T. Hoško: Zvyčai i prava (Custom and Rights)

Zvyčai i prava (Custom and Rights). Džerela, komentari, doslidžennja. U dvoch tomach. Tom I: Antropolohija mist i mis’koho prava na rus’kych zemljach u XIV – peršij polovyni XVII stolittja (Sources, Comments, Studies: In Two Volumes. Volume I: Anthropology of Cities and City Law on Rusian Lands in the 14th - First Half of the 17th Century)

Hoško, Tetjana
Kyïv 2019: Krytyka
Anzahl Seiten
564 S.
491 grn
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Bondaruk Tetiana, State and Law Institute, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv

Urban topics have always attracted the attention of researchers in various fields due to the fact that history as a phenomenon is primarily the history of cities. The city and its citizens on the Rus’ (Ukrainian, TB) lands of the Polish Crown, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rich Pospolyta) in the XIV-XVII centuries are the main actors of the “scientific novel” by Tetiana Goshko, a well-known researcher of the history of Magdeburg law at Ukrainian Catholic University.1 The author puts her aim as “scientific literature must cease to be comprehensible and accessible only to specialists” (p. 13).

The ambitious goal of the research is to analyze “the world of legal ideas of city residents, their social phobias, normative and antisocial behavior, forms of violence and attitudes towards them, various identities (social, ethnic, religious, etc.), gender aspects, etc.” (p.11). And the main idea – no less ambitious for a keen historian – is to demonstrate how, with the help of sources of a legal nature, questions related to the anthropology of city law, as well as the anthropology of the late medieval and early modern city could be reinterpreted (p. 13).

Tetiana Goshko has used the methodological approach of legal anthropology quite successfully which is new for her. However, she has expressed an opinion that is rather controversial for legal scholars. She is convinced that “legal anthropology is still not fully integrated into legal science, rather it is its marginal branch, a connecting link with other social disciplines” (p. 29).

The starting point for her is the thesis, which is difficult to disagree with: “if the law is not reduced to individual prescriptions and advice, it can become one of the tools that every society creates to try to resolve its conflicts” (p. 29). This broad anthropological approach with emphasis on semiotics and hermeneutics prepares the reader for an exciting intellectual adventure.

The book consists of 6 chapters: 1. Research methodology and historiography of the problem. 2. Symbolic and metaphorical worlds in the ideas of the townspeople through the prism of the “Sachsenspiegel”. 3. The Łaski’s Statute as a source of anthropology of city and state law in the Polish Crown. 4. Concepts of law and urban society in the codes of the second half of the 16th until beginning of the 17th century. 5. Burghers vs. gentry in the light of Sejm constitutions. 6. Scope and diversity of city law in location privileges.

In fact, the research consists of three elements that can be conventionally identified as general-source, anthropological-legal, and location-privileged.

The first of them presents a thorough historiographical analysis of the “Sachsenspiegel” by Eike von Renkow, and the first codification of law in the Kinddom of Poland known as the Łaski’s Statute. The legal collections of Bartholomew Groitskyi, a Cracow burgher and lawyer, was one of the first to translate and supplement the Magdeburg law with explanations. Pavlo Shcherbych, and Pavlo Kushevych, which were mostly applied in the Ukrainian lands of the Crown and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, are analyzed in the context of the influence of humanism. The author demonstrates a brilliant knowledge of the picture of the world and the intellectual situation contemporary to these legal sources. This approach makes it possible to clarify the legal texts, for example, through the interpretation of the body, sign language, symbolism, and allegories of Christianity, etc., and to involve the artistic works. Therefore, it significantly helps to understand the mentality and value categories of the burghers of the 16th and 17th centuries, and sometimes also the personalities of the authors of legal collections.

In the second part, the methodological principle of “thick description” was fully implemented to obtain answers from historical sources regarding certain spheres of life of the city society. The author considers the issues of morality and law, including adultery, prostitution, violence against women, and the status of disabled city dwellers, executioners, wizards and sorcerers, and gamblers. The analysis of the medieval idea of childhood and old age, “a complex interweaving of the vestiges of the medieval mentality and the foundations of the age of humanism, at the same time enshrined in one article of a certain code” is of considerable interest (p. 284). Special attention is devoted to the oath ritual – one of the most important elements of the medieval and early modern law. A detailed analysis of the relations between the burghers and the gentry has been provided, in particular in the context of the blurring of state boundaries and attempts to prevent this, as well as issues of representation in the Sejm. It is interesting to see an attempt to open the veil over the life of the city’s fringes: beggars, lowlifes, Roma, who were treated ambivalently in the author’s opinion: “"some of them were persecuted, while others were not only tolerated but also supported because they were an important component of the Christian social space” (p. 401). In general, cities “were wary of interference in their affairs and the restrictions on their city rights,” Tetiana Goshko concludes.

The author justifies the focus on locational privileges – the privileges of the Magdeburg law that were originally granted to individual cities with the thesis that “the self-governing cities of the Crown of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in particular on Rus’ lands, compared their law not so much with codes as with specific privileges granted by kings or owners” (p. 405). She notes that “although the Magdeburg law of the cities of Central-Eastern Europe was basically of the same type, there were quite a lot of specific features that characterized the self-governing organization of each city” (p. 419). In particular, through the privileges of Magdeburg law “to increase the welfare and safety of the city from enemies”, the author depicts the towns of Horokhiv (now the Volyn region of Ukraine), Medzhibozh (now the Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine), Lysyanka (now the Kyiv region of Ukraine), Ostrog (now the Rivne region of Ukraine), Chygyryn (now Cherkasy region), etc.

Finally, it can be stated that the author managed to make the urban society of the Crown of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 16th to 17th centuries more understandable for the reader. Tetiana Goshko is not limited to the ”prism of law that guided the burghers” (p. 467) but demonstrates the advantages of collaborative processes in modern humanitarianism, which allow us to ask new questions about the object of research and receive sometimes unexpected answers precisely at the intersection of sciences, historical and legal in this case.

The advantage is the interweaving, and not the isolation (perhaps, except for the author's favorite L’viv) of “Ukrainian material” in the general context of the research. It gives the author a reason to claim that “Rus’ cities were in many respects similar to the cities of the rest of the regions of Central-Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, although they had their own characteristics” (p. 471). It confirms the existence of established decentralization and self-government processes in these areas.

”Anthropology of cities and city law on Rus’ lands in the 16th-first half of the 17th century” is the first volume of the two-volume publication “Customs and Laws: Sources, Comments, Studies”2. We wish both the author and the readers the release of the second volume to happen, which will undoubtedly be just as exciting.

1 For example: Hoshko T. Narysy z istorii mahdeburzkoho prava v Ukraini XIV-poch. XVII st. Lviv: Afisha, 2002.
2 Hoshko T. Zvychai i prava: Dzherela, komentari, doslidzhennia: U dvokh tomakh. Tom I: Antropolohiia mist i miskoho prava na ruskykh zemliakh u XIV – pershii polovyni XVII stolittia / Instytut krytyky; Ukrainian Restarch Institute, Harvard University – Kyiv: Krytyka.

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