Comparison Analysis Of The Charters And Fueros And The Diggers Pamphlet By Gerrard Winstanley Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: People, Economics, Aviation, Town, City, Europe, Politics, Countries

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/11/07

Throughout their long history, the European countries have witnessed the major changes in the relationships between the elite and non-elite groups of society. The status of the relationships was largely depending on the economic, political and social situation in the local community, in the land and in the country, in general. Whereas the 11th and 12th were marked by the development of the new settlements and cities that were gaining more and more significance for the king and local noble authorities, the 17th century saw the cities and villages already well-developed and having a completely different significance for the elites, who owned much of the countries’ lands. Therefore, the treatment of the people, who resided on those lands, differed depending on the current political and economic interests of the rulers. For this reason, the difference between the Charter of the northern French town of Lorris, the Charter of Jaca and the Charter of Siurana, on one hand, and the Digger pamphlet by Gerrard Winstanley, on the other, reflects the view of the relationship between elites and non-elites existing in the society in the respective times, as well as the scope of rights and obligations bestowed upon and fought for by the people in the 11th-12th and 17th centuries.
The 11th and 12th centuries were a special time in the Middle Ages that marked the commercial revolution and the change of power distribution between the feudal lords and the merchants and artisans living in towns and cities. The growth of the population of many countries led to the excessive number of people working on the feudal lands. As there was no need for so many villagers, people, who were skilled in different crafts, started leaving the villages for the towns and cities to exercise their skills and earn more money by establishing family businesses. At the same time, towns and cities were surrounded by the relatively safe roads that attracted more customers and further enhanced the economic growth. Gradually, the cities became filled with merchants and artisans, and the barter exchange was replaced by the money-based economy. The citizens were at advantage compared to the villagers, as they were paying a yearly tax instead of working in the fields. The economic empowerment of the cities led to their political and social strengthening, as they provided a counterbalance to the feudal lords, and the monarchs of France, Spain and other European countries used this feature to their profit. The kings started granting charters of liberties to the towns and citizens and even transformed the villages into towns, as can be seen from the Charter of Jaca. In exchange of the liberties, rights and privileges and protection of the monarchs, the citizens had to pay certain taxes and abide by the established rules, very often providing support to their king in his possible fights with the feudal lords. The examples of the charters of liberties are the Charters of Jaca, Siurana and Lorris that were establishing the new rule in these towns, and the fact that they were all created relatively at the same time in different countries shows that the political and economic changes were touching all the major European countries. On the contrary, the 17th century was the time of wars, instability and crisis. According to Brown, the revolution that led to the execution of King Charles I did not bring many benefits to the poor. By that century, the lands of the countries were already divided between the landlords, many of whom worked in the parliaments, and the biggest landlord was the king himself, as opposed to the 12th century. Thus, after the abolition of the House of Lords and execution of the King, the parliament began the plan of the enclosure of the common land, which would restrict access to it by the poor and landless people. These lands were supposed to be leased to the large farmers, and the production from them would be sold to the markets; thus, merchants, artisans, workers and poor people did not have access to the land in order to grow their own goods and sell them in the villages and cities. The arrests of the radical activists, who were trying to defend the rights of the poor to the common lands led to the establishment of several movements, including the movement of the Diggers of Gerrard Winstanley, who became the author of the 1649 Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England. Unlike the Charters of the 11th and 12th centuries, the Declaration had the roles of the non-elites and elites reversed, as it was the poor and landless people, who established their own rights and freedoms and tried to limit the rights of the noble landowners, who, according to Winstanley, owned the land only because their fathers have conquered it with swords and by spilling blood of the innocent people, and for this reason, he concluded that the land actually belonged solely to them unlawfully and should have been distributed among all people of England. At the same time, however noble the attempts of the diggers were at those times, their declarations were met without much enthusiasm by the elites, who very satisfied with the existing state of affairs and were not planning on changing anything through providing more rights to the non-elites.
The main difference in the issues presented by the two sets of documents is the position the non-elites and elites were holding at the times when the documents have been created. The first set of documents was designed when the elites were interested in the non-elites as their allies in the fights against the rebellious and independent feudal lords. The elites were also interested in the economic profit they could gain from granting the rights, liberties and, most importantly, protection of the non-elites, who boosted the economy and strength of the country through their labor. The second document, to the contrary, was designed when the elites were no more interested in giving rights and liberties to the non-elites, as the latter were economically dependent of the former and had almost no effective political power, while the landowners had armies on their side.
The primary reason why the approaches to the issue are different in the two sets of documents is the difference in the distribution of economic and political strength of the two groups. While people were a driving economic force in the Middle Ages, they have lost their strength to the big landowners and farmers by the mid-17th century. The change in the roles led to the change in the possibility to dictate the rules and effectively made demands. The Charters, thus, expressed the interests of the Kings, who encouraged people to leave the feudal lords and move to the towns, as the Article 18 of the Charter of the northern French town of Lorris even stated that “Any one who shall dwell a year and a day in the parish of Lorris shall abide there freely and without molestation”. This meant that runaways from the feudal lords could reside in the town or city for a year and one day to be free from pursuit and any obligations before the land lord. Any fights or problems that occurred in Jaca and Siurana, could be most of the time be settled by fine, and it is easy to notice that King Sancho and Ramon Berenguer were very interested in establishing the well-being of their cities, as the prefaces to the documents show expression of good will and respect toward the citizens. Unlike these documents, the Declaration by Winstanley condemned the landowners, but tried to find the peaceful settlement of the issue, as the diggers were clearly aware that they were unarmed and economically and politically almost powerless and could only succeed if gained popularity rapidly, so they were interested in peaceful resolution.
The two sets of documents and the issues discussed therein show how the European society was developing in the different ages. First of all, it is clearly seen how the history of the people’s rights was not positively progressive, as the state of affairs worsened after the 12th century and by the 17th century. At the same time, it can be seen that while the political situation was the primary concern in the 12th century, it was send to back, as the economic concerns became the main trigger of the historical political events. The relevance of these documents also lies in their portrayal of the development of human rights and how they gradually affected and shaped the human rights that exist today, including the gradual spread of rights and liberties from the cities all over the country, becoming a norm rather than the exception.


Brown, Duncan. "A Common Treasury for All." Socialist Review, no. 229 (1999). Accessed February 9, 2015.
Constable, Olivia Remie, ed. Medieval Iberia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner, and Linda Gale Jones. Handbook to Life in the Medieval World. Infobase Publishing, 2008.
"Medieval Society." Boise State University. Accessed February 9, 2015.
Ogg, Frederic Austin, ed., A Source Book of Medieval History. New York, 1907.
Winstanley, Gerrard. A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England. London, 1649.

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Comparison Analysis Of The Charters And Fueros And The Diggers Pamphlet By Gerrard Winstanley Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 07, 2020. Accessed May 22, 2022.

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