For all four areas subject of this thesis I have encountered the problem that the
source material is scarce or not yet studied, and as a result little literature discusses the form of
exploitation of the land in the eleventh and twelfth century. Therefore it cannot convincingly be
condemned nor confirmed that the manorial relationships fundamentally altered in the eleventh and
twelfth century causing a redistribution of the property of land and income from surpluses and the


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abolition of manorial institutions such as bound peasants and landlord‟s rights to oblige his mancipia
to work his land or perform other duties. More indications nevertheless exist that undermine then
confirm the generally accepted view of changes in society during the Great Reclamations. First of all
the idea that along the river Vecht a profound redistribution of the bishops‟ property took place proved
to be untenable for the largest part of the region of this thesis; only in Breukelen this was the case. In
the literature on the four areas in the southern part of the river Vecht furthermore no references appear
that indicate the introduction of a new system of land exploitation in the eleventh and twelfth century.
Depending on the available literature the conclusion is more obvious that along the southern Vecht the
discontinuity in the structure of society was limited. The manorial system most probably only
gradually commenced transforming during the eleventh and twelfth century under influence of the
relationships in society on the new land. The structure of society for the larger part remained feudal,
split between the land and surplus owning elite and often bound and landless peasants. This conclusion
is buttressed by the fact that C. Dekker comes to the same conclusion for the old land along the
Kromme Rijn, a society to which that along the river Vecht resembled. In that region too remnants of
manorial institutions survived well into the fourteenth century.
    From the thirteenth century the bishops redistributed more of their property of land and rights to
surplus-extraction along the southern part of the river Vecht and lords of castles gained influence. In
Zwesereng in the thirteenth century the 32 „morgen‟ of the former bishops‟ curtis became an allodium
of the chapter of Sint Jan. On the allodium the chapter possessed the surplus-extraction and 16
„morgen‟ was even exempted from general taxes. The property of the convent of Egmond in
Zwesereng was bought by a certain Willem van den Steenhuis in 1261, which to my opinion
subsequently might be sold to the convent of Oostbroek. Of this property the convent gave out 35
„morgen‟ in fief to the ministeriales family Van Zuilen. The total surface area of Zwesereng has
proved impossible to retrieve, yet I have substantiated that this amount of land cannot have been more
then 1/14 part of Zwesereng. The bishops endowed the castle of Van Zuilen with the low jurisdiction
over Zwesereng. Thus the bishops of Utrecht in the thirteenth lost their position as prime proprietor of
land and rights to revenues in Zwesereng. The fact that until 1422 the bishops did neither retrieve the
low jurisdiction of Zwesereng from the families Van Zuilen and Van Gaasbeek nor were able to curtail
the control of the ministeriales Van Zuilen over quite an amount of land, while this family had a pact
with Holland since 1278, adds to the supposition that the Episcopal influence along the river Vecht
was declining.
    In Maarssen the bishops also lost property, since when the sources give us a view of the situation
in Maarssen in the sixteenth century, of the total amount of land in Maarssen 51 percent was in
property of ecclesial institutions such as the convent of Oudwijk, chapters and the Teutonic Order of
Knights. 35 percent was in the hands, whether in fief or in property is unclear, of unknown
individuals. 13 percent of Maarssen was held in fief, which by degrees could have developed into
property, by chatelaines or their relatives, of which 7 to 7.5 percent was actually connected as a fief to


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castles. The town of Utrecht also gained some land. Thus landed property for the largest part remained
in the hands of large landowners, the majority in property of the bishops or other institutions
connected to the church of Utrecht. Surplus-extraction until 1528 remained in the hands of the convent
of Oudwijk and the ministeriales family Van Maarssen and its successors Ter Meer. Only over a small
part of Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht the bishops could levy tithes. The rent from the tenants was
collected by the ecclesial institutions and the private persons, among whom were large landowners.
The bishops merely collected the general taxes.
    In Breukelen the bishops of Utrecht lost more influence from the thirteenth century. The family of
Nijenrode became servants of the counts of Holland, but the bishops were not able to stop their
growing influence in Breukelen. In the beginning of the sixteenth century the family controlled its fief
of 4 „morgen‟, land and surplus in the mini-jurisdictions and a parcel of about 1 „morgen‟ in
Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht. In Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter the family gained the tithe
of Otterspoor and the castle Gunterstein from 1500. From 1444 the family also controlled the castle
Bolenstein in Maarssen. The only castle loyal to the bishops of Utrecht in Breukelen was Oudaen,
built on a fief from the bishops of 26 to 45 „morgen‟ in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter.
The largest landowners and profiteers of surplus-extraction however in the end remained the bishops
of Utrecht and the chapter of Sint Pieter. Of their estimated 224 „morgen‟ land in Breukelen-
Bisschopsgerecht the bishops merely renounced roughly 1/45 part. The chapter of Sint Pieter
possessed the largest part of their deemed 336 „morgen‟; only 1/9 to 1/7 part (if we assume that the
surface connected to Gunterstein was about 3 „morgen‟) in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter
was held in fief by castles. On the part of Breukelen in possession of the chapter of Sint Marie no
castle was erected. Of the total surface area of Breukelen castles held 1/22 to 1/13 part of the land in
fief.
    In Everiksdorp the chapter of Sint Jan kept a firm grip on its 90 „morgen‟ land. In the thirteenth
century it gave out 28 „morgen‟ land in fief to the family Van Hogelanden, members of the
„ridderschap‟, and 61.5 „morgen‟ in lease to the family Uteneng. In the fourteenth century the fiefs
came in the hands of the family Uteneng and of a baker‟s family, but their position was feeble. Govert
Vasterzoon in 1316 lost a piece of his land to a warrant and when at the end of the fourteenth century
the chapter could arrange a more profitable contract with large landowners, the 28 „morgen‟ were let
out on hereditary lease to the Carthusian monks and the 61.5 „morgen‟ to the town of Utrecht. Surplus-
extraction remained in the hands of the chapters of Sint Jan, except for the general taxes of course. In
Everiksdorp no castles were erected.
    In short, from the thirteenth century the property of land and income from surpluses from the land
were redistributed further then in the reclamation period. The bishops of Utrecht renounced more of
their property in favour of mostly other institutions of the church of Utrecht such as the chapter of Sint
Jan and Sint Pieter and the convents of Oostbroek and Oudwijk. Also the town of Utrecht gained land.
At the end of the fourteenth century it controlled 61.5 „morgen‟ land in Everiksdorp and at any rate in


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the sixteenth century it held 17 „morgen‟ in Maarssen. Besides, members of the Utrecht patriciate, the
families Grauwert, de Bole, Oudaen and Gunter, became chatelaines of the castles Snaafburg,
Bolenstein, Oudaen and Gunterstein. Profiteers of the right to surplus-extraction were mentioned
ecclesial institutions and ministeriales in possession of a castle, such as the families Ter Meer, Van
Zuilen and Van Nijenrode.
       The idea that the erection of castles profoundly influenced the distribution of land along the river
Vecht does not apply for the southern part of the river Vecht. First of all, officially the chatelaines held
their land in fief, not in property and thus in fact did not affect the distribution of landed property.
However, often these fiefs in due time were considered as property. The fact that the bishops did not
retrieve their official property when ministeriales were disloyal supports this premise. It seems that the
bishops‟ influence in the southern part of the river Vecht diminished, considering their loss of land and
surplus-extraction and the inability to intervene in the self-willed behaviour of chatelaines and the
influence of Holland in Zuilen and Breukelen. The amount of land connected to castles nevertheless
was unpretentious. In Everiksdorp no castles existed. In Maarssen they held merely between 7 and 7.5
percent. Moreover, the bishops maintained influence on the land endowed to the chatelaines in
Maarssen. The ministeriales Van Maarssen, Ter Meer, Van Loenersloot and Ten Bosch and the
independent families of Van IJsselstijn, Grouwert and De Bole were loyal to the bishop of Utrecht.
Only Bolenstein fell in 1444 in the hands of the untrustworthy family Van Nijenrode. However,
Bolestein was a rather trivial castle with as far as is know no land connected to it.
       From the limited information available so far about the distribution of land in Maarssen, I
conclude that ecclesial institutions, for example the convent of Oudwijk, seem to have been much
more influential in that area. Although the bishops of Utrecht clearly lost powers in Breukelen, the
changes in the distribution of land and income of surpluses connected to the emergences of castles
were not too profound. Of the total surface area of Breukelen castles held between 1/22 to 1/13 part of
the land in fief. For Zuilen it is hard to tell, since we have no data which we can use to estimate the
surface area of Zwesereng, but it cannot have been more then the 7 percent in Maarssen. The share in
the property of instruments for surplus-extraction was a little bit more substantial, but to assume that
castles controlled rural society as for example the Commissie Vecht and Venen does, on the basis of
the distribution of land and of income from revenues from land on the old land along the river Vecht
cannot be upheld. Only when one takes all forms of surplus-extraction into account, such as the levy
of tolls, levies on milling and grinding and income collected in other regions, such as the newly
reclaimed land on which chatelaines often received an impressive income from their right to exert the
low jurisdiction.371 The fact that apparently it has neither been possessions on the old land nor so much
income collected from the old land that formed the backbone of banal power is a refreshing insight for
the general thinking about castles. The analysis of the power of castles in society along the river Vecht


371
      Olde Meierink, Kastelen 13.


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however also point to a weakness in the methodology of the limitations to the distribution of property
of land and of instruments to exert income from it to study the structure of society. If it would have
encompassed all surplus-extraction probably the influence of chatelaines in society along the river
Vecht would have to be attributed a bigger place.
    Thus in the period from the beginning of the Great Reclamations until 1528 no profound
transformations in the distribution of property of land have taken place on the old land along the
southern course of the river Vecht. The bishops of Utrecht, landlords of old, generally remained the
largest landowner, while chapters, especially those of Sint Jan and Sint Pieter and convents, like those
of Nieuwlicht, Oostbroek and Oudwijk, merely expanded their property. Ministeriales collected
unassuming property of land. However, in the distribution of income from revenues a transformation
took place. Around 1528 the bishops had donated or given out tithe and rents almost everywhere,
except in a small part of Maarssen- and Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht to chatelaines, chapters and
convents. They had to turn to the levying of general taxes to have at least some profit from surplus-
extraction.
    Within the elite of large landowners relations do seem to have shifted from the start of the Great
Reclamations. The well-nigh monopoly of power of the bishops of Utrecht at the beginning of the
eleventh century, measured by the property of land and rights to surplus-extraction, for a large part had
moved to their servants in 1528 when the period of research ends. During the reclamation period on a
modest scale especially chapters and convents increased their share in property of land and rights to
revenues and ministeriales received confined fiefs of land and surplus. This development in which the
bishops of Utrecht disposed of property on the old land in the southern part of the river Vecht
continued on a larger scale from the thirteenth century.
    For serfs the situation changed as well. At any rate from about halfway the thirteenth century,
perhaps commencing during the Great Reclamations, the attainments of peasants in the new land
started to be introduced on the old land too. As mentioned above, in all four areas we find the
introduction of the leasing system. Therefore we can take on that it was introduced as well in the
jurisdictions or areas of which due to a scarcity of (studied) source material nothing is known about
the system of exploitation; the 28 „morgen‟ fief land in Everiksdorp, Maarssen before the sixteenth
century except for the estate Ten Bosch, and for the property of the bishops and the chapters Sint
Marie and Sint Pieter in Breukelen (the parts not given out as fiefs to castles). As the manorial system
for the greater part disappeared, the bulk of serfs received personal freedom, inspired by the position
of peasants in the cope system that developed on the new land. Most peasants were no longer bound to
the bishops of Utrecht, chapters or convents nor forced to work their landlords manor or perform
corvee. In return for a rent they could work their leasehold according to ones own insight.
    However, these changes seem to have neither transformed the structure of society on the banks
along the southern course of the river Vecht or to have benefited the tenants residing in this region.
Just like mancipia, tenants did not own their land nor the greater part of the surpluses gained from it.


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Even worse, unlike during the manorial exploitation tenants now had to pay rent in order to use the
land on top of the tithe and „stroyelgeld‟. The general taxes, until 1131 only the entreaty and
subsequently added by the „morgengeld‟, which were levied over landed property, in addition, were
averted on the peasants by the landowners. Profits from surplus-extraction remained firmly in control
of the elite. Another drawback of the leasing system for tenants was that they lost the customary right
to inheritance of the use of their land as existed under the manorial system. Often peasants merely had
a time-lease as on the property of the chapter of Sint Jan in Maarssen, and could easily loose their
land. Even if they had a hereditary life-long lease though, the landlords could terminate it just like that,
as happened to the family Uteneng and the baker‟s family in Everiksdorp in the fourteenth century.
Apparently peasants in the leasing system could just be deprived of their land. Peasants who continued
to hold their land in an „oldfashioned‟ way for a manorial rent, thanks to customary rights, did have
the assurance that their heirs could not be denied their land. Although for the southern part of the
Vecht region no records of „manorial rents have been found in source material, for compatible regions
such as old land along the Kromme Rijn and old land in the property of the chapter of Sint Jan in
Beusichem and of the convent of Mariënweerd in the river region between the Lek and the Waal, close
to the Linge, a maintenance of manorial rent land advanced from the sources. This might signify that
holders of land in manorial rent might have inhabited also the banks of the river Vecht.
    From the areas about which the literature gave more concrete information about the situation of
the tenants proved, that the landlords on the old land on the banks along the southern course of the
river Vecht seem to have had the possibility to exploit their tenants. The example of Everiksdorp
showed that the chapter of Sint Jan was able to avert the adverse consequences of failing harvests on
its tenant Govert Vastertszoon. The chapter did not suffer losses, but caused Govert substantive fines
and the loss of a part of his land to his warrant. Moreover at the end of the fourteenth century the
chapter took away the land of its tenants and leased it to large landowners such as the monastic order
of the Carthusian monks and the town of Utrecht. Of the convent of Oudwijk in Maarssen it is known
that it refused to give a reduction of the rent whenever the bishop had demanded a land tax, as usually
happened elsewhere. In the gradual substitution of the manorial system tenants did receive personal
freedom, but their position in society hardly improved. The supposedly change-generating cope
system did neither transform the property relations in which the landlords, the bishops, sold or donated
their property not to peasants but to other large landowners of old, nor did it change the pattern of the
elite exploiting peasants. Land and the profits from land in the region of research were distributed, but
generally remained in the hands of the same social group; an intertwined elite in which members of
the important ministeriales families could become a chatelaine or occupy central positions in convents
or the church of Utrecht and in which families that produced important clergymen could gain property
along the river Vecht. It might be the case that during the eleventh and twelfth, but especially from the
thirteenth century the bishops of Utrecht surrender their prime position in the distribution of land and
surplus-extraction to other departments of the church of Utrecht, to ministeriales and indirectly to the


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counts of Holland, the access to the means of production and thus to wealth did not change. The
relationships between groups in society on the old land in the southern part of the river Vecht do not
seem to have experienced profound transformations.
    This continuity in fact covers the entire period of study in this thesis. When the distribution of the
property of land and income from revenues from land on the old land on the banks of the southern part
of the river Vecht in the preamble to 953 is studied, when most of the jurisdictions in the southern part
of the Vecht region were donated to the bishops of Utrecht, we find the same exploitation of land as
after the take-over of the bishops of Utrecht. The manorial structure of exploitation, which has been
substantiated to have been a classical form, already developed under the Carolingians. Property of land
and of income from tithes and rents were nowhere in the hands of mancipia, but of members of the
imperial elite; the noble family of Gerulfings. When the Ottone system was introduced in the first half
of the tenth century, the bishops of Utrecht as the new imperial elite continued the system of their
predecessors whom they replaced as representatives of the Frankish rulers in Het Sticht. More
continuity can be established from the tenth century until 1528; although some shifts of property of
land and surplus-extraction within the group of large landowners along the southern course of the river
Vecht took place, besides the replacement of the noble family of Gerulfings by the bishops of Utrecht
in the „gouw‟ Nifterlake, actually the composition of this group remained the same during this period.
The introduction of the Ottone system branch-lined the nobility in Het Sticht, but the families that
formed the villici plausibly remained influential. Buitelaar reports that often the minsteriales families
receiving beneficia were the eleventh-century successors of the villici who had managed the manors
from curtes. The situation in Maarssen over the entire period is a good example of this. Buitelaar
found indications that the ministeriales Van Maarssen that held land and surplus-extraction in
Maarssen plausibly were related to the villicus that resided before the eleventh century on the curtis in
Maarssen. The family Ter Meer that from 1394 held approximately the same rights in its turn probably
was related to the family Van Maarssen. Also the ministeriales Arnold van Everiksdorp and the
families Van Dolre or Van der Poel plausibly descended from the villici who managed the mancipia
performing corvee on the demesne in Everiksdorp and Breukelen. A continuation of privileges in the
hands of the same agents throughout the research period of this thesis exists and even the rise of
ministeriales along the river Vecht thus cannot be considered as a profound change within the elite. In
1528 when we end our research roughly the same institutions profited from land and surplus were as
in the second half of the tenth century; the church of Utrecht, composed of the bishops of Utrecht, a
few convents and chapters that became part of the church from the eleventh century, and influential
families of villici who became ministeriales. These groups formed intertwined elite in which members
of the important ministeriales families could become a chatelain or occupy central positions in
convents or the church of Utrecht and families that produced important clergymen could gain property
along the river Vecht. We end our period of research in 1528, when the position of official landlord in




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Het Sticht for the first time in around 600 years changed. The bishops of Utrecht lost their secular
powers to the centralizing policy of the Habsburgs rulers.
    Again must be stressed that for this region little source material exists. This has been ingeniously
solved by scholars using regressive methods and smart comparisons with regions better covered by
sources, but it remains solving a puzzle in which one misses a lot of pieces. Also, much of the
available source material is yet to be studied. Neither do I pretend to have studied all possible
literature. Yet, by studying the larger part of the available information on the distribution of the
property of land and surplus-extraction, I conclude that on the old land along the southern course of
the river Vecht the structure of society did not experience transformations. Despite the downfall of the
„gouw‟ Niftarlake and the nobility in Het Sticht, the dissolution of the manorial system, the rise of
ministeriales, castles and the loss of influence of the bishops of Utrecht, the ratio large landowners-
peasants in the social distribution of property of land and revenues collected from land remained
unchanged throughout the period studied. The access to wealth and influence remained in the hands of
the same groups, while peasants continuously did not own the sources of influence in society.




