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Did Things Have Value in the Middle Ages?
mardi 30 juin 2015

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Conférence de Laurent Feller lors du colloque "Pricing, Practices, Ranking" organisé par le département de Sciences Sociales et le département d’Économie

Quatrième session: Values, Cognition, and Markets

In asking this seemingly absurd question, I am hinting at the difficulties experienced by historians of Middle Ages economy, and more specifically of the Early Middle Ages economy (800-1200) on which I will primarily focus. During this era, quantification and the use of numbers were not essential to economic trade and production. Indeed, not only were numbers not frequently used, but also prices were set in response to questions that went beyond that of the value of such and such goods. A lot of transactions which at first seemed purely mercantile had in fact a deeper meaning: even seemingly pure economic exchanges gave rise to prices whose signification was not exhausted by the relationships binding the economic partners. These well-known features of medieval economy preclude the historians from helping themselves to concepts and categories well-suited to 18th-19th economies when studying 9th-13th economies. In the Middle Ages, things, as well as possessions, were the vehicles of the qualities ascribed to their owners (individuals, groups...) and could not be distinguished from these owners: such things and possessions first and foremost had to do with honor, reputation and status, before being considered to be but commodities traded on the marketplace

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Laurent Feller
Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
Professeur des universités

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Laurent Feller est Professeur d'histoire médiévale à l'université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Laurent Feller a soutenu en 1996 une thèse d’État sur Les Abruzzes médiévales. Territoire, économie et société en Italie centrale aux IXe-XIIe siècles (Collection de l’École Française de Rome, 1998). Il consacre depuis ses recherches à l’histoire économique et sociale de l’Italie ainsi que, plus largement, aux problèmes de la circulation des richesses, du crédit et du salariat au haut Moyen Âge et au Moyen Âge central. Historien de la société et de l’économie rurales plus que de la vie religieuse, il a notamment publié Paysans et seigneurs au Moyen Âge, VIIIe-XVe siècles (A. Colin, 2007).

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Dernière mise à jour : 27/11/2015