Benoît Garnot (ed.), L'Infrajudiciaire du Moyen-Âge à l'époque contemporaine : Actes du colloque de Dijon 5-6 Octobre 1995
Benoît Garnot (ed.), L'Infrajudiciaire du Moyen-Âge à