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PART 3. Comparison and analysis

4. Comparison of developments in the structure of society in the
two cases

4.1 Introduction
    Research has shown that groups in society in due time develop recurring and relatively stable
patterns of relationships; a structure of society. When one studies a region over a longer period, as this
thesis attempts, continuities and transformations in this structure can be described as we have seen in
the previous chapters. This thesis aims at contributing to the contemporary branch of history that
shows a renewed interest in trying to find causal explanations, the „motor‟ behind the transformations
in Tosh‟ words, for the developments in the structure of society.
    The best approach to study the structural relationships between groups in the Middle Ages, I have
substantiated to be the distribution of the ownership of land and the income obtained from land over
different groups in society. In the pre-industrial period land was the most important source of
subsistence. Possessing land and controlling many of the instruments to extract surplus, meant wealth
and power as has been argued. Thus studying which groups controlled the land, how the distribution of
income from it was distributed and which groups were less well off in this distribution, yields insight
in the structure of society. Changes in the distribution of landed property and access to the means to
extract surplus over groups in society cause changes within the relationships in society.
    Thus in part 2 the available data on property relations considering land and income collected from
surplus from land for both regions dealing from 953 until 1528 have been put together. We have
discussed the property of and relationships between counts, bishops, canons, villici, ministeriales,
tenants, mancipia, colonist-peasants, peasant-ministeriales and smallholders and have scrutinized
many a received viewpoint on the developments in these two regions.
    In part 3 a geographical comparison through time will be implemented. The data collected in part
2 on De Ronde Venen and the land along the southern course of the river Vecht through roughly five
and a half century will be compared and several explanations will be examined in order to gain insight
in the kind of processes that lie behind stability or discontinuity in the structure of medieval society in
these two regions in Het Sticht, causing differences and similarities between them.
    As explained in the introduction, this will be set up systematically, first of all by carefully
comparing the data on the two cases and subsequently by applying the explanations given by the three
grand models analyzing the Middle Ages. Thereby this thesis aims at testing whether a single-set
explanation will do, or whether we rather find multiple causal conjuncture.




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4.2 Starting point
      In 953, when this thesis begins its study of the structure of society in De Ronde Venen and along
the southern stream of the river Vecht, an important distinction between the two regions lies in its
geography. The sandy river banks along the upstream of the river Vecht had been brought in
development and were inhabited well before De Ronde Venen would be reclaimed during the Great
Reclamations. Zwesereng (Suegna), Maarssen (Marsna) and Breukelen (Attingahem) had been
inhabited since the Roman era and the river Vecht in the early Middle Ages plausibly was part of a
thriving trade route between the Franks and the Frisians in the north of the Low Countries. De Ronde
Venen for about a century after the donation of 953 for the largest part remained a high hill of peat of
five kilometres wide and at some points seven metres thick, a wilderness of sphagnum moss, reed and
swamp forests. The peat bogs of future De Ronde Venen were not entirely uninhabited though. The
residents of the banks of the Aa-Angstel-Gein, a tributary of the river Vecht had customary rights to
use the edges in the eastern part of De Ronde Venen to pasture cattle, hunt and fish, gather wood and
probably even to develop parts in block allotment for arable farming.
      The possession of land and of the instruments to extract superfluous yields from that land in both
cases changed hands in 953. Until that time these had been held as beneficia by the family of
Gerulfings, nobles in service of the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. With the introduction of the
Ottone system in the empire, Otto I redistributed the beneficia as donations to their novel
representatives, the bishops. In Het Sticht the bishop of Utrecht at that time, Balderik, was donated in
a charter of 953 with both the land along the southern course of the river Vecht - they already
possessed Everiksdorp since 723 and I have argued that Breukelen was part of this gift - and the peat
bogs east and the west of „die Fech‟ which took up De Ronde Venen-to-be. Thus from 953 the bishops
of Utrecht occupied the position of landlord in each case, controlling low and high jurisdiction. At that
time merely tithes and possibly a manorial rent were levied. The property of these means of surplus-
extraction now fell to the bishops of Utrecht. 372 In both regions the bishops of Utrecht had a near-
monopoly position in the property of land and of income from surplus from land for about a century.
Only at the beginning of the eleventh century the convent of Egmond bought the possessions from the
convent of Werden in a part of Zwesereng of which the size is unknown and 12 „morgen‟ in
Breukelen, both including the right to charge the tithe. In 1050 the bishops donated the land and the
tithe of Everiksdorp to the chapter of Sint Jan.
      The land along the river Vecht was organized as per manorial system. For the application of this
system on the land in Everiksdorp fewer signs exist, but the comparison of the curtis in Everiksdorp
with another curtis in the possession of the chapter of Sint Jan in a region similar to the Vecht region
makes it reasonable to assume this was the case. This system was passed down along the river Vecht
since the eighth or ninth century as I have tried to demonstrate. All land belonged to the landlord, the
372
    For as has been argued in part 1, this thesis will not discuss other instruments of surplus-extraction, like
tollage, or levies over grinding and using the windmill, etcetera.


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bishop of Utrecht. The people who farmed the land inhabiting the old land, serfs or mancipia, were his
property as well. The Episcopal manors were divided in demesne and common land. In return for
making use of the common land, which included the neighboring wilderness, the mancipia had to
perform corvee on the demesne. Unfortunately it has not been possible to find out how heavy the
corvee along the river Vecht has been. Besides the assessments, thus the bishops in fact had another
instrument for surplus-extraction at his disposal; the statute labor, of which all yields fell to him. These
activities were organized by the villicus, the Episcopal representative on the curtis on the manor. This
is another continuity from the past, since this position was often taken by families that had performed
the same task under the nobles who controlled the land before the introduction of the Ottone system.
Thus the relationship between the landlord and the unfree peasants along the river Vecht had hardly
changed since the eight century, nor had the relationship between the landlord and his representative.
The common land included the wilderness adjoining their arable land, to which the mancipia had the
customary rights to use. In both regions the people using the land did not own the land they worked
and neither did they own their personal freedom. Yet whereas the land along southern part of the river
Vecht and its tributary was intensively tilled within the manorial system, in the eastern part of De
Ronde Venen merely the edges were extensively used within the same system of exploitation.



4.3 Eleventh and twelfth century
       From the starting point of this thesis until about 1050 hardly any changes in the distribution of
land and of the right to surplus-extraction appear from the sources in both regions. In De Ronde Venen
however from halfway the eleventh to halfway the twelfth century substantial transformations in the
structure of society take place, not as revolutionary as is being depicted in the generally accepted
account of the Great Reclamations, yet still profound.
       The Great Reclamations were made possible by the cope system. In this system in De Ronde
Venen colonist-peasants and peasant-ministeriales who received a cope contract from the vercopers or
respectively locatores the chapters of Sint Jan and Sint Pieter, and the ministeriales families Van
Abcoude and Ter Aa, had the exclusive property rights to the land they reclaimed. It is granted that
neither locatores nor vercopers kept much land in their own hands. It is only about the chapter of Sint
Jan that we have data at our disposal concerning this matter; this locator merely kept less then 1
percent to itself, which it gave out in fief to peasant-ministeriales. But by far the majority of the 770
„morgen‟ in Demmerik, the 1545 „morgen‟ in Vinkeveen, the 1515 to 1615 „morgen‟ in Wilnis, the
785 „morgen‟ in Oudhuizen and 3400 to 3600 „morgen‟ in Mijdrecht373 were in property of the
colonists. For that reason in the process of reclamation the largest part of the property of land was
redistributed from the bishops of Utrecht to colonists who had been mancipia on the bishops‟ manors
along the river Vecht and its tributary. After about 1050 the bishops of Utrecht were no longer the
373
      These data are rough estimations as has been discussed.


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proprietors of land in either of the jurisdictions in De Ronde Venen. Also included in the cope
contracts was the right to personal freedom to the colonist-peasants who were not peasant-
ministeriales. Both free and unfree peasants who were the full proprietors of their land through the
„ding‟ obtained a lot of influence on local administration in De Ronde Venen, especially in De
Proosdijlanden, the western part, where the colonists could even influence the level of tax sums.
       On the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht the property of land continued to
remain entirely in the hands of the elite of large landowners and beneficiaries of revenues from
surplus-extraction, no profound transformation in the structure of society took place there. I did not
find clues in the literature that corroborate the accepted notion that in the course of the reclamations
the novel rights most mancipia acquired who left the manors to become colonists on the new land,
were adopted in society on the old land along the river Vecht. It is possibly due to a lack of source
material, but there are no indications that as a result of the institution of personal freedom for most
peasants in the reclamation regions, either the demesnes on the manors along the southern course of
the river Vecht, or the institution of corvee were done away with. References to corvee and mancipia
are found in the sources until well into the fourteenth century, and the first leases that are passed down
from the southern part of the river Vecht date from as late as 1233 (in Everiksdorp). Nor can an
increase on administrational influence for mancipia on the old land be validated. Especially in
Everiksdorp the rights of tenants seem to have been very weak. About Breukelen it needs to be
remarked though, that a redistribution of the property of land and of the instruments of surplus-
extraction during the reclamation period did take place (within the elite), indications generally
assumed to point at the dissolution of the manorial system. Since I did not find any other indications
for this, I want to suggest that this displacement in Breukelen relegates to an outset of the dissolution
of the manorial system in Breukelen, but not to a structural introduction of the new-land attainments
yet.
       Along the river Vecht the landlord of old held the largest part of the land in property; the bishops
of Utrecht until the thirteenth century possessed 32 „morgen‟ in Zwesereng, 567 „morgen‟ in Maarssen
and 224 „morgen‟ in Breukelen, together 823 „morgen‟.374 The chapter of Sint Pieter subsequently
possessed about 336 „morgen‟ land in Breukelen. The chapter of Sint Jan owned 90 „morgen‟ in
Everiksdorp and the chapter of Sint Marie 12 „morgen‟ in Breukelen. The convent of Egmond had an
unknown (but it was mentioned to have been substantial) amount of land in property in Zwesereng.
The ministeriales families Van Maarssen and Van Dolre or Van der Poel held insignificant amounts of
land in fief; respectively 5 „morgen‟ in Maarssen and five mini-jurisdictions in Breukelen. No land is
mentioned to have been in the property of servile tenants. When it comes to the distribution of land,
the freedom of residents and the access to local administration for peasants during the eleventh and




374
      Also the areas in the Vecht region are rough estimates, functioning to give an indication of the proportions.


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twelfth century, the cope structure of society in De Ronde Venen and the manorial structure of society
along the southern course of the river Vecht seem to have been each others opposite.
    Less spectacular regional disparities developed in the distribution of income from surplus-
extraction. In both cases the right to extract surplus from the land remained entirely concentrated in the
hands of the elite. Yet, on the old land more instruments of surplus-extraction existed. The peasants in
both regions, whether they be mancipia, colonist-peasants or peasant-ministeriales, since 1131 had to
bring in the entreaty to the bishops of Utrecht. De Proosijlanden were exempt from this tax. The
bishops, on top of that, had the right to impose the tithe and possible manorial rents over their
possessions in Zwesereng, a small part of Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht and over the largest part of
Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht. Every leap-year the chapter of Sint Jan collected the tithe and possible
manorial rents in Everiksdorp along the river Vecht and on top of that the profitable tithe, recognition
rents and the „morgengeld‟ levied in De Proosdijlanden. The chapter of Sint Pieter possessed the
substantial tithe and possible manorial rents in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter and on the
new land the tithe, recognition rents and the Thirteenth Penny in Abcoude-proosdij-in-Vinkeveen. The
ministeriales Van Maarssen had the right in fief to levy the tithe in the largest part of old-land
Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht. The ministeriales Van Dolre or Van der Poel held a fief that gave them
the right to collect the tithe in Breukelen Ronde Dorp and in scattered mini-jurisdictions in Breukelen-
Bisschopsgerecht along the river Vecht. The ministeriales Ter Aa were enfeoffed with the right to tax
the new-land residents of Demmerik with the tithe and reclamation rents and the ministeriales Van
Abcoude imposed the tithe, reclamation rents and the Thirteenth Penny over Oudhuizen and
Vinkeveen. Thus generally all peasants had to turn in the tithe and a form of an entreaty (the
recognition rent seems to have been negligible) to the elite. The latter actually had a stronger grip on
surplus-extraction on the old land than on the new land. There the bishops and chapters also had the
right to demand corvee on their demesne from the mancipia. Statute labor can also be considered as an
instrument of surplus-extraction. The energy that serfs would otherwise have put into working their
own land now had to be spent on the production of yields that wholly fell to their landlord. This
statement could be objected by advancing that in Vinkeveen and Oudhuizen in De Ronde Venen the
Thirteenth Penny was levied on top of the shared tax burdens on the old and new land. However, the
Thirteenth Penny was a tax only imposed whenever land was sold, while corvee was structural.
    A large disparity developed during the eleventh and twelfth century in the distribution of property
of land, personal freedom and influence on society and to a lesser extent in the property of the right to
extract surplus from land between the two regions.
    It must be mentioned though that continuity in the structure of society seems to have persisted, not
merely on the old land alongside the southern part of the river Vecht. To a lesser extent we find
continuities of the old system in the new-land structure of society as well, even after the manorial
system had dissolved. As on the old land, here and there we find continuities of manorial servitude in
the shape of peasant-ministeriales. On the new land colonists resided who did not receive the personal


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freedom characteristic of the cope system, but they remained unfree and fell under the authority of the
bishops of Utrecht or the chapter of Sint Jan (of peasant-ministeriales of Sint Pieter I have found no
indications). Moreover, in Vinkeveen, Oudhuizen and Abcoude-proosdij-inVinkeveen the chapter of
Sint Pieter and the ministeriales Van Abcoude could levy a fixed entry fine, the Thirteenth Penny.
This tax most likely can be identified as a levy that had been transported from the manorially exploited
old land. The fact that manorial institutions from the old-land „feudal‟ society have been taken along
to the supposedly „near-democratic‟ new-land society, indicate that these societies had more in
common than is assumed.
    The elite possessing the right to income from revenues levied over land in both regions was
composed of the same agents; the bishops of Utrecht and the chapters and ministeriales, two new
eleventh-century institutions the bishops had created as a status symbol but particularly as „managers‟.
Yet within the elite a modest shift of weight in the power relations from the bishops to their servants
did take place, when we look at the distribution of the property of land and of income collected from
surplus from the land. Where the bishops, until halfway the eleventh century, out and away had
enjoyed a monopoly position in the sphere of surplus-extraction, from that moment on they shared an
increasing part of their rights to revenues with the new elite. Particularly the chapter of Sint Jan
profited from this shift, since in De Proosdijlanden in addition to the low jurisdiction that included the
tithe and reclamation rents, it was endowed with the high jurisdiction too. This right enabled the
chapter to levy a land tax each leap-year and afforded the privilege of exemption from the general
Episcopal taxes. These data, supplemented with the fact that the bishops were compelled to introduce
a general tax (the entreaty) for one thing in order to compensate for the revenues they were deprived
of, give the impression that along with the loss of their monopoly position regarding the right to
surplus-extraction, the bishops of Utrecht lost some of their dominating position within the elite
profiting from landed property and income from land.
    Reflecting on the allocation of the means to surplus-extraction we come across another disparity
between De Ronde Venen and the land alongside the southern stream of the river Vecht. It has been
mentioned in part 2 of this thesis that the bishops of Utrecht were in an increasing need for funds.
They responded to this need by adopting the entreaty, because they had to deal with increasing
territorial threats. These threats for a large part were exercised from Holland. The struggle that
followed can be seen in conflicts around the right to extract income from the land in De Ronde Venen.
The chapter of Sint Jan had received from the bishop the atypical privilege of high jurisdiction over
their reclamation concession. This privilege was granted in order to strengthen the chapter‟s position
in court when facing a territorial threat from Holland. This precautionary measure was taken very
serious, considering the fact that the bishops appointed the forty farms in Wilnis to the chapter in the
struggle between the chapter of Sint Jan and the lords Van Abcoude. The bishops wanted to assure the
presence of a large power block on the borderland. Indeed the territory of the chapter in De
Proosdijlanden, particularly around Zevenhoven, was frequently threatened by counter-territorial


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claims from the counts of Holland, and the chapter‟s right to the high jurisdiction was denounced.
During this period such threats are not found along the river Vecht.



