History of Wills, Testators and Their Families in Late Medieval Krakow

Tools of Power


This volume offers the first comprehensive analysis of wills in late medieval Krakow. It presents the origins of testamentary acts in the Kingdom of Poland and its centre, Krakow, and their subsequent transformation from so called ‘canonical wills’ to ‘communal wills’. Wysmułek discusses the socio-cultural role of wills and sets them in their contemporary legal, social, and economic context. In doing so, he uncovers their influence on property ownership and family relations in the city, as well as on the religious practices of the burghers. Ultimately, this work seeks to change the perception of wills by treating the testamentary act itself as an important agent of historical social change – a ‘tool of power’.
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Jakub Wysmułek, Ph.D., (2013), University of Warsaw, is a historian and sociologist at the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw). His main fields of research are premodern urban social history and collective memory in the contemporary world.
List of Figures and Tables

 1 Definition of a ‘Will’
 2 The Will – A Theoretical Perspective
 3 Source Base
 4 Subject Literature
 5 Structure of the Work

1 The Institution of the Will
 1 Wills in Poland in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
 2 Church Guardianship over Wills
 3 Property Laws in Medieval Cities
 4 The Influence of Roman Law
 5 Property Bequests and Canonical Wills in Fourteenth-Century Krakow
 6 Emergence of the Communal Will in Krakow
 7 Open and Closed Wills in the Fifteenth Century
 8 Fifteenth-Century Wills “Made in Sickness and in Health”
 9 Formula for Wills from 1485
 10 Liber Testamentorum from 1450
 11 The Number of Wills in Krakow from 1300 to 1500
 12 The Reasons for Writing Wills

2 The Socio-economic Position of Testators
 1 Social Characteristics of the Late Medieval City
 2 Categories of Urban Social Subdivisions
 3 Municipal Authorities as Testators
 4 Occupational Structure of Testators
  4.1 Merchants and Stallholders
  4.2 Goldsmiths and Belt Makers
  4.3 Food-Related Crafts
  4.4 Clothing-Related Crafts
  4.5 Metalworking and Armour-Making Crafts
  4.6 Professionals of the Written Word
  4.7 Other Crafts
  4.8 Summary: Trade and Handicraft
 5 The Financial Situation of Krakovian Testators
 6 Social Structure in Other Cities and Towns
 7 Wealth and Social Status
 8 Dower Records in Krakovian Wills
 9 Estimates of Testators’ Wealth
 10 Characteristics of Particular Social Groups
  10.1 Impoverished Testators
  10.2 Testators of Modest Means
  10.3 Moderately Well-Off Testators
  10.4 Wealthy Testators
  10.5 Extremely Wealthy Testators
 11 Female Testators
 12 Immigrant Testators
  12.1 Immigration and the City’s Population
  12.2 Newcomers to the City
  12.3 Cultural Capital of Newcomers
 13 Determinants of Testators’ Social Position
  13.1 Economic Capital
  13.2 Cultural Capital – Education
  13.3 Social Capital – Quarter Captains, Tower Commanders and Administrators
 14 Changes in Social Position
  14.1 The Dower and Level of Wealth
  14.2 Social Mobility

3 The Burgher Family
 1 Family and Marriage in the Light of Law and Tradition
 2 New Forms of Bequests for Wives
 3 The Situation of the Widow
 4 Children
 5 Grandchildren
 6 Siblings, Nieces and Nephews
 7 Other Relatives
 8 Servants and Co-workers
 9 The Image of the Burgher Family as Presented in Late-Medieval Wills

4 The Burgher Religiosity
 1 A Personal Relationship with God
  1.1 Clergy
   1.1.1 Confessors
   1.1.2 Preachers
   1.1.3 Other Clergy
  1.2 Religious Objects in Wills
   1.2.1 Rosaries
   1.2.2 Books and Paintings
   1.2.3 Expensive Symbols of Piety: Crosses and Agnus Dei Medaillons
  1.3 Participation in the sacrum: Personal Belongings Used for Religious Purposes
 2 The Familial Dimension of Piety
 3 The Corporate Dimension of Burghers’ Piety
 4 Parish Identity and Ties to Other Religious Institutions in the Medieval City
 5 Religion Civique – Communal Religiosity
  5.1 Beguinages
 6 Christian Duty
 7 Summary


Urban historians of the late medieval period interested in the socio-cultural development of law, and anyone interested in medieval documentary history.
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