4.4 After the Great Reclamations
    Around the time that the reclamation activities in De Ronde Venen and in the western part of Het
Sticht in general were completed and the structure of society that had been created to make the
reclamations swift and structured stabilized until far-off 1528, changes started to take place at the
anciently-settled land along the southern part of the river Vecht. For all four areas we come across
concrete evidence of the dissolution of the manorial system from about halfway the thirteenth century.
Apparently a new system of land exploitation was introduced along the southern course of the river
Vecht. We find leases of the larger part of land in Everiksdorp from 1292 and in Zwesereng from
1233, from the late thirteenth century for the estate Ten Bosch and in the sixteenth century for
generally all land in Maarssen, and from the fourteenth century increasingly in parts of Breukelen.
Under the leasing system mancipia received personal freedom and could rent land instead of being
obliged to work the demesne or perform statute labor. It meant a termination of the partition of the
land in a demesne and common land.
    The introduction of this new system of management of the old land however does not alter the
main eleventh- and twelfth-century contrast with De Ronde Venen. The property of land alongside the
southern course of the river Vecht was nowhere dispersed to the tenants cultivating it. In De Ronde
Venen landed property remained firmly in peasants‟ hands; landlords did not see an opportunity to
enlarge their possessions of land in De Ronde Venen. Another maintaining distinction that is coupled
with landed property between the two regions concerns the influence on local administration. In De
Ronde Venen this power generally remained firmly in the hands of peasants. On the one hand due to
an expanding fragmentation of parcels, smallholders came to reside in De Ronde Venen who could not
attend to the „ding‟. On the other hand the farmer‟s influence increased with the foundation of water
boards. On the old land political influence remained limited.
    In fact the discrepancy cope system versus leasing system resulted in larger dissimilarities
between Vecht and Venen than the contrast manorial system versus cope system. While during the
eleventh and twelfth century, thus when along the river Vecht the manorial system had not
disappeared yet, in both regions the peasants had the hereditary rights to their land, whether mancipia,
holders of land for a manorial rent, colonist-peasants or peasant-ministeriales. In the leasing system on
the other hand the tenants along the southern course of the river Vecht lost this right. When we regard
the situation for tenants in Everiksdorp, the only part of the southern Vecht region about which the
literature offers more detailed information on position the position of tenants, we can infer that the
tenants in Everiksdorp at best received an initially hereditary life-long lease agreement, but after the
termination of the lease the land could simply be sold by the landlord to another large landowner. This


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happened in the example of the family Uteneng at the end of the fourteenth century. While the
peasants in De Ronde Venen had very clear property rights, those along the river Vecht only declined.
    Moreover, on the old land tenants in the leasing system had to pay in cash for their land, a rent that
could be increased. The tenants in some cases had such a weak position that in the case of failing
harvests and the subsequent inability to pay rents, they were forced to pay severe fines despite their
precarious situation. On top of that their land could be seized. Particularly De Proosdijlanden in De
Ronde Venen and Everiksdorp on the old land -remarkably both property of the chapter of Sint Jan-
seem to have been the diametrical opposite of each other. The peasants in De Proosdijlanden had full
property over their land, enjoyed the lowest tax burdens and had so much influence on administration
that the society in the literature can be called „near democratic‟. In Everiksdorp the peasants did not
own their land, worse, they could be thrown off. The extraction of surplus happened in quite a strict
manner and tenants had no say in local politics.
    The two regions share a phenomenon: Just as happened on the new land when the manorial system
was replaced in the eleventh century, with the introduction of the leasing system on the old land along
the river Vecht as well some institutions from the fading manorial system survived. Mancipia and
corvee continued to be mentioned even in fourteenth-century source material. The intensity of the
continued feudal relations probably differed, though. Considering the attention paid to the categories
of unfree in the Codex of Wstinc, the amount of unfree tenants must have been quite considerable. It is
likely to expect that the amount of peasant-ministeriales in De Ronde Venen was confined, as this
institution was quite unusual. The existence of peasant-ministeriales has only been attested in the
borderland between Holland and Het Sticht. Moreover, it must also be remarked that, compared to
mancipia, the peasant-ministeriales had a better position. The latter enjoyed the privileges of their
code. This brought them advantages over the other peasants such as being tried in front of a distinct
court of justice, which was less severe and they received lower sums of fines. Around the time the
manorial system dissolved, the peasant-ministeriales had probably merged with the free peasants in De
Ronde Venen. Thus the lack of freedom in society along the river Vecht was more present then in
society on the reclaimed land.
    Another distinction in landed property between the two districts after the reclamation period is that
the southern course of the river Vecht saw a further redistribution of land while in De Ronde Venen
the situation remained quite static. The bishops of Utrecht lost more influence along the river Vecht. In
the thirteenth century in Zwesereng the 32 „morgen‟ of the former bishops‟ curtis became an allodium
of the chapter of Sint Jan. Of Maarssen only data from the sixteenth century survive on the division of
land. The of the total amount of land in Maarssen over 51 percent ecclesial institutions such as the
convent of Oudwijk, chapters and the Teutonic Order of Knights became landlords, 35 percent was in
the hands, whether in fief or in property is unclear, of unknown individuals and 13 percent of
Maarssen was held in fief, which in time probably developed into property, by chatelaines or their
relatives. Besides the bishops of Utrecht as a landlord, also the convent of Egmond hived off property


                                                                                                     137
along the river Vecht. To my opinion, around the end of the thirteenth century their possessions in
Zwesereng were sold to the convent of Oostbroek. In Everiksdorp at the end of the fourteenth century
the chapter of Sint Jan leased 28 „morgen‟ to the convent of Nieuwlicht and 61.5 „morgen‟ to the town
of Utrecht.
    In this redistribution a new phenomenon comes to the fore which distinguishes the structure of
society alongside the southern stream of the river Vecht from that in De Ronde Venen; the erection of
castles. In the four jurisdictions along the river Vecht that this thesis looks into, eight castles were
founded from the second half of the thirteenth until the end of the fourteenth century as opposed to one
castle in the six jurisdictions studied in De Ronde Venen. Connected to these castles were land
(although not as much as is generally depicted) and rights, initially given out in fiefs, but in due time
regarded as property. It is unclear how much land was connected to the Proostenhuis in Mijdrecht, but
in Zwesereng the bishops of Utrecht and the convent of Oostbroek gave out in fief to the lords of the
castle Zuilen not more than 1/14 part of Zwesereng. In Maarssen the bishops of Utrecht gave out
around 7.5 percent of their land to the castles Ter Meer, Ten Bosch, Bolenstein and Snaefsburg. In
Breukelen of their 224 „morgen‟ land in Breukelen-Bisschopsgerecht the bishops renounced roughly
1/45 part to the castle of Nijenrode and the chapter of Sint Pieter gave out of their deemed 336
„morgen‟ in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter 1/9 to 1/7 part to the castle of Oudaen.
    Also new along the southern part of the river Vecht and a difference with De Ronde Venen is the
growing influence of towns in the distribution of land. In Everiksdorp at the end of the fourteenth and
in Maarssen somewhere before the sixteenth century a new agent came to lease land; the town of
Utrecht. Patricians also are able to buy or set up castles; Oudaen, Gunter (1344) Grauwert and de Bole.
    At any rate on the anciently-settled land along the southern course of the river Vecht, landed
property for the largest part remained in the hands of large landowners, the majority in property of the
bishops or other institutions connected to the church of Utrecht. Although a difference between the
two cases remains that on the old land the large landowners continued to have the right to control more
instruments of surplus-extraction. Starting from roughly the thirteenth century instead of corvee they
could collect rents from the land they leased, while the peasants in De Ronde Venen did not have to
pay rent. At the other hand, the two cases continue to exhibit many resemblances with regard to the
distribution of the instruments of surplus-extraction. In both regions the branches of the Church,
bishops and chapters, and ministeriales continued to be the sole proprietors. The structure of society in
both regions was such that the people working the land did not have access to income from surpluses
from their land. In both regions (except for De Proosdijlanden) moreover the peasants were taxed
heavier by the Episcopal duties, with the introduction of the „morgengeld‟ and the increased frequency
of levying. The general taxes along the river Vecht continuously were averted by the landowners on
the tenants.
    In both regions quite a rise of power of ministeriales took place from about the end of the
thirteenth century. In De Ronde Venen the ministeriales Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek gained influence in


                                                                                                    138
the allocation of means to collect income from land. From the beginning of the fourteenth century the
chapter of Sint Pieter leased the recognition rents, the tithe and the Thirteenth Penny in Vinkeveen to
the ministeriales family. In the same period the lords Ter Aa renounced to them the low jurisdiction of
Demmerik (a right that produced a large income from surplus-extraction through fines etcetera, but
when it comes to surplus from land in this case merely the recognition rent, since the lords Ter Aa kept
the tithe for themselves). Apparently the bishops of Utrecht at the commencement of the reclamations
have had a foresight concerning the possibility of expansion of Van Abcoude‟s power when they
distributed the forty farms in Wilnis that the ministeriales had advanced to reclaim to the chapter of
Sint Jan. On the anciently-settled lands along the southern stream of the river Vecht, also an increase
can be observed of the portion in the distribution of revenues from land for ministeriales. Ministeriales
continued rights, as in Maarssen where they preserved the right to levy the tithe in the largest part of
Maarssen-Bisschopsgerecht, but also extended their rights. The bishops endowed the ministeriales
residing on the castle Zuilen with the low jurisdiction over Zwesereng, except of coarse over the
allodium of 32 „morgen‟ the chapter of Sint Jan possessed, of which 16 „morgen‟ was even exempted
from general taxes. From the second half of the fourteenth century the family Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek
took over this jurisdiction. Between 1298 and 1372 the rights to surplus-extraction in Breukelen-
Bisschopsgerecht fell in the hands of the family Van Vianen, which gave it in fief to the ministeriales
family Van Nijenrode. The lords Van Nijenrode also from 1360 could lease the lucrative tithe of
Otterspoor from the chapter of Sint Pieter in Breukelen-Proosdij gerecht van Sint Pieter. The convent
of Oudwijk continued their right to collect surplus from their land in Maarssen. Another similarity of
both regions is that, in contrary to the period during the reclamations, the struggle between the bishops
of Utrecht and the counts of Holland now affected the distribution of landed property and of
instruments of surplus-extraction in both cases. We can determine that the Nedersticht in the second
half of the thirteenth and in the first half of the fourteenth century especially in the west lost property
of land as well as rights to the count of Holland. The property of land was affected in De Ronde Venen
in the loss of Waverveen in 1252 and of a part of De Proosdijlanden as an entity (Zevenhoven) in 1290
to the counts of Holland. The right to exercise the high jurisdiction of the chapter of Sint Jan was
disputed several times by the counts of Holland, and for example in 1311 the chapter won a juridical
case against the counts of Holland about this subject. In the four cases on the old land along the river
Vecht the counts of Holland were able to become the landlord of or exert influence over fiefs that had
once been given out by the bishops of Utrecht to their ministeriales to erect castles on. From 1278 the
fief connected to the castle of the family Van Zuilen became shared property of the bishops of Utrecht
and the counts of Holland. Gijsbrecht van Nijenrode dedicated the allodium and the castle in
Breukelen that had been donated by the bishops to the ministeriales Van Nijenrode in 1311 to count
Willem III of Holland. The fief on which Gunterstein was erected, 1.5 kilometers from the border
between Het Sticht and Holland, plausibly at the end of the thirteenth century, was in the hands of the
count of Holland. The income from surplus from land in both regions was for a substantial part in the


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hands of ministeriales who at least from the fourteenth century supported Holland; the families Van
Abcoude/Gaasbeek, Van Zuilen, Van Vianen, Gunter and Van Nijenrode. Another effect of the
struggle between the counts of Holland and Het Sticht was the increase of general taxes in the
fourteenth century in both regions, which is usually attributed to increasing Episcopal expenditure on
territorial battle, amongst whom the counts of Holland.
    Now in both regions we see a profound reduction of Episcopal influence. Apart from the general
taxes, with exclusion of De Proosdijlanden, the bishops did not profit from either land or income from
surplus from land in society on the new land. The attempts to increase their share in the income from
surpluses from the land failed; the (sometimes even violent) endeavours to retrieve the high
jurisdiction in the Proosdijlanden from the fourteenth century were unsuccessful. Along the southern
part of the river Vecht the bishops were unable to stop the share in either property of land or in rights
to extract surpluses of the increasing influential ministeriales families. Especially in Breukelen this
was a problem. Halfway the fifteenth century castles regularly opposing the bishops of Utrecht were
Zuilen, Bolenstein, Gunterstein and Nijenrode.
        But in the course of the fifteenth century in both regions the bishops seem to have regained
their powers. They were able to punish the disloyal families enriching themselves that belonged to the
„ridderschap‟. The property of the disloyal lords Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek in De Ronde Venen was
taken a claim to by the bishops in 1459. In 1422 the bishops retrieved the low jurisdiction of
Zwesereng from the family Van Zuilen and in 1459 the tithe in Zwesereng from the family Van
Abcoude/Gaasbeek. Episcopal attacks of the castle of Nijenrode as a reprimand for its support of
Holland are mentioned in 1467, 1481, 1507 and 1511, when Nijenrode and Gunterstein were taken
down.
    A final difference between the two regions is geographical again. De Ronde Venen experienced
more setbacks in harvests of corn crops than the Vecht region during the fourteenth century, due to the
problems connected to soil compaction. The living standards in De Ronde Venen do not seem to have
suffered much from this though, as the peasants in De Ronde Venen introduced innovations in the
tillage of their land from growing gain crops to cultivating commercial crops, from arable farming to
stock breeding, and by cutting peat. This more labor-extensive land use caused a relative
overpopulation in De Ronde Venen during the fifteenth century, increasing the amount of
smallholders. The Vecht region does not seem to have experienced such a transformation in land use.
Nor have I been able to find information on an increased subdivision of land along the river Vecht.
    Thus the most important difference in the unit of explanation of this thesis emerging from the
cross-cultural comparison of both regions is that the dissolution of the centuries-old manorial system
in De Ronde Venen and on the old land along the river Vecht took place with at least two centuries
between them and that they had a very different outcome. Although in both regions the land- and
surplus-owning elite remained very influential as it maintained the right to all instruments of surplus-
extraction, the relationship between lords and peasants after the dissolution of the manorial system


                                                                                                      140
was opposite in the two regions. In both regions the result was a free personal status for peasants, yet
in De Ronde Venen the peasants had clear property rights to their land and, especially in the
Proodsijlanden, influence on local administration, and sometimes influence on the tax sum due, while
the tenants on the old land had to lease their land and lost their customary rights to land. In De Ronde
Venen a transformation in the structure of society took place, while along the southern course of the
river Vecht in many respects actually a continuation of the same relationships between peasants and
large landowners endured. During the dissolving of the system in each region, in the other case no
appreciable changes took place in society. The striking fact that some manorial relationships persisted
in society even after the dissolution needs explanation, as well taking into account the difference in
intensity of these remnants in both regions. A similarity in the relationships between groups in society
in the comparison of the two cases for which causes must be found is the fact that the manorial
relationships in society remained intact for at least a century when the bishops of Utrecht became
landlord over both regions. We need to analyse why the elite on the old land continued to hold a
stronger grip over land, surplus-extraction and administration then in De Ronde Venen and why more
remnants from the manorial system survived on the old land than in the reclamation region.
Furthermore, I want to find causes for the fact that shifts in power within the elite from the bishops to
the ministeriales took place on a substantial scale in both regions from the end of the thirteenth
century, why more castles were erected on the old land then in De Ronde Venen and how come the
bishops could reclaim the bulk of their power in the course of the fifteenth century.
    For the sake of parsimony these are quite general descriptions of the similarities and differences in
the structure of society that came to the fore in the comparison. The local differences within the two
cases will be drawn in by within-case comparisons when the explanatory power of a model in the
cross-cultural comparison is not entirely clear.




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5. Causal analysis of the differences and similarities between the
two cases
       In order to explain these differences and similarities found in the developments in the structure of
society in the two cases, I have carefully selected causal propositions. In the historical tradition of
trying to find causal explanations behind developments in society and economy in the Middle Ages,
scholars facing the notorious lacunas in source material dealing with this period have set off this
deficiency by developing general explanatory theories on which motors steer towards changes in
medieval society. Three grand explanatory models dominate the subject. The paradigms, by studying
many cases, came to the conclusion that either the ratio between population and resources, class power
and property relations or the process of commercialization can be assigned to be the key explanatory
factor in developments in society. Most analyses of medieval developments in society explicitly or
implicitly are based on one of these models. This is true of the generally accepted explanations we
have come across in this thesis too. After explaining which processes are considered by the three
models to be the key explanatory factor behind changes in medieval society, this chapter will apply
them to the cross-cultural comparison performed in chapter 4. In doing so, these causal propositions
will be carefully tested to the outcomes of the comparison. Their strengths and weaknesses in
explaining the developments in the relationships in society we have come across in this thesis will be
highlighted. Thus I aim at finding the most suitable explanation for the differences and similarities in
the structure of society in the two cases, seeking after more insight in the causes behind large-scale
processes in medieval society. In the conclusion I will evaluate whether a single set of causes was able
to explain the macro processes in society in De Ronde Venen and the southern Vecht region, or
whether it must be concluded that the outcomes are rather shaped by varied and different levels of
causes.



5.1 Population and resources
       In this model375, often named the Malthusian model to one of its main representatives, T. Malthus,
the demographic factor is seen as the prime cause of significant changes in society. Changes are
explicated by stressing the interplay between an increase or decrease of population and the amount of
resources available to support it. A population is considered to have an internal tendency to grow, until
the means become too few to sustain that increased population. Especially M. M. Postan, one of this
paradigm‟s spokesmen, emphasized the importance of the ratio between the amount of people and the
availability of land and resources to support it. In the medieval economy in which land was by far the
main supplier of sustentation, in the case of population growth this model predicts an increase in the


375
      This survey is based on Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 21-52.


                                                                                                      142
value of land, as the demand for land increases. This land hunger drives the increased community to
employ land that was previously thought not good enough to farm. This in turn drives up the value of
the best land, because fertile land is able to produce its output at less cost than the newly cultivated
poorer land. Likewise, it is this increasing value and thus rising rents of the old land, which makes the
poor land worth farming. Areas of poorer soil or of difficult access (such as moor land) that had
hitherto been avoided will be cultivated. In similar fashion attempts will be made to farm the old land
more intensively. The increase of the value of land and the increase in the demand for foodstuff will
also cause rising prices, for example of an essential crop as grain. In case of an increase in population
according to this model eventually a tax is reached when the resources available are no longer
sufficient to sustain the people.
      Mathus described how, in the situation when diminished returns are reaped from the land, through
a self-regulative mechanism population and resources would balance again by „positive checks‟ like
famine and disease. These would be enabled to spread more freely due to decreased resistance by food
shortage and a higher population density. Also „preventive checks‟ like delaying the age for marriage
or reducing birth rates will decrease the level of population again. In the end demographic forces and
their consequences are considered as the predictive determinants of many more major aspects of
medieval society, such as the level of living standards, social structure, the shape of institutions or the
structure of the economy. „High levels of population can be claimed not only to have made land and
food expensive, but landlords powerful and peasants weak; to have strengthened serfdom and demesne
farming; to have stimulated urban and commercial expansion (…) Furthermore, when population
collapsed in the later Middle Ages not only did the incomes of landlords fall and the standards of
living of the peasants rise, but serfdom declined, demesnes were leased, towns and trade contracted
(…).‟376 To what extend is this model capable of explaining the disparities and similarities found
between the two regions studied in this thesis?
      It is generally assumed that until the fourteenth century the Low Countries as the rest of Europe
experienced an increase of population.377 In the present-day Netherlands this demographic growth
already started in the ninth century after the raids of the Vikings had ended. As has been mentioned in
2.1 of part 2, between 850 and 1250 a population increase of 100.000 to 800.000 people took place.
Although data explicit on alterations in the number of residents in Het Sticht before 1350 are not on
hand, scholars assume it is very probable that this increase did not fail to occur in Het Sticht.378
According to the model, this increase in the amount of people that needed to be sustained should cause
an increase in the demand for land and foodstuff, resulting in an increase in the value of land and the
rise of agricultural prices, the strengthening of serfdom and the enforcement of the position of
landlords.

376
    Ibidem 30.
377
    Slicher van Bath, De agrarische geschiedenis 147-153; Blom and Lamberts, History of the Low Countries 32-
33, 37.
378
    Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 291.


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      Indeed we find the latter two effects in the first century studied in this thesis. The model explains
the continuation of the exploitation of the manors along the southern part of the river Vecht within
manorial relations from 953 until the moment the reclamations commence, even though a shift in
power within the elite took place. Whether noble or ecclesiastic, the landlord in the manorial system
enjoyed a strong position, controlling all land and instruments to extract surplus from that land. This
position was even enforced by the increasing population and the subsequent relative scarcity of land.
This must have been a profitable situation for the landlord, as more labor-intensive cultivation to a
certain extent can increase the yields of land. Whether the yields from the old land indeed increased is
not known for Het Sticht, since dating from before 1350 hardly any source material on agricultural
production survived.379 Yet it is to be expected. Having a next to monopoly position along the southern
part of the river Vecht, it is rational that the bishops did not alter the manorial relations in society
along the river Vecht or on the edges of De Ronde Venen. The growing population explains the use of
the borders of De Ronde Venen for hunting, grazing cattle and the small-scale reclamation of parcels
of arable land.
      Considering the heavy demographic growth from the ninth century, this model also explains the
eleventh-century need for large-scale reclamations. The law of diminishing returns predicts that in a
period of prolonged demographic growth in due time a level of labor intensity is reached on which the
ratio between yields and labor force will diminish. More intensive farming will not suffice any longer
to provide in the increased demand for foodstuff. The continuing rise of demand eventually must lead
to land hunger and an increase in the value of land. Thus it must have become rewarding to gain land
though the cultivation of areas of difficult access such as De Ronde Venen, which had hitherto been
avoided. Most scholars studying the Great Reclamations consider the demographic growth and the
substantial land hunger that resulted from this growth as the explanation for the reclamations of the
large areas of peat bogs that this land was rich of were taken to a spectacular higher level.380 The
model also can explain the growing importance of chapters and ministeriales in both regions. Due to a
rising amount of subjects to tax and a substantively increased amount of land to govern, the bishops
needed to delegate tasks, land and rights, for which they had created these new institutions.
      However, demographic growth alone in my opinion does not explain sufficiently why such a
transformation of the structure of society took place in De Ronde Venen. If the demand for land was
so big that a revolutionary measure such as clear property rights for peasants had to be introduced to
entice colonists and that these reclamations had to be undertaken at such a high speed, why did not the
large-scale reclamations start earlier? If the land hunger was as pressing as is portrayed, wouldn‟t serfs
pressing about on the banks of the river have been eager to set about the reclamations, also within the
manorial system? Wouldn‟t it have been enough to handle the reclamations in the structured manner


379
  C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 12; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 291.
380
  Rinsema, De Ronde Venen…18; Van Rongen, „Aspecten van het bestuur van Wilnis‟ 62; Van Ginkel-
Meester, De Ronde Venen 12; Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 12, 16; Van der Linden, „Het platteland‟ 53-55.


                                                                                                          144
as has been done, without the development of the cope system that profoundly transformed the
relationship between the landlord and the peasants? Why did the bishop as a landlord too a large
extent lost his grip on his land and subjects, by institutionalising unprecedented advantages such as
clear property rights to their land, personal freedom for former mancipia (apart from peasant-
ministeriales) and peasant influence on local administration? And if the situation was so delicate, why
did nothing change in the structure of society on the old land in the eleventh and twelfth century? The
model neither can account for the fact that De Proosdijlanden had an exceptional position within this
system.
       The „population and recourses‟ model also fails to explain why the attainments of the new-land
society were not transported to the anciently-settled land along the southern stream of the river Vecht
before more than a century after the reclamations had already been completed. The model would
predict that „[p]opulation pressure alone threatened the stability of the manor, since the land could not
be infinitely subdivided among its tenants. Demographics thus put an end to a static agrarian pattern in
Europe. (…)[N]ow these lords [landlords of the manors] were compelled to grant new freedoms.
Fearing that the peasants would leave the manors for attractive new opportunities, great landowners
drastically reduced the service obligations of their serfs. Both the manorial system and the feudal
system supported by it declined.‟381 The idea advanced by Van der Linden, enhanced by many
scholars, that the old-land mancipia used the envying situation of their relatives in the reclamation
regions as a means to exert pressure on their landlords to also introduce achievements such as personal
freedom on the manors, seems to be based on a misplaced assumption. It relies on the idea of a free
market of land and labor, on the supposition that serfs had the mobility to move. Yet one has to reckon
with the powers of lords over most of their unfree peasants. Changes had to be mediated through the
whole edifice of contemporary social, legal and political structures. The difference between the
structure of society in De Ronde Venen and along the southern course of the river Vecht demonstrates
a shortcoming of this model; it does not consider the strength of old institutions and privileges. The
model likewise cannot explain the continuation of institutions of the manorial system, such as the
prevalence of mancipia, the existence of peasant-ministeriales and the remnants of corvee, in De
Ronde Venen and the Vecht region well after respectively the cope system and the leasing system had
been introduced. Besides, scholars apparently depart from the assumption that the situation for
mancipia within the manorial system must have been so disadvantageous that they all had reason to
want to escape from it. Yet, as has been argued, the manorial system did offer remunerative
circumstances, such as ensured inheritance of land and quite strong rights to the land they farmed. It
might be that even if the unfree peasants would have been more mobile, they would not have desired
to become colonists.




381
      Blom, History of the Low Countries 34-35.


                                                                                                    145
    The increase in population on first sight seems to explain the struggle between the two main
landlords of Het Sticht and Holland; increasing land hunger would predict territorial struggle, since
foodstuff was needed to feed the increased amount of subjects. Yet the question arises why this
struggle merely concerned De Ronde Venen and not the land along the southern course of the river
Vecht, fertile and already bringing forth yields. Furthermore the model does not seem to explain the
decline of the manorial system on the old land along the river Vecht from about halfway the thirteenth
century. The paradigm predicted the occurence of the transition inspired by the new institutions
created in the reclamation regions. Yet the right to personal freedom slowly started to be installed only
after about two centuries after the reclamations had commenced, when the leasing system was finally
introduced on the old land.
    Though its reasoning failed, we can apply the line of reasoning that the model has for regions that
not were not confronted with and changed by a new distribution of land such as in the reclamation
regions. For these regions, the model would predict that the manorial system would in fact be enforced
during this period of population growth and scarcity of resources. Rising land value and prices would
predict an increase of seigniorial power over their land and serfs. Yet in the middle of the period of
demographic growth the manorial system started dissolving, and again the „population and resources‟
model would not offer an adequate causal explanation for a profound development in society. Usually
this model connects the decline of serfdom with a decrease of seigniorial influence on society.
    Generally this is assumed to have taken place when the population level collapsed, during the pan-
European crisis of the late fourteenth and fifteenth century. It is presumed that during that period not
only the income of landlords fell while the standards of living of peasants and laborers rose, but
serfdom declined, demesnes were leased, towns and trade contracted. However, if one does not
consider the leasing system to be a fundamental change in the structure of society as is often done, a
view I have substantiated in paragraph 3.2.3, the line of thought in this model does offer a very helpful
explanation for the gradual introduction of the leasing system in the course of the thirteenth century.
Often the leasing system is considered to have been an improvement for serfs and a set-back for
landlords; the serfs finally received personal freedom and mobility, private use of land and exemption
from the burden of statute labor. However, as I have argued in the previous part of this thesis, tenants
seem to have had to deal with less advantageous conditions in the leasing system then in the manorial
structure of society. The lords could now demand rents, a profitable institution in a period of high land
value and often had the right to switch tenants when after the termination of a lease they could find a
leaseholder that was willing to pay a higher rent. Thus it is to be expected that the landlords in a period
of population growth and an increase in the value of land had a strong grip on their land in the leasing
system. A good example of this is the conflict between the tenant Govert Vastertzoon and the chapter
of Sint Jan in Everiksdorp in 1316. In 1314-1315 due to torrential rain, many harvests in the Low




                                                                                                      146
Countries failed.382 Govert absolutely got the short end of the stick in this situation. The punishment
for bringing in his rent late was a severe fine on top of the rent due and the loss of a part of his land.
The relationships in society between lords and peasants did not change in a profound way in the
leasing system. Thus examined, the model explains why this system was introduced in the course of
the thirteenth century. The demand for land was high in general. An even bigger increase in population
and subsequent a rise in demand on the old land along the southern part of the river Vecht can be
expected, as an amount of overpopulation started to develop in the reclamation region west of the river
Vecht. The increasing problems in arable farming caused by the settlement of land in due time brought
about an increasing specialization in extensive stockbreeding. Cattle holding demanded less labor, thus
creating an oversized work force on the new-land countryside. This surplus of laborers needed land.
Indeed we find a partitioning of land and an increase in smallholders in De Ronde Venen. Yet many
landless peasants will have offered their labor in towns or on the old land, where more intensive
farming remained possible. Thus the landlords on the old land in the southern part of the river Vecht
had no need for the institution of serfdom any longer to bind their work force to the land in order to be
assured of the presence of people to farm their land. The supply of workers was abundant especially
around the fourteenth century, thus making the switch to the leasing system possible for the large
landowners. Thus this model does can merely partially explain the transformation in the distribution of
land in De Ronde Venen that introduced clear property rights for peasants, yet demographic growth
offers a good explanation for the lessening of property rights for peasants on the old land along the
southern course of the river Vecht.
       This firm grip the elite continued to have in the distribution of land and the income from land in
the manorial system as well as the leasing system due to population pressure, seems to be the cause for
the fact that on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht the elite had more instruments
to extract surplus in hands then in De Ronde Venen, especially as compared to the situation in De
Proosdijlanden.
           Emphasizing demographic changes or changes in the availability of resources to a certain
measure can explain the fact that mainly along the river Vecht (a modest amount of) land and rights to
surplus-extraction were distributed to lords of castles. In both regions during the period castles were
erected, demographic pressure was felt as well as a possible lack of resources. In De Ronde Venen as
well as along the river Vecht the land produced considerable yields. For example, the income from De
Proosdijlanden was the main source of income for the chapter of Sint Jan.383 Also in both region the
rights to extract surplus from the land were in the hands of the elite. Why would the ministeriales as
part of this elite have needed to erect eight castles along the southern course of the river Vecht and just
one in De Ronde Venen? Here comes in the disparity in surplus-extraction between the two regions.
Along the river Vecht the ministeriales had more instruments of surplus-extraction from land at their

382
      Palmboom, Het kapittel van Sint Jan 305-306.
383
      Ibidem 307, 447-449.


                                                                                                      147
disposal then in De Ronde Venen. In De Ronde Venen the peasants had clear property rights to their
land, while in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen peasants had to lease the land they
worked. One of the causes for the erection of castles brought forward by scholars is connected to
resources. In the rise of banal power the desire of ministeriales grew to control the countryside since
they collected such large amounts of income from it. It is very well possible that because peasants
residing on the old land along the river Vecht were more heavily burdened then the peasants in De
Ronde Venen, the ministeriales needed more means to control this region, such as castles. Explaining
the difference between the two cases when it comes to the rise of castles is not sufficiently explained
by concentrating on recourses. This reasoning namely does not account for the fact that, although
taxed the least of all cases studied in this thesis, nevertheless in De Proosdijlanden a castle was
erected.
      Changes in demography attribute to an explanation for the shift of power within the elite from the
bishops to the ministeriales from the end of the thirteenth continuing into the fifteenth century.
Although it is accepted among scholars that in the Low Countries the late fourteenth and fifteenth
century cannot be considered as a period of substantial crisis as was the case elsewhere in Europe, the
growth of population did diminish.384 In Het Sticht no substantive set of data survive, but it seems that
the population in towns increased at a slower pace,385 and at any rate in De Ronde Venen the amount
of residents dropped in the fourteenth century due to the specialization. Especially along the river
Vecht during this period we find a decrease in yields from the land. On the basis of series of
inventories of the tithe collected from gain yields and on the basis of rent lists revealing also when
tenants were unable to raise rents, one can infer that indeed areas in which grain was grown and rents


384
    It must be mentioned that the history of the Netherlands in during this pan-European crisis does not fit the
„population and resources‟ model, as it predicted a substantial crisis at this point. As outlined, after a substantial
period of population growth the model expects too much pressure on the resources, upon which a Malthusian
rebalancing of the population and resources should take place. The limits of supply of new cultivable land would
have been reached, causing a crisis of subsistence. At that moment the self-regulative mechanisms that balance
population and resources again would come in action. „Positive checks‟ like famine and disease would have to
come in as well as „preventive checks‟ like delaying the age for marriage or reducing birth rates. This did not
take place at on the scale as it did in the rest of Europe. See: Mertens, „Landbouw‟ 12; Blom, History of the Low
Countries 72-73, 78-79; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 297-298; Bailey, Modeling the
Middle Ages 36.
385
    Mertens, „Landbouw‟13; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 291-292. This diminishing of
population growth was not mainly caused by factors this model usually considers to be „positive checks‟ such as
famine caused by a shortage of foodstuff for the boomed population or exhausted soils, or disease caused by
famine. It seems that the reduced growth had more to do with failing harvests due to climate change and war.
Indeed famine in Het Sticht took place, such as in 1316, 1427, 1437-1438, 1471, 1490 and 1522, but these were
caused by failing harvests due to bad weather, such as drought and driving rain, see: Palmboom, Het kapittel van
Sint Jan 305-306; Mertens, „Landbouw‟ 12; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 297-298, 299-
300. The disease causing a high mortality was the plague, which also carried on in Het Sticht in 1347-1351, 1359
and 1368, but it seems to have had a less destructive effect as elsewhere in Europe, see: Mertens, „Landbouw‟
12; Blom, History of the Low Countries 72-73; C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 12; Van den Hoven van Genderen,
„Land en landbouw‟ 291-292 297-298, 299-300. Very destructive on the level of population seems to have been
the burdens of war in Het Sticht. During the struggles of 1373-1374, 1419-1422, 1427-1428, 1481-1483, the
sources show an increase in the inability to realize the rents, see: Mertens, „Landbouw‟ 12; Van den Hoven van
Genderen, „Land en landbouw‟ 297-298, 299-300.


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had to be paid, from the end of the fourteenth century a until about 1500 a drop in yields and a one or
two rent crises can be recorded.386 Thus the revenues from surplus-extraction probably fell back.
Particularly for the bishops of Utrecht this was a setback, as they were involved in an increasing
amount of wars. The amount of the Episcopal taxes probably fell short, as we can infer from the
forceful attempts to lay hands on the high jurisdiction in De Ronde Venen and the increase in tax
sums. Probably the bishops suffering these financial troubles could not deal with the disloyal
ministeriales who in these more difficult times expanded their amount of instruments for extracting
surplus from land, such as the families Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek in Vinkeveen and the family Van
Nijenrode in Breukelen and Maarssen.
      However, changes in population and resources subsequently cannot give an explanation for the
fact that the bishops seem to be capable of retrieving their powers again in the course of the fifteenth
century when population was still diminishing. We now turn to another model, which might add to the
explanations given by the „population and resource‟ model, or come up with explanations for the
differences and similarities in the structure of society where this model falls short.




5.2 Class power and property relations
      According to this model387, of which the roots lay in the work of Marx, substantial changes in
society are caused by shifts within the structure of social relations and in political and legal institutions
of society. Not demographic and economic developments shape the relationships between groups in
society, since in R. Brenner‟s words, „class structures tend to be highly resilient in relation to the
impact of economic forces, they are not shaped by, or altered in terms of, changes in demographic or
commercial trends‟388 it is rather the other way round; the way class power is distributed determines
the manner and degree to which demographic and economic changes will be able to affect the
structure of society. Demographic and economic forces are channelled instead through the existing
structures of society, with their hierarchies of wealth and power and their laws. These existing
relationships determine whether the economic forces are stimulated or drained or even reversed. The
prime determinant of the pattern of change and development in societies is the way the leading classes
decide to organize society (for example in a manorial and feudal form of exploitation, in a cope system
or on capitalistic basis). The class structure of society determines the distribution of ownership in
general, and thus also that of land and instruments of surplus-extraction studied in this thesis.
      In this model there is a large focus on conflicts between the social classes; these were, in R. H.
Hilton‟s words: „the principal underlying feature of the relationship between the main classes of


386
    Ibidem 297-299.
387
    This survey is based on Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 66-91.
388
    R. Brenner, „Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe‟, Past and Present
70 (1979) 31, 37, quoted in Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 69.


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medieval society.‟389 Substantial developments can only take place if by a class struggle the
relationships between groups in society change, for example as peasants revolt in reaction to
squeezing by their landlords. On the basis of those changes, the way is cleared for other substantial
changes.
      It might seem that the application of this model at this place must lead to a circular reasoning. The
unit of analysis chosen in this thesis, by which the changes in the structure of society are studied, is the
developments in the distribution of the property of land and of income from surplus-extraction. One of
the propositions of the „class power and property relations‟ model is that our unit of explanation,
namely changes in the relationships between groups in society, is the cause itself for changes
concerning our unit of analysis, namely changes in the distribution of landed property and the property
of income through surplus-extraction. Thus changes in the relations between different groups in
society would necessarily lead to changes in the structure of society, an argumentation hard to refute.
It is true that a redistribution of property and thus of power usually does not evolve by itself, it is
founded on a purposeful decision of the leading classes, except maybe during war time. For example,
it has been a decision of the bishops of Utrecht to redistribute their landed property in the peat moors
in the eleventh century to colonists, and a decision of the landlords along the river Vecht to grant a
free status to their unfree peasants from halfway the thirteenth century. Yet can it be established that
these kinds of decisions that result in changes in the relationships in society were forced by non-
economic and non-demographical factors, but mainly on the basis of differences in interests between
classes? The differences and similarities in developments of the structure of society in the cases of the
Vecht region and De Ronde Venen in part seem to be explicable by class interests.
      The line of reasoning of this model does not provide an explanation for the first similarity in the
distribution of landed property and the right to collect income through surplus-extraction from land we
come across. Although a change in the structure of society had taken place; the replacement of the
nobles for the bishops of Utrecht as the landlord in both regions, in neither De Ronde Venen or along
the river Vecht this resulted in other changes in society as one would expect in the paradigm of class
power and property relations. The bishops of Utrecht continued the system of land exploitation
developed already by the Carolingians. They preserved the manorial relationships rather unchanged
for about a century, often even holding on to the same families as villici.
      The model also fails at explaining how come that in eleventh-century De Ronde Venen and on the
old land along the southern stream of the river Vecht from halfway the thirteenth century, the
dissolution of the manorial system in both regions led to such divergent outcomes. Both regions were
characterized by relatively similar class relations; the land was organized according to manorial
relationships in which the bishops of Utrecht were the landlord, assisted by ministeriales and chapters.
In both regions at the time of the dissolutions, a fierce struggle between Het Sticht and the counts of

389
  R.H. Hilton, Bond men made free: Medieval peasant movements and the English rising of 1381 (1973) 233-
234, quoted in: Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 79.


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Holland took place. De Ronde Venen could have become Holland territory during the reclamations
and at the end of the thirteenth century Het Sticht in general actually was almost in control of
Holland.390 Moreover in neither of the regions a class struggle between lords and peasants seems to
have taken place. Within these similar relations, after the dissolution of the manorial system in De
Ronde Venen peasants had gained property rights, personal freedom and political influence, while on
the old land the leasing system in many respects can be considered as a continuation of the manorial
system. Indeed it has been the leading class that took the decision to create new institutions by which
the manorial system disappeared, yet the cause must be sought elsewhere. When the cause for the
creation of new relationships in society must be found in class relationships, the outcome would have
been similar.
       Moreover, in this paradigm one would expect a class struggle to have preceded a substantial
transformation in the structure of society such as the introduction of the cope system. Yet I have not
come across any class struggle between the mancipia and the bishops on the anciently-settled land
along the river Vecht before the large-scale reclamations that might serve as an explanation for the
new relationships between landlord and peasant in De Ronde Venen. Therefore, as demographic
growth, class relations cannot be considered as the prime mover for the only real transformation in the
structure of society in the period studied in this thesis.
       The model is helpful in explaining why in Breukelen, Maarssen, Zwesereng and Everiksdorp the
manorial system survived for at least two more centuries after it had dissolved in De Ronde Venen.
For some reason the elite had been forced to take the decision to create new institutions in the new-
land societies that were not entirely beneficial to its interest. The landlords could not profit from
income from statute labor in De Ronde Venen. Yet, Bois and Hilton would argue that with the fast
enlargement of the available cultivated land by the Great Reclamations, problems related to possible
diminished returns caused by continuous population growth were averted.391 The income from
revenues did not fall back, no squeezing of their peasantry was needed to receive impressive merits
possibly causing class struggles; there must have been no incentive to change the manorial
relationships on the old land. Despite economic and demographic growth, the relationships remained
quite static as far as we have been able to examine. The demographic model failed to explain the
continuation of the system along the river Vecht, as it expected a peasant flight to the reclamation
regions offering an alternative to mancipia. Yet apparently the mancipia did not feel a need to revolt,
and as both parties were quite satisfied, the landlords (first and foremost the bishops, completed by the
chapter of Sint Jan and the convent of Egmond) could continue the manorial property relations
beneficial to them. Also some form of class power is shown in the ability to uphold the manorial
system. The power to protect beneficial privileges is also found in the continuation of institutions of
the manorial system, such as the prevalence of mancipia, the existence of peasant-ministeriales and

390
      Van Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟187-190, 197, 199-202.
391
      These scholars are implicitly more Malthusian-minded then Marxist historians generally are.


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the remnants of corvee, in De Ronde Venen and the Vecht region well after respectively the cope
system and the leasing system had been introduced. This phenomenon can neither be explained by the
demographic nor by the commercialization model as we will see.
    The theory of this model has proved incapable of explaining why the discharge of the manorial
system resulted in such different relationships in society in De Ronde Venen and along the southern
course of the river Vecht. It also fails to clarify the eventual „crisis of feudalism‟, as the model labels
the dissolution of the manorial system, on the old land. The model claims that the loosening of feudal
bonds was caused by the very nature of the manorial relationships itself. As the leading class, in our
case the bishops, chapters and ministeriales, continued to benefit from surplus-extraction through
statute labor, taxes and manorial rents, yet usurped this by spending it on status and warfare but not by
investing this capital in innovations benefiting the productivity of the land, the revenues must have
dropped. This would have lead to a flight of peasants to the towns or peasant revolts. The model states
furthermore that this decline could have been prevented if capitalistic relationships would have been
introduced, as capitalism would inevitably lead to economic growth according to this model. Feudal
relationships however were in the way of economic growth through capitalism, as they restrained
important developments such a free status for peasants that could have stimulated innovation and
specialisation. However, on the old land along the southern part of the river Vecht I have found no
economic decline preceding the dissolution of the manorial system that according to this model should
have offered the incentive to change. At least two centuries before and a century after the „crisis of
feudalism‟ and the subsequent introduction of the leasing system on the old land along the southern
course of the river Vecht, actually the region experienced economic growth. It might be the case that
the land had produced more yields if it had not been exploited in a feudal system, yet this did not
cause a crisis. Neither did I find information on peasant flight or peasant revolt along the river Vecht.
    In fact, I do not think the dissolution of the manorial system and the introduction of the leasing
system can be considered as a profound change in the relationships in society. In the core the leasing
system in my view was a continuation of the class relations that were established as early as the
Carolingian period. The end of enforced serfdom and the introduction of personal freedom in the
leasing system did open the way to capitalism, thus stimulating production for the market,
specialization, innovation and eventually sustained economic growth. However, as I have tried to
make clear, for the tenants on the old land along the southern stream of the river Vecht the
introduction of the leasing system in fact did not make a change. Their surpluses still had to be handed
over to bishops, chapters or ministeriales. So actually the leasing system was quite advantageous to
the landowning and beneficiaries of revenues from land, as rent could be raised while manorial
obligations often were fixed, and they had the possibility of ending leasing contracts. In combination
with the „commercialization, markets and technology‟ model that will be discussed below this model
eventually can give an explanation for the disintegration of the manorial system along the river Vecht.
As commercialization and trade expanded since the thirteenth century, the landlords recognized the


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advantages of stimulating this by providing personal freedom to their peasants. In the increasingly
monetary economy collecting income through rent instead of statute labor was more adroit.
Accordingly, the developments in the markets and commercialization were enforced instead of
obstructed because it was in the interest of the elite.
    The cause for the rise of the class of ministeriales in the partition of the (customary) property of
land and right to request revenues from surplus from land in both regions can very well be explained
by class relations and class struggle. The main reason for the creation of this large apparatus of unfree
vassals in fact was class struggle. In process of consolidating the territory donated to them in the
Ottone system and extending their powers in the direction of sovereignty, the bishops of Utrecht in the
eleventh century got involved in a struggle for power with their nobles. As these had previously
formed the Episcopal armed forces, the bishops needed military services from another group. Here
they created the class of ministeriales, a class that became influential as it was rewarded with
beneficia. Moreover, ministeriales became indispensable in the administration of the bishops‟
property. Often the villici who managed the Episcopal manors continued their service of the bishops as
ministeriales. Hence, on the anciently-settled land along the southern course of the river Vecht as well
as in De Ronde Venen the share of important families of ministeriales was substantial. Their share in
mainly the distribution of claims to instruments to extort surplus from land increased in both regions,
especially from the last decennia of the thirteenth century. In De Ronde Venen the family Van
Abcoude gained ground, and along the river Vecht more land and especially instruments of surplus-
extraction were allocated to the residing ministeriales families. Moreover, castles were erected, often
with few rights to land connected to it, yet many rights to surplus-extraction from land.
    This rise of power of ministeriales by the allocation of more fiefs in both regions can be explained
by the reduction of powers of the bishops and opportunist behavior of the ministeriales families. Due
to intensified warfare between the bishops of Utrecht and nobles such as those from Holland and
Gelre, threatening their property of the Nedersticht and the Oversticht, the bishops were increasingly
in the need of finance and support. Giving out even more of their rights to revenues from land to
ministeriales to win support, the bishops had to turn to continuously increasing the general taxes to
bolster their finances in order to arrest the fall in their income. Where they could not do this, such as in
De Proosdijlanden, they fruitlessly attempted to reclaim the high jurisdiction from the fourteenth
century. In the meanwhile, many families of ministeriales switched sides in the conflicts, profiting
from the rewards for their support. The financial troubles remained heavy and apparently the bishops
did not have enough strength left to correct ministeriales families supporting Holland to lay their
hands on more rights to surplus-extortion or fiefs of land, such as the tithe in Vinkeveen from the
chapter of Sint Pieter by the ministeriales Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek or the Otterspoor tithe in Breukelen
from the same chapter by Van Nijenrode in 1360. Of these kind of families we can conclude that „[i]n
theory they remain bound servants, but their social position has raised them to be the new nobility of




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Het Sticht.‟392 Neither were the bishops capable to fight the increasing influence of Holland on fiefs
along the river Vecht and land in De Ronde Venen. Thus non-economic and non-demographic forces
explain the shift of power within the elite well.
      The increase of power of ministeriales in the social structure is a first explanation for the building
of castles. Ministeriales desired status symbols like impressive, costly buildings such as castles. Yet
this would not explain the difference in density of castles in both regions; eight castles along the
southern course of the river Vecht versus one in De Ronde Venen. Looking from another angle at class
relations and class struggle can offer insight, and the explanations usually found in the literature for
the rise of castles rely heavily on this model.
      As we have seen in paragraph 3.2.2, most scholars state that the primary function of the castles in
the Vecht region was a military-defensive one. The struggle between the counts of Holland and the
bishops of Utrecht over borders, possession of land, rights to surpluses, drainage and the course of
canals to be dug continued and the „[d]iverse strategically situated castles and craggy frontiers still
testify to the century long struggle between Het Sticht and Holland.‟393 They were erected at the end of
the thirteenth and during the fourteenth century, a time in which the struggle was at its most intense.
The within-case comparison in De Ronde Venen supports the statement that castles were erected and
the influence of ministeriales increased in reaction to the class struggle between the nobles from
Holland and the bishops from Utrecht. Of all jurisdictions in De Ronde Venen De Proosdijlanden were
most threatened by Holland, given the business around Zevenhoven, and specifically in this area the
castle was erected. It might very well be that the castle originally had been founded to protect
Mijdrecht and Wilnis, although the castle has never been used in conflicts. This raises the question
however why not more castles had been erected in tormented De Ronde Venen too. A better
explanation must be found.
      The larger amount of castles along the southern stream of the river Vecht than in De Ronde Venen
could be explained by stating, as often happens, that the river Vecht was an important trade route over
which the control was considered to be so lucrative that castles were erected to protect ones
management over the river. De Ronde Venen did not provide in such a trade service and thus
supposedly would need less protection. This explanation referring to commercialization however
cannot be the prime mover for the erection of a more comprehensive amount of castles and the rise of
ministeriales along the river Vecht. That is, at the time castle-building commenced the trade function
of the river Vecht had diminished due to a silting up of the river. If the cause for the erection of castles


392
    C. Dekker, „De ontginning van het Kromme Rijngebied‟ 235; Many families of ministeriales had become so
selfcontious that they often turned against the bishop whenever it suited them. Notorious are the revolts by
ministeriales of 1122, 1133, 1152 and 1159-1160 against bishop Govert in collaboration with the count of Gelre.
The ministeriales family Van Montfoort for example reached such independence that it determined its own
course, completely loose of the bishop. For more information on rebellious ministeriales, see: Olde Meierink,
Kastelen 13-14; Van Winter „De opkomst‟ 173; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Buitelaar, De Stichtse
ministerialiteit 83-85, 383.
393
    Blijdenstein, Tastbare tijd 178.


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would have been based on commercial motives, they would have been needed earlier, when the trade
function of the river Vecht was still intact. Scholars often explain the absence of castles before 1250
by stating that the bishops would not allow castles to be built on fiefs along the river Vecht out of fear
that they would have to let nobles regain power, which could subsequently threaten the Episcopal
           394
powers.          Yet the class of ministeriales had been of impressive size during the twelfth century
           395
already,         so the bishops could have easily staffed castles with their ministeriales. Another cause for
the difference in the situation along the southern part of the Vecht region and in De Ronde Venen
needs to be found.
      One of the functions attributed to castles in the rise of banal power, is the possibility these
fortifications offered to the ministeriales to exert control over the countryside. Besides deeming them
as status symbols and as the result of the struggle between the counts of Holland and the bishops of
Utrecht, I consider a threat of class struggle between lords and peasants as this model would propose
to be a valid approach in explicating this case as well. Striking, at the moment the leading classes lost
their direct influence over the people working their land along the southern part of the river Vecht with
the abolition of serfdom in the dissolution of the manorial system, castles were erected along the river.
To stress the relation between these two developments, it must be mentioned that both developments
chiefly took place along the river Vecht and not in De Ronde Venen. Along the river Vecht the elite
had access to more instruments of surplus-extraction from land then in De Ronde Venen (although this
model cannot explain why as we have seen). The ministeriales collected rent along the river Vecht,
which they could not in De Ronde Venen. The model applied here stresses that „the nexus of history in
the Nedersticht has been, as was the case elsewhere, a continuing struggle to make sure ones privileges
would be acceded and to expand these where possible.‟396 A cause for the building of castles by the
ministeriales could very well have been a safeguarding of their privileges while their tenants enjoyed a
free status. The larger amount of privileges along the river Vecht can explain the larger number of
castles erected there. The idea that the leading classes desired a continuation of their power over
peasants and that there might have been a measure of class struggle between lords and peasants for
which, amongst other reasons, an instrument of control such as a castle was needed, is again
confirmed by a comparison with castle in De Proosdijlanden. The residents of this area enjoyed a
remarkable amount of influence over local administration, yet also appear to have acted quite
rebellious. De Proosdijlanden provide the sole example of peasant awareness found in either of the
regions; a peasant revolt of 1273-1274.397 This uprising took place in the same period as the boom of


394
    Olde Meierink, Kastelen 12-14; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 213, 383; Van Winter, „De opkomst‟
179; Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 204-208; The only two influential noble families in politics of
Het Sticht were the families Uten Goye and Van Cuyck, see: Olde Meierink, Kastelen 12.
395
    C. Dekker, „De ontginning van het Kromme Rijngebied‟ 235; Olde Meierink, Kastelen 13-14; Van Winter
„De opkomst‟ 173; Van Doorn, Langs de Vecht 8; Buitelaar, De Stichtse ministerialiteit 83-85, 383.
396
    Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De mijter‟ 198.
397
    The peasants of Mijdrecht revolted together with peasants from Kennemer, Amstel, Loenen and Muiden
against Floris V tegen floris V, stormed the town of Utrecht and forced the ciry council to abdicate. The


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castle-building. It is not clear when the Proostenhuis in Mijdrecht was erected, but considering the
timing of the revolt, it is very well possible that the castle was erected after the revolt by the chapter to
give its bailiff a solid base from which he could exert influence over colonist-peasants of Mijdrecht.
The cause for the foundation of castles thus can be found in class struggle and the desire of the leading
classes to continue power, and the larger presence of this phenomenon along the river Vecht in the
larger measure of privileges on the old land.
    The partial recovery of the Episcopal powers in the course of the fifteenth century cannot be
explained by this model without help from the other models. The bishops of Utrecht were able to
reprimand some of their autonomously acting ministeriales, and regain some of their rights. They
regained the tithe in Zwesereng and Vinkeveen from the ministeriales Van Abcoude/Gaasbeek in
1459, the tithe of Zwesereng held by the family Van Zuilen in 1422 and were able to overthrow the
castles of Nijenrode and Gunterstein in 1511, recollecting their fiefs. The explanation for this must be
sought in the desire of the bishops to regain, and profit from, their seigniorial rights, yet why were
they suddenly capable of doing this? Warfare in Het Sticht continued, for example in 1373-1374,
1419-1422, 1427-1428 and 1481-1483, so it seems unlikely that the difficult financial situation of
the bishops changed much. Bishops as well as ministeriales must have suffered moreover from the
reduced conjunctural trend from the end of the fourteenth century. For all members of the land-owning
and surplus-owning elite prevails that „[s]ince the growth in the revenues depended on the expansion
of settlement, increasing numbers of tenants, a buoyant market for agricultural products and thriving
towns, the slowing (…) of the long expansionary era of the high medieval economy was bound to
cause them problems.‟398 Yet the income from surplus-extraction from land collected by ministeriales
must relatively speaking have suffered more from the diminishing yields then the income collected by
the bishops. The basis of the tithe, joined by the rent the instrument to extract surplus from land in the
hands of ministeriales, was the yields from land, while the basis of the general land taxes was the
surface of land. The latter possibly remained constant, while income from the tithe at any rate
relatively diminished. The financial situation of the bishops by comparison with that of the
ministeriales thus improved. The weaker position of the ministeriales offered the bishops the
possibility to finally correcting the headstrong ministeriales.




Episcopal elect Jan van Nassau was helpless, due to lack of resources, see: Van den Hoven van Genderen, „De
mijter‟ 202.
398
    Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 89.


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5.3 Commercialisation, markets and technology
      This model399 considers the development of commercialization and industries as the prime
determinant in medieval developments. Since it is not possible to quantify commercialization in the
Middle Ages with any pretence of precision, historians are forced to rely on indicators of
commercialization, such as the specialization in the countryside, the development of urbanization and
marketing institutions. Adherents of this paradigm consider the process of increasing trade, the growth
of open markets, the creation of conditions in which the forces of demand and supply could meet less
restricted, specialization, urbanization, the increased use of money and innovation amongst the forces
capable of causing changes in the structure of society, demography, class-structure and the supply of
resources. The model, owing its basis to A. Smith, for example predicts that the expansion of trade and
the development of towns and industries would be capable of balancing a stressed ratio of population
and resources or even be able to reverse the threat of a crisis. In the case of demographic growth
pressing too much on the available resources, commercialization, a free market or innovations would
release the pressure, as in the process of specialization and innovation more employment and increases
in productivity would be facilitated. Thereby commerce reduces both the costs of production and the
costs of buying and selling. The model claims that in fact continuous economic growth can be
expected under the circumstances that stimulate the positive effects of commercialization,
specialization and innovation; it predicts the most advantageous growth a market system offers, when
a fairly open market is secured, thus when the forces of demand and supply can meet. Furthermore
when property rights are clear, which allows for an entrepreneurial spirit in which specialization can
take place and the risks of innovation are not avoided. Cheap transportation and low transaction costs
are also beneficial and capital that is accumulated should be reinvested.
      When applying this model to the similarities and differences in the structure of society in the two
regions of study, as the previous two paradigms it does not appears to be capable of explaining all
developments. Reasoning from this model does offer an elucidation for the persistence of the manorial
system during the first century of this research and the subsequent reclamations of De Ronde Venen. It
is generally assumed that owing to the termination of the raids by the Vikings, the circumstances in
Het Sticht were safe enough to develop a flourishing trade again. The river Vecht recovered its
position as an important trade route and Utrecht became an international centre of trade until the
thirteenth century.400 This economic upturn according to this model would be the result for the rise in
population from the ninth century. Apparently the manorial system of land exploitation along the
southern part of the river Vecht, expanded with the use of the edges of De Ronde Venen, for a century
was capable of sustaining this increasing amount of people and supporting the artisans and clergy in


399
   This survey is based on Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 121-149.
400
   For urbanization in the Low Countries in general, see: Blom, History of the Low Countries 36-38. For
Utrecht, see: Ph. Maarschalkerweerd, „De steden‟, in: C. Dekker, Provincie Utrecht 283, 285, 288.


                                                                                                          157
Utrecht. According to this paradigm, the continuation of the manorial system inevitably had to lead to
land hunger and thus to reclamations of the peat moors. This system of land exploitation lacked almost
all conditions listed above for an increase of productivity necessary to provide for the increasing
population. Considering the lack of mobility of mancipia as they were bound to their land, the power
of the bishops to prescribe their serfs what crops to cultivate, the obligation of statute labor that
restricted the time unfree peasants could spend on innovations on their own land, it can be stated that
the manorial system was without a free market. Serfs could not participate in the correlation between
supply and demand, only with a lords approval market-oriented production could prevail and the
feasibility of following ones incentives to commercialize was seriously curtailed by seigniorial power.
The manorial system of land exploitation according to this model would not be able to provide the
increase the productivity needed through specialization and innovation. Thus this model explains the
intensity of land hunger that led to the large scale reclamations of the peat moors. This model thus
explains why the reclamations took place, but as the other two paradigms, the model does not provide
an answer to question why the bishops of Utrecht took refuge to offering such attractive conditions in
recruiting colonists, creating a transformation in the structure of society in the reclamations. One could
argue that the bishops had realized the advantages of private landownership and personal freedom, yet
this line of reasoning would leave the continuation of the manorial system along the southern part of
the river Vecht until at least halfway the thirteenth century unexplained. It does not explain the
essential difference between society in De Ronde Venen and on the anciently-settled land along the
southern course of the river Vecht.
    The emphasis on markets and commercialization does well as a prime mover in explaining the
final dissolving of the manorial system along the river Vecht. In the period preceding the decline,
commercialization increased in Het Sticht. Urbanization is considered as an obvious manifestation of
expansion in commercial activity and specialization, as these are peopled with artisans, specialists in
manufactures and merchants. In Het Sticht, as in the Low Countries in general, the amount and size of
towns substantially increased since the thirteenth century. On the countryside of De Ronde Venen
during the fourteenth century, when the dissolution of the manorial system started in Zwesereng and
Breukelen, agriculture commercialized. Trade crops such as hemp were cultivated, cattle holding
increased and peasants turned to peat digging. As a side effect also the amount of smallholders
increased because of commercialization, as cattle holding was labor-extensive. A large demand for
products from the towns pushed the already considerable level of prices, as towns were fully
dependent on the ability of the countryside to produce surplus sufficient to supply the townsmen who
specialized in other activities with foodstuff and raw materials. In this period of high demand from
towns and an increased population, increased prices, and maybe inspired by the success of the
commercialization of land use in De Ronde Venen, the lords might have spotted an opportunity for
increasing their revenues from surplus-extraction. The bishop, chapters and ministeriales controlling
the land in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen might have realized that in this situation


                                                                                                     158
it would be more profitable to introduce new institutional arrangements in which common-property
use of the demesne would be transformed into private use of the land. In this paradigm, the idea is that
peasants enjoying a free status, cultivating their land to their own insight, felt a strong incentive to
direct their production to the market. It is probable the landlords understood the benefits of
commercialization, as the land along the southern part of the river Vecht was situated next to Utrecht,
and as one of the spokesmen of this model, J. von Thünen, claims, „the closer a city was to a farming
region the greater the degree of commercialization and intensification of production that region
experienced‟401 as demands from the market were substantive. Urbanization almost forced the
dissolution of the manorial system; „Cities were not only dependent on agricultural surplus for their
survival; they also helped to determine agricultural production. For instance, the presence of nearby
cities prompted peasants to plant more and to specialize in order to meet the diverse tastes and needs
of the urban market.‟402 As very little is known about agriculture on the old land along the southern
course of the river Vecht, not much concrete data exist that indeed show an increased
commercialization in the leasing system. Yet we know that tile and brick bakeries were founded, and
from the only source material actually describing the crops cultivated along the river Vecht,
inventories from the Carthusian monks of the convent of Nieuwlicht, shows that the convent made
quite a profit by specializing in growing fruit to sell in Utrecht.
      The skimming of the increase in production that would be caused by the introduction of a free
market on their land also had to be transformed as the revenues from surplus-extraction in the
manorial system were quite stationary. The amount of statute labor usually was fixed by customary
right.403 Custom exercised a powerful restraint on the possibility for landlords to increase the amount
of income collected through surplus-extraction. The replacement of statute labor for rent in the
introduction of the leasing system gave the landowners the possibility to increase their income from
revenues. Thus, as H. Pirenne posed; „the decay of the seigniorial system advanced in proportion to
the development of commerce.‟404 On top of that, the need for mancipia, the need for workers bound
to the land, had faded due to the overpopulation.
          This model explains very well why in De Ronde Venen at this time no substantial changes in
society took place. This region already had the institutional structure in which commercialization
could take place and can be considered as a very market oriented region. The model also confirms that
the tenants along the river Vecht did not automatically profit from the introduction of the leasing
system.
      This model can offer no explanation for the continuation of some of the institutions of the
manorial system in De Ronde Venen and along the river Vecht. Neither does reasoning in the line of

401
    Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 132.
402
    Blom, History of the Low Countries 71, 71-72.
403
    Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 86-91.
404
    H. Pirenne, Economic and social history of medieval Europe (1938) 84, quoted in: Bailey, Modeling the
Middle Ages 93.


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this model offer a very thorough interpretation of the fact that along the river Vecht more castles were
founded then in De Ronde Venen. The possibilities an increasingly open market system and
commercialization benefited the countryside in both regions. Both were situated in about the same
distance from thriving cities such as Utrecht and later Amsterdam. Both regions had perfect
connections over water with these markets. De Ronde Venen probably profited from
commercialization to a larger extent, yet merely one castle was erected here. The difference between
the two regions is that on the old land the chapters and ministeriales had the right to collect rent and
thus the lords received more income from land along the river Vecht. This very well explains the
greater presence of castles along the river Vecht then in the Venen. Yet, this model has no explanation
for the fact that in Everiksdorp, Zwesereng, Maarssen and Breukelen the lords had more rights to
collect income from surplus from land then in Vinkeveen, Demmerik, Oudhuizen and especially De
Proosdijlanden. Commercialization also supports the idea that castles were status symbols. It explains
that the ministeriales could become wealthy through the income from surplus-extraction, increased by
commercialization as production rose and thus the income from the tithe. Therefore they had the
means and the incentive to build castles. This is furthermore the sole model that provides an
explanation for the increase of importance of the town of Utrecht in the distribution of land along the
river Vecht and the property of castles. The rise of commercialization, trade and markets stimulated
the rise of towns. Rich merchant families also desired castles as status symbols. Yet the model is not
able to give a reason why the ministeriales and the bishops would want to erect their fortifications
along the river Vecht in a period the trade importance of the river Vecht diminished, as has been
explained in the section on the „class power and property relations‟ model. Apparently castles did not
serve to control trade. Why had they not been erected in the time the river Vecht had flourished
economically as a trade route?
    The improving position of the ministeriales in respect to the bishops of Utrecht can also be
explained from the rise in income from the tithe by commercialized production. The fifteenth-century
come-back of the bishops cannot be understood from this model however. Indeed probably the income
from land for ministeriales diminished relative to that of the bishops of Utrecht, yet this model cannot
explain this. It predicts a continuous economic growth when commercialization is not hindered. Albeit
the free market did not experience more or less restrictions then before, from the end of the fourteenth
century trade diminished and the growth of towns decreased. Apparently commercialization was not
capable of reversing the threat of a recession.




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5.4 Conclusion
    Hitherto in chapter 5 the single set explanations usually applied in the analysis of developments in
medieval society have been tested to the outcomes of the cross-cultural comparison of the processes in
the structure of society in De Ronde Venen and on the anciently-settled land along the southern course
of the river Vecht. In this conclusion I will evaluate whether one of the models was capable of offering
an all-round explanation, or whether we must search for multiple conjunctural causes.
    In the previous paragraphs I have structurally tested the causal propositions advanced by the three
single-set grand models to the results stemming from the comparison of the data concerning the
distribution of landed property and rights to instruments of surplus-extraction. Not a single model
appeared to be able to present a valid explanation for all nine striking developments in the
relationships between groups in society that came to the fore in the comparison of the unit of
observation in both regions. For some differences or similarities in the structure of society more then
one model proved to provide a valid explanation and in some cases an explanation was applicable only
in combination with an explanation provided by another model. In order to be able to conclude which
processes seem to have been the motor behind the developments in society in De Ronde Venen and on
the old land alongside the southern course of the river Vecht, hereunder a survey of the valid causes
will be presented. This will be followed by a proposal to conclude that the explanations the models
offer rather seem to be connected than conflicting, and a supplement will be proposed to the parts
where the models seem inadequate.
    From 953 the bishops of Utrecht were made landlord of generally all land in both regions. This
shift in class power from the nobility to the Church of Utrecht however did not result in a change in
the system of land exploitation. For a century the manorial system continued to determine the
relationships in society in which the land was exploited in De Ronde Venen and on the anciently-
settled land. These manorial relationships were more intensely present along the river Vecht, as this
land in 953 had already been cultivated to a larger extent then De Ronde Venen. The persistence of the
system is first of all explained by demographic growth. Population pressure pushing land value and
increasing yields resulted in a continuation of the advantages of the manorial system to the landlords,
now the bishops of Utrecht, being the sole beneficiaries of the proceeds from land. Second of all,
analyzing from the increase of trade and commercialization since the withdrawal of the Vikings directs
to a similar explanation. This economic upheaval facilitated an increase population. Although the lack
of conditions for an unrestrained market in this system but eventually had to lead to diminishing
returns, for about a century it could meet the needs of the market.
    Whether the demographic growth stimulated the economic growth or vice versa is a chicken-and-
egg problem we will get a little more insight on as we continue. At any rate both models explain the
continuation of the century-old system of land exploitation going from the absence of a motivation for
the landowning and surplus-extracting elite to change the relationships in society. Apparently



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demographic growth and commercialization at this point mainly shaped the relationships in society, as
the model reasoning from „class power‟ expect large changes in society.
    Though the paradigm of „class power and property relations‟ had expected earlier changes, the
demographic and commercialization models again give a good causal explanation for need for the
reclamations of De Ronde Venen. The increasingly expanding population must have lead to a stressed
ratio of land and labor, causing diminishing returns. The subsequent land hunger and rising land value
made it worth the effort to cultivate marginal land, such as De Ronde Venen. The restrictions of
personal freedom, curtailing a free market system, innovation, specialization and commercialization as
presented in the manorial system, caused an impossibility to increase productivity within these
manorial relationships. The maintenance of this system thus inevitably had to result in shortages,
leading to land hunger. This land hunger according to the commercialization model explains the
reclamations of De Ronde Venen. Again it is not clear whether either demographic growth alone or the
restrictions of the manorial system that prevented commercialization by itself could have caused the
amount of land hunger that lead to the cultivation of marginal land.
    Although valid explanations are given for the large-scale reclamations, demographic growth, nor
increasing commercialization, nor conflicting interest between classes in society turned out to be
capable of providing an explanation for the fact that the manorial system was no longer applied in De
Ronde Venen. Why could the reclamations apparently not be executed within the manorial system
whereby the bishops, chapters and ministeriales possessed the land and the revenues from surplus-
extraction from land and the mancipia cultivated the land? Why did the manorial relationships in
society need to be replaced by institutions that created unprecedented relationships in society, why did
the peat moors have to be cultivated at such a high pace? As on the old land preceding the gradual
dissolution of the manorial system from halfway the thirteenth century, in the eleventh century
probably also a lack of resources, population pressure, a system incapable of increasing the
productivity, conflicts between the bishops of Utrecht and the counts of Holland and a leading class
apparently willing to do something about it existed. Apparently even the presence of all three
explanatory variables, as was the case at the time the manorial form of land exploitation disintegrated
along the river Vecht, does not provide a sufficient explanation.
    Irrespective of the fact that on this new land a new structure of society developed, the fact that a
lack of resources was warded off, is at the core of the explanation for the continuation of the manorial
system along the river Vecht emerging from the three models. Because the revenues the landlords
collected from their land did not fall back due to the abundance of land, they did not need to squeeze
their mancipia. Heavily depending on the reasoning in the demographic model, the „class power and
property relations‟ model thus saw no occasion for class struggle between lords and peasants and
subsequently no incentive to change the relationships in society for the leading classes. As the
explanation from class interests relied on the „population and resources‟ model, so does the latter on
the former in explaining this continuation in the relationships in society. Many scholars who look upon


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demography as a prime mover, such as Van der Linden and Blom, expected a flight of the mancipia to
the new land and a direct disintegration of the manorial system. However, when considering the
restrictions to mobility enforced by the leading classes, reasoning from population and resources in
combination with the commercialization model explains it well. In fact in the line of reasoning is
approximately the same as in the explanation for the stable situation of this system of land exploitation
from about 950 to 1050. Albeit the system had inherent limits to its growth, the continuation of the
manorial system on the old land along the river Vecht, whereas this system had dissolved centuries
ago on the new land, can be explained by the increased volume of land. Therefore no crisis emerged
and no motivation existed for the leading classes to change the institutions shaping the relations in
society. In both regions thus the relationships could remain quite fixed.
    The eventual replacement of the manorial system for the leasing system can only be explained by
the models when it is not considered as a transformation of the relationships in society. As I have
argued, this system continued relationships in which the landlords owned all land and income from
surplus collected from the land, while peasants did not own their land, moreover even lost their
customary rights to the land they farmed. The landlord‟s position thus did not devaluate and the
decline of serfdom must not be connected to a decline of seigniorial power as all models do. When
deemed as such, the dissolution of the manorial system along the river Vecht can be explained. As
with the situation in the eleventh century, preceding the dissolution of the manorial system, we find a
situation of pressing population growth, increasing commercialization with the increase of towns,
economic growth, and a struggle between the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht. In the
analysis of the substitution of the manorial for the leasing system, the models are dependent of each
other. It seems we have a case of multiple conjunctural causation, with increasing commercialization
at its hart. Due to increasing trade, urbanization had increased substantially and the demand from the
growing cities was so pressing, that it helped to determine the relationships on the countryside. The
landlords realized that responding to this increased market would bring in more revenue, and that the
advantages of commercialization would be best enjoyed by introducing the private use of land,
stimulating innovation and specialization. Moreover, introducing land rent instead of customary rights
to land also would increase the income for the landlords. The manorial proceeds were quite fixed,
while rents at these times of high land value could be raised. The landlords realized custom exercised a
powerful restraint on this possibility. The possibility for the leading classes to proceed in their interest
was strengthened by the fact that due to population growth, amongst other things caused by the
commercialization of agriculture in De Ronde Venen, the necessity to bind peasants to their land had
disappeared. Not guided by class conflict, yet by class interest, the manorial relations were changed.
    The shifts of power within the elite of large landowners and beneficiaries of revenues from
surpluses from land that took place from the end of the thirteenth century are best explained from class
struggle and class interests. The rise of banal power and the decline of Episcopal power merely in
addition can be explained from demographic causes or causes related to commercialization. Due to the


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exploitation of land in a system that allowed for more market-oriented production, revenues probably
increased and the population also continued to grow until the end of the fourteenth century. As the
ministeriales extended their rights to extract surpluses from land in De Ronde Venen as well as along
the southern course of the river Vecht, they inherently collected more income and strengthened their
position relative to that of the bishops of Utrecht. Yet how they had managed to increase their share in
surplus-extraction and some land is not clarified by these demographic and commercialization causes.
Class struggle as a cause can explain this very well. The cause for the creation of the class of
ministeriales in the first place has been a result of class struggle. The bishops appointed ministeriales
because they wanted to skirt the nobility. The need for loyal servants brought them to distribute
increasing beneficia to them, especially in the struggle with the counts of Holland. During these class
struggles between the counts and the bishops, often ministeriales opportunistic switched sides, and
profited. Thus they increased their power, reinforcing their position to collect more rights to revenues,
using their political weight. The bishops on the other hand had merely got their general land taxes left
as an instrument of surplus-extraction and had to spend the bulk of their income on the conflicts and
warfare.
    This rise of the class of ministeriales was felt more along the river Vecht then in De Ronde Venen,
as the ministeriales besides rights to instruments of surplus-extraction, were able to gain fiefs on
which they erected eight castles. These fiefs in due time were regarded as property. In De Ronde
Venen merely one castle was built. Both regions suffered from the influence of the struggle between
the bishops of Utrecht and the counts of Holland and suffered from warfare. Both regions enjoyed a
strong stimulus to commercialize as they were connected by good waterways to Amsterdam and
Utrecht, from which both regions were situated in approximately the same distance. In both regions
the large population resulted in a strong grip of the elite on their privileges. These factors add to the
drive to build castles, yet cannot explain the difference in number in the two cases.
    Again class struggle turns out to be the prime mover. Since the introduction of the cope system in
De Ronde Venen the elite of large landowners and collectors of revenues from surplus from land
received a more substantial income from their privileges on the old land. The minsisteriales, looking
for status symbols anyway, ensured their substantial income from the tithe by creating the possibility
to exert force. The risk of tenant revolts existed, as the case of Mijdrecht‟s peasants showed, clarifying
the foundation of the castle erected in De Proosdijlanden. How strict the elite could be has been clearly
visible in the manner the chapter of Sint Jan treated its tenant Govert Uteneng. The statement that the
risk of a possible class struggle between lords and tenants has been the main reason for the erection of
castles is also supported by the fact that they were erected during the period in which the mancipia
received personal freedom and private use of their land. Furthermore, if commercialization would have
been a prime mover for the foundation of castles, this would have taken place at the time the river
Vecht was a thriving trade route. The conclusion that class interests were at the base of the foundation




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of castles is reinforced by the fact that due to commercialization rich merchants wanting to show off
status could gain property of castles.
    The shift in power within the elite halfway the fifteenth century in which the bishops of Utrecht
regained their official property of fiefs of land, castles and tithes from the insubordinate ministeriales
is explained by a combination of class struggle and a lessening of the demographic growth from the
end of the fourteenth century. Both regions did not suffer from a crisis, but the yields from land in the
two cases fell back. This diminished the income from revenues from surplus-extraction for the elite.
Probably the income from revenues from the tithe fell more substantively then the revenues from the
land tax, thus striking the ministeriales more then the bishops. The bishops, who in this period of
continuous warfare continued to desire revenues, had their eye on using their improved financial
position to recollect their fiefs from disloyal ministeriales. There is no reason to believe that an
orientation at the market, specialization and commercialization in this period became more restricted.
The commercialization model gives no explanation for the population decline and neither for the
disappointing harvests and thus cannot explain the diminishing revenues.
    Here we found a situation in which finally demographic growth and commercialization did not
improve together. The population growth lessened from the end of the fourteenth century, while the
level of commercialization must be considered as a constant. The diminished demographic growth in
addition to class struggle can be considered as a cause for the partial recovery of the Episcopal powers,
while reasoning from commercialization would not have expected a downturn in population nor
revenues. So moving back, it is likely that more weight should be attributed to demographic growth as
the major cause for the land hunger and rising land value that led to the reclamations then to the lack
of possibilities for commercialization within the manorial system. Changes in population level
continue to be a good explanatory variable, while commercialization fails. The restrictions to
commercialization in the manorial system plausibly did attribute to the land hunger. The ratio between
these two causes however cannot be established unless detailed data sets are extracted from the
available source material on shifts in demography and the level of living standards and
commercialization for both regions. Lacking this information, this thesis out of sheer necessity must
stick to rather general conclusions. We have tested the three causes that are generally given for
changes in the relationships in medieval society to our data and found that no single cause can explain
the developments in social relations in the two cases. In all developments multiple causes were
capable of explaining
    Until the dissolution of the manorial system in both regions, the causes for the continuation of the
manorial relationships between peasants and lords in both regions must be sought chiefly in the lack of
resources and high land value caused by demographic growth or restrictions to commercialization, or
both. Due to the scarcity of more precise data it is impossible to establish whether one of these two
must be considered as an independent variable or that they are rather interrelated variables. Given that
in a period of roughly six centuries a new system of land exploitation was only introduced twice, this


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can be considered as a special event. It is not illogical to assume that the presence of both causes was
needed to cause such an exceptional outcome. As I have argued though, I think demography can be
considered as an independent variable, while commercialization-related causes are amplifying causes.
In the case of the dissolution of the manorial system along the river Vecht for example the alternative
increasing commercialization offered the deciding factor. For this period however, the statement made
by the „class power and property relations‟ model that class structures tend to be highly resilient in
relation to the impact of demographic or commercial trends seems to be untrue. The elite seem to have
made the best out of the demographic and economic developments. After the dissolution of the
manorial system merely shifts in power within the elite take place. It is striking that for this period
most developments are explained dominantly by class struggle and class interests and the other two
models merely add to it.
       It seems that the three causes most of the time must be considered as multiple conjunctural causes.
For example, in the switch to the leasing system one cause cannot explain the developments without
the others. The rise of commercialization was not possible without demographic growth and vice
versa, and the lords would not have decided on the abolishment of serfdom without abundant labor
supply. The struggle for power between the bishops and the ministeriales manifestly did not take place
in a vacuum, isolated from the influence of the dramatic increase of population and the value of land,
these causes were connected. Economic and demographic trends and fluctuations generated powerful
forces for change, and lords and peasants naturally sought to protect their interests or take advantage
of these changes.
       In contemporary medieval studies, although through studying other regions, scholars have reached
the same conclusion: „However, arguing that a complete explanation of such a crucial and complex
process as the history of serfdom and freedom (…) cannot be constructed from just one variable, does
not take us very far towards providing that explanation.‟405A number of integrating models have been
developed, of which the institutional model of D.C. North and R. Thomas really reflects the findings
of this thesis. This model integrates the central tenets of the three supermodels. They emphasise that
indeed usually commercial development provides the backdrop and population and resources are
generally the instigator of changes, but that the shape these changes take is decided by the ruling class.
The elite makes sure that the changes in institutions, needed on the basis of for example population
pressure and increasing commercialization economic growth, are done in its advantage. These „interest
groups‟ according to the model are capable of dealing with the developments in demography and
economy in such a way that they can defend their privileges and possessions for stretched periods of
time.
       In our comparison we find the power of „interest groups‟ to preserve or change institutions in such
a way that these remain in their profit throughout the period of research. The landlords and


405
      Bailey, Modeling the Middle Ages 227.


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ministeriales along the river Vecht were capable of maintaining the manorial institutions while new
institutions were introduced on the new land, because it was in their interest. They changed the
institutions to rules and regulations introducing leasing, as it was more profitable to introduce new
institutional arrangements in which common-property use of the demesne would be transformed into
private use of the land and specialization. This vision on the processes behind developments in society
would also account for the findings indicating that the elite protected some manorial institutions in
their benefit in the new systems of land exploitation, such as unfree servants as mancipia and peasant-
ministeriales and obligations of old, such as „stroyelgeld‟ and the Thirteenth Penny. Neither multiple
conjunctural causation nor reasoning from „interest groups‟ however are capable of explaining the
only real transformation in the structure of society found in the study of the distribution of landed
property and instruments of surplus-extraction from land over roughly six centuries; the introduction
of the cope system. The introduction of the leasing system on the old land to a large extent was a
continuation of relationships between peasants and landlords that existed since the ninth century. The
cope system however landlords did not own the land anymore, but peasants had received clear
property rights, though a minor part of them was unfree. These landholders needed to be consulted in
local administration. In De Ronde Venen they could even influence the level of taxation.
    Along the southern course of the river Vecht preceding the disbandment of the manorial system
experienced to a large extent the same developments as De Ronde Venen, such as population pressure,
a lack of resources, high land value, restricted growth inherent to the manorial system, the increase of
trade and a struggle between the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht. The conjuncture of the
three causes from the models is not capable of explaining why the marginal lands could not have been
reclaimed within the manorial relationships. Along the river Vecht the leading class was able to
preserve most of its century-old privileges until at least 1528, or managed to shape institutions in
reaction to economic or demographic developments that served their interest? In De Ronde Venen
once the cope system had been settled, the beneficiaries of income from surplus from land also
managed to firmly keep this in their hands. What happened halfway the eleventh century that can have
added to the above mentioned conjuncture of causes that led to the introduction of the leasing system
from halfway the thirteenth century along the southern course of the river Vecht, and which were
present halfway the eleventh century too?
    When in systematically testing causes to ones data all explanatory variables proved inadequate,
before one throws away possible explanations to look for a novel explanation, one examines the data
more nuanced to check whether indeed the proposed explanations are insufficient.
To mind comes the moment when bishop Willem decides to introduce the cope system. This is a
reaction to the fact that in the early eleventh century the counts of Holland energetically started
reclaiming the Holland-Utrecht peat moors, marginal land to which both landlords had property rights.
Both landlords could use this land in a situation of land hunger as we have seen. But much more was
at stake. Both landlords were in the middle of the process of becoming sovereign lords with a desire to


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expand and consolidate their territorial property; the counts of Holland establishing a duchy and the
bishops of Utrecht a principality. As neighbours in this struggle for extending their powers in the
direction of sovereignty, the landlords became rivals over territory. The Episcopal authority over the
anciently-settled land along the southern course of the river Vecht was firmly established as we have
seen, yet the rights to uncultivated wilderness were unclear. The peat bogs became a pressure cooker
in which the respective pretensions of the bishops and counts, the population pressure, the land
hunger, the lack of resources and the increase of trade all boiled together and resulted in the rather
brilliant finding of the cope system. Bishop Willem must have thought big; he had much more to
loose then the advantages from statute labor and the authority over mancipia. His systematic, large
scale organization directed at reclaiming as much land as possible in a time span as short as possible,
in order to gain territorial supremacy over their rival, was a success. The speed must have been caused
also by the unusual advantages offered to mancipia, ensuring a determined work force. These
advantages might have been a necessity too; it is very possible that the mancipia did not desire to
escape the manorial system as gladly as is generally claimed. It is possible that the burden of corvee
along the river Vecht and its tributary was not very heavy, and the unfree peasants were at any rate
ensured of land through customary rights. Yet in order to pose this with even the slightest amount of
certainty more research is needed of the manorial system along the river Vecht.
    Rivalry over the consolidation of sovereignty serves well as the cause for the fact that
transformations took place in the structure of society in De Ronde Venen and not on the old land. The
conflicts between these landlords continued, especially throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth
century. Yet it was in this period of the conflict in which consolidation of sovereignty was at stake that
the bishops of Utrecht apparently were driven to take startling decisions as regards to their landed
property and rights to revenues collected through instruments of surplus-extraction. This did start nor
end with the introduction of the cope system. In the beginning of the eleventh century the bishops had
created the chapters and the class of ministeriales to assist them in the administration and
consolidation of their territory, thereby redistributing some of their Episcopal property. To erect a firm
power block against the territorial threat of Holland, the chapter of Sint Jan at the border with Holland
in the wilderness received the unusual right to exert the high jurisdiction in De Proosdijlanden. How
important this was to the bishops is confirmed by the fact that the bishops used their influence to make
sure the forty farms in Wilnis were reclaimed by the chapter of Sint Jan, not by the ministeriales Van
Abcoude. Notable is the fact that in one jurisdiction on the old land the bishops redistributed their
property at an unusual early stage as compared to the rest of the land along the southern part of the
river Vecht. In Breukelen chapters and ministeriales were endowed already during the Great
Reclamations at quite a large scale, while this happened largely in the thirteenth century and thereafter
in the rest of the old-land jurisdictions. Breukelen was situated in borderland with Holland.
    These decisions, driven by class struggle over the erection of a sovereign territory, sustained by
land hunger, lack of recourses and population pressure, had long term effects in the structure of


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society. We must assign value to the explanatory power of path dependency. Because the bishops had
created institutions in which the chapter of Sint Jan had the right to exert the high jurisdiction in the
eleventh century, the peasants in De Proosdijlanden had the most powerful position in all landlord-
peasant relations in both De Ronde Venen and along the southern course of the river Vecht. The cope
system resulted in the difference in the two regions in the amount of instruments to collect surplus
from land, which lead to a substantially larger number of castles along the river Vecht then in De
Ronde Venen. The fact that the bishops had given away almost all instruments to profit from the new
land, arrived at a more influential position for ministeriales in the structure of society and added to the
increasing Episcopal financial troubles.
    It seems possible to identify a complex composition of processes behind the similarities and
differences in the structure of society in De Ronde Venen and on the old land along the southern
stream of the river Vecht. The disparities and similarities in the shifts within the groups in society are
best explained by the institutional model; by the reaction of the elite to developments in demography
and trade and commercialization. The profound transformation in the structure of society in De Ronde
Venen that failed to occur on the old land is best explained by the institutional model, if this also takes
the decisive importance of the rivalry over consolidation of sovereignty into account. The importance
of path dependency also comes to the fore, as the privileges conferred to the colonists in De Ronde
Venen in the eleventh century created differences between the reclamation region and the society
along the southern stream of the river Vecht for centuries.




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Conclusion
    The aim of this thesis has been to set up a contextualized comparison of the structure of medieval
society in De Ronde Venen and on the old land along the river Vecht, stretching from Everiksdorp to
Breukelen, in order to come up with a possible explanation for the similarities and differences between
these two societies in the course of about 600 years. This subject matter is in accordance with the
renewed interest in the historical sciences for researching macro-processes in society and for „big
questions‟. Through this comparison an attempt has been undertaken to gain more insight in the large-
scale processes behind changes in social structure of medieval society in the western part of Het
Sticht. The choice for these two regions has been prompted by the fact that although De Ronde Venen
and the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht had many characteristics in common
during the Middle Ages, the structure of society in both regions appeared to have differed in some
fundamental respects. What‟s more, I wanted to endeavour to make a synthesis of the scattered and
specialist literature existing on both regions.
    The effort of studying society for long period as the 575 years subject in this thesis, involves a risk
of generalization. As a counterargument I have posed that this danger actually is limited in a small N-
study like this, that the comparison has been systematically set up, therefore hopefully decreasing this
possibility, and that postulating more substantive questions such as the subject matter of this thesis
dealing with the motor behind changes in society, by many scholars is considered to be too interesting
to remain not posed. In part 1 I have asserted that the best approach to study the relationships in
medieval society would be through looking at the distribution of the property of land and the partition
of instruments enabling agents to collect income from surpluses from the land. Scholars agree that as
economy and society are indissolubly connected, addressing the access to the means of production
groups in society have, offers a good entrance for the study of society. Since trade, industry,
urbanization and the service sector in the Middle Ages had only started to develop; land was the
backbone of the economy in most places in medieval Western Europe, and the most important means
of subsistence and of income and wealth. The extent of access to land and the income from is a good
indicator for the relationships between groups in society.
    I have argued that property in the Middle Ages must be considered a complex concept; often
several rights to land and to the instruments of surplus-extraction existed. Therefore official and
customary rights to land and income from surpluses and fiefs have all been handled as forms of
property. The instruments I have come across by which portions of the yield from land could be
demanded were land taxes, tithes, rents (manorial and recognition) and statute labor.
    The period tackled in this thesis is that between 953 and 1528, the medieval era in which secular
power over both regions was in the hands of the bishops of Utrecht and their servants. Everiksdorp
was already in the property of the bishops, yet in 953 the larger part of De Ronde Venen and



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Zwesereng, Maarssen, and as I have argued, Breukelen, were donated to bishop Balderik by emperor
Otto I. The thesis is concluded in 1528, when the bishops of Utrecht handed over their worldly powers
to the Habsburg rulers, indicating the start of a new period in the history of the Low Countries; that of
centralization. Around that date also De Ronde Venen experienced profound alterations in land use.
As new groups come to play a part in society in the elite as well as amongst peasants, our research of
medieval society ends in 1528.
    There is a generally accepted premise in the social sciences that assumes that patterns develop in
the way groups in society interact, in this case studied through the way the access to landed property
and the income collected from surplus from the land was distributed. This thesis has been interested in
which kind of developments proved capable of causing these patterns in the distribution of property
connected to land to change. In order to do so, yet avoiding the danger of coming up with ad hoc
explanations, I have applied the explanations offered by the three grand paradigms used by
medievalists to the comparison of the two cases, the „population and resources‟ model, the „class
power and property relations‟ model and the „commercialization, markets and technology‟ model, to
the data found on both regions.
    From the synthesis of the data that I was able to collect from the scarce, scattered and often rather
specialist literature on both regions – in this conclusion I will present the general findings, as the more
detailed information on the family names, distribution and names of specific taxes and levies, or the
surface area of the property of each large landowner in the different areas in De Ronde Venen and
along the river Vecht can be found in the sub conclusions – it was possible to draw the following
conclusions.
    The received vision on the Great Reclamations had to be refined, as it appeared that the
reclamations resulted in a society that was more complex than is generally assumed. On the new land,
besides colonists, peasant-ministeriales and later smallholders took up residence. On the old land,
mancipia only at a low pace became tenants. Although we came across several groups, such as
mancipia, colonists, smallholders, peasant-ministeriales, tenants, canons, ministeriales, bishops and
counts, yet society in both cases essentially turned out to be composed of merely two groups; large
landowners and the people working the land. Using network-analysis I found out that the parties that
are considered the elite, owning large plots of land, often occupied the same positions or were
connected trough bonds of marriage. The ministeriales, canons, bishops and counts can be considered
as one group, that of large landowners. Throughout the period studied, I found on the other hand that
the people actually working the land, whether they owned their land or not and whether they be
mancipia, peasant-ministeriales, colonists, tenants or smallholders, did not own the surplus from their
land. These different kinds of peasants can be considered as one group, as they had to turn in their
surplus, whether in the shape of the tithe, a form of rent, statute labor or a form of land taxes, to this
intertwined group of large landowners. I traced the relationship between these groups in both regions
throughout the period of study.


                                                                                                      171
    I have argued on the basis of the findings in source material on corvee and mancipia from
Buitelaar, a comparison with the Kromme Rijn region and resembling manors in the river region, and
information of the trade between Carolingians and Frisians, that at least from the eighth century the
relationships along the southern course of the river Vecht were shaped by the classical manorial
system. The eastern edges of De Ronde Venen were used as common land and thus to a lesser degree
affected by this system too. Around 1050 bishop Willem of Utrecht started the Great Reclamations,
which resulted in a fundamentally new relationship between the group of large landowners and the
peasants in De Ronde Venen. The colonists owned their own land and the elite merely extracted
surplus from them. Also new was that the peasants, especially in De Proosdijlanden, practised a lot of
influence on local administration. Moreover, many of them enjoyed personal freedom, although
findings of Buitelaar and material from Palmboom showed that a group of unfree landholders,
peasant-ministeriales, also resided in the reclamation units. I introduced data that showed that, unlike
generally assumed, these attainments of the cope system probably hardly affected the old-land
relationships. The first sign of the dissolution of the manorial system on the old land is a lease from
1233 in Everiksdorp. However, I argued that the introduction of the leasing system hardly must be
considered as a change in the relationship between groups in society. The former mancipia did gain
personal freedom, but no landownership or influence on administration. Moreover, as tenants they lost
their customary rights to their land; in fact the elite along the southern course of the river Vecht
remained the landowner and the beneficiaries from revenues. It is striking that for both regions in the
transition of system of exploitation, even though they were of a different kind, remnants of the
manorial system were retained for centuries. Certain forms of serfdom and corvee survived, the levy of
the Thirteenth Penny was continued, and probably many ministeriales derived from the Frankish
villici. From the end of the thirteenth century the portion of the bishops of Utrecht in the property of
land and of instruments of surplus-extraction diminished. Especially ministeriales families in both De
Ronde Venen and along the river Vecht were able to gather more rights to instruments of surplus-
extraction. Along the river Vecht 8 castles were erected, while in De Ronde Venen only 1. Around the
end of the fifteenth century the bishops regained some of their former property from disloyal
ministeriales.
    A comparison of the data collected in part 2 on the distribution of landed property and the income
collected from surpluses from that land in the two cases revealed that a transformation in the
relationship between large landowners and peasants appears to have only occurred once in the period
studied in this thesis; with the introduction of the cope system. In the relationships within these two
groups several shifts in the distribution of the ownership of land and the partition of revenues from
land took place. It seems that many aspects of the comparison set up in this thesis, cannot be explained
by viewing the causal propositions advanced by the three single-set grand models in isolation. Many
of the developments could only be explained by one of the models within the context of the presence
and absence of an explanation presented by another model.


                                                                                                   172
    The lack of changes in the manorial relationship between the large landowner and the peasants
from well before 953 until about 1050, a similarity the two cases share, is best understood by looking
at population growth and supplemented by the increase of trade. High levels of population can be
claimed to have made land and food expensive, resulting in continuously powerful landlords and weak
peasants, to have strengthened serfdom and demesne farming. The economic upheaval since the
departure of the Vikings facilitated the increase population. Demography seems to be the motor
behind this similarity in society in the two cases, supplemented by commercialization. These two
causes seem have been behind the fact that marginal land was taken into use and that the manorial
system on the old land could be preserved; the combination of a lack of conditions for an unrestrained
market in the manorial system and a continuous population increase eventually had to lead to
diminishing returns, increasing land hunger. More land was needed to feed the risen amount of
mouths. Now the pressure on land was averted through the cultivation of new land, the elite could
continue to maintain its privileges on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht without
having to squeeze its mancipia. A possible class struggle was thus avoided. Moreover, an exodus of
mancipia to the new land, as Van der Linden and Blom expected, failed to occur. Thus a combination
of demography, commercialization and (the absence of) class struggle was behind the persistence of
the manorial relationship along the river Vecht.
    I argued that a multiple causal explanation that comprises demography and class struggle,
complemented by commercialization also appears to have been behind the eventual dissolution of the
manorial system we found on the anciently-settled land along the southern stream of the river Vecht. I
do not look upon the leasing system to be a set-back for the large landowning elite. I stated that the
relationship between the peasants and the elite remained the same; the landlords owned all land and
instruments to collect income from surplus from land, while peasants did not own their land, moreover
even lost their customary rights to the land they farmed. The decline of serfdom must not be connected
to a decline of seigniorial power as all models do. Urbanization and increased trade resulted in an
increased market to such an extent that landlords grasped that they could increase the sum of their
revenue if they responded to this market. They enjoyed the advantages of commercialization by
introducing private use of land and land rent instead of customary rights to land, as these could be
raised at times of high land value. The possibility for the leading classes to proceed in their interest
was strengthened by the fact that due to population growth, amongst other things caused by the
commercialization of agriculture in De Ronde Venen, the necessity to bind peasants to their land had
disappeared.
    Class struggle and class interest merely completed by demographic causes or causes related to
commercialization proved to be the best explanation for the rise of banal power and the decline of
Episcopal power from the end of the thirteenth century we saw in both regions. Opportunistically
switching sides in the struggle for power between the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht,
the ministeriales residing in De Ronde Venen and on the old land along the southern course of the


                                                                                                   173
river Vecht increased their rights to means of extracting income from surplus from the land. The
bishops on the contrary were left with their general land taxes, of which the larger part was put in
warfare. The difference between the amount of castles and thus in the prominence of ministeriales in
the structure of society in De Ronde Venen and along the southern stream of the river Vecht can also
be explained by class struggle. As a result of the rights the peasants were given in De Ronde Venen, in
comparison the elite had more instruments for surplus-extraction at its disposal on the old land. As the
risk of tenant revolts existed (as the case of Mijdrecht‟s peasants showed), the ministeriales aimed at
ensuring their substantial income along the river Vecht, and desired status symbols anyway, it was a
more worthwhile effort to erect castles on the old land along the southern course of the river Vecht
then in De Ronde Venen.
    A combination of class struggle and decreased demographic growth from the end of the fourteenth
century explains the shift in power within the elite that was observed in both regions halfway the
fifteenth century. As yields from land in the two regions fell back, the income from revenues from
surplus-extraction for the elite shrank. Still engaged in continuous warfare, the bishops profited from
the fact that probably the income from revenues from the tithe fell more substantively than the
revenues from the land tax, thus striking the ministeriales more then the bishops. The bishops of
Utrecht thus could retrieve some their official property of instruments of surplus-extraction, fiefs of
land and castles at the disadvantage of the ministeriales.
    In explaining the shared shifts or slight differences in the relationships in society in the two cases
or, as in the first century of the period of research, the shared failing of changes in the structure of
society to appear, the explanations put forward by the current paradigms for changes must be
considered as multiple conjunctural causes. Only when we do not consider demography,
commercialization or class struggle as causes isolated from each other, but as interdependent, they can
be considered as the processes behind the developments in society in De Ronde Venen and on the old
land along the southern course of the river Vecht. I argued that the findings from this comparison are
best explained by the institutional model of North and Thomas, which integrates the three paradigms.
Developments in commercial and demographic aspect can generally be considered the instigator of
changes, but the shape these changes take is decided by the ruling class. The elite „interest group‟ of
large landowners appears to have been able to adapt to the developments in demography and in trade,
commercialization and markets in such a way that it benefited them. Thus the manorial system was
preserved for a long time, the reclamations were set off, the leasing system was introduced, manorial
privileges were preserved, castles were built along the river Vecht and privileges were retrieved.
    The processes that are advanced by the grand theories as the motor behind changes in the structure
of medieval society in multiple conjunctural causation proved to be able to explain the similarities and
differences in the shifts in the distribution of landed property and right to extract surplus from land
within groups. However, neither independent nor in association, demographic changes, alterations in
trade and commercialization or class struggle appear to have been the processes leading to the only


                                                                                                     174
real transformation in the structure of society found in the study of the distribution of landed property
and instruments of surplus-extraction from land over 575 in De Ronde Venen and on the old land
alongside the southern course of the river Vecht between 953 and 1528. The current opinion on the
causes for the reclamations, as advanced by Van der Linden, attribute the execution and extraordinary
attainments offered to the colonists to the early medieval profound population increase and the
struggle between the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht. Yet this explanation cannot
account for the fact that the dissolution of the manorial system resulted in such a different outcome in
both regions. At the moment the old manorial relationships were replaced by respectively the cope
relationships in the eleventh and twelfth century and those of the leasing system from halfway the
thirteenth century, De Ronde Venen and the old land along the river Vecht experience almost alike
developments. Both regions in both periods experienced a considerable demographic growth,
economic upheaval and a large measure of commercialization of land use. The struggle with Holland
in both regions was fierce; around the time the leasing system was introduced, the counts of Holland
were even able to expand their influence on property along the southern course of the river Vecht.
Moreover, both regions were only situated some 15 to 30 kilometres from each other, had roughly the
same distance from the town of Utrecht, were in the property of the same landlord, were managed by
chapters and ministeriales, were both agricultural regions in which the peasants enjoyed solid living
standards and experienced problems with water-balance. The explanation for the fact that the position
of peasants in De Ronde Venen improved so much in comparison to the position of tenants along the
river in their respective dissolution of manorial relationships, must be found in other processes.
    My hypothesis is that the explanation for the new structure of society in De Ronde Venen in which
peasants owned their land and in De Proosdijlanden even obtained the right to influence the level of
the tax sum, can be found in the fierce struggle for sovereignty taking place between the bishops of
Utrecht and the counts of Holland. In De Ronde Venen the population pressure, need for land, the lack
of resources and the two landlords‟ desire for territory merged into a high tensed situation. Bishop
Willem found solution out by designing the cope system, which afforded him with systematic, large
scale reclamations in a short time span. The hypothesis that the cope relationships in De Ronde Venen
were introduced first and foremost to outbid the counts of Holland is strengthened by the fact that the
chapter of Sint Jan received the unusual right to exert the high jurisdiction in De Proosdijlanden.
Through path dependency these institutions resulted in differences in the structure of society on the
old land along the southern course of the river Vecht. Thus on the basis of the literature available on
these two regions, the differences and similarities in the changes in the structure of society in both
cases are explained by a complex composition of processes. The institutional model offers the best
explanation for the disparities and communality in shifts within the groups in society; by the reaction
of the elite to developments in demography and trade and commercialization. The profound
transformation in the structure of society in De Ronde Venen that failed to occur on the old land is




                                                                                                     175
best explained by the rivalry over consolidation of sovereignty, in combination with population
pressure and commercialization. The importance of path dependency must also be taken into account.
    Considering these findings, I would recommend that research on macro processes in medieval
society in Het Sticht, instead of addressing developments in society using single set explanations,
should first of all take multiple conjunctural causes into consideration. Second of all scholars might
want to focus more on other possible movers in medieval society than those established in the three
commonly used explanatory models.
    It must be remarked however that the hypotheses I put forward in this thesis offer a temporal
answer to the question of how the similarities and differences in the structure of society in De Ronde
Venen and along the southern course of the river Vecht in the Middle Ages can be explained. A
synthesis of information on society in this period for these regions had not been attempted before, nor
had the two cases previously been compared. As not much sources on the Middle Ages exist dealing
with these regions and as many of the medieval source material on both regions is yet to be translated,
information was scarce. Moreover, the available information often merely dealt with small parts of the
period of research in this thesis or attended a different subject matter. The conclusions drawn here are
open to discussion when more source material will have been studied. Therefore this thesis is an
invitation for more research. For example, if more study of the sources would reveal that the burden of
corvee along the river Vecht was light to such an extent that the mancipia indeed would only enter the
tough life of a colonist under very profitable conditions, the explanation for the introduction of the
attainments of the cope system advanced in this thesis would have to be adjusted. The hypothesis that
the territorial struggle for sovereignty played a decisive part can be checked by comparing the
situation in the two cases studied in this thesis with other reclamation regions where a cope system
was introduced in the Middle Ages, such as in West Friesland or the north of Germany (around places
with cope names such as Elskop and Heringkop). Did this involve pressure from territorial struggle as
well? And was this pressure absent in the medieval reclamations of the swamps in Groningen and
Friesland, which were undertaken without applying the cope system? I would also propose more
research on the economic and demographic developments in both regions. This might reveal that a
profound difference in the economic and demographic situation preceding the dissolution of the
manorial system in both regions did exist after all. The registers of the chapter of Sint Pieter are hardly
studied yet. These might shed a more detailed light on the distribution of land in both De Ronde
Venen and in Breukelen, by for example evaluating sequences of tithe registers. For this purpose the
registers of the lords Van Gaasbeek, which have already been made public, can also be looked into. In
brief, with this thesis I hope to have added to the study of medieval society in Het Sticht, yet I hope a
lot more will be published on these two fascinating regions, in which society took a surprisingly
different shape for places that are situated so nearby each other.




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Internetsources:

www.histkringbreukelen.nl
www.historischekringmaarssen.nl
www.kasteleninutrecht.nl
www.stedengeschiedenis.nl/Downloads/WG/TWG2003_059-068.pdf
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http://www.kasteleninutrecht.nl/Oostwaard.htmwww.slotzuylen.com
http://www.provincieutrecht.nl/chat




Short references
RAU: State Archives Utrecht
HUA: Historical Arcive Utrecht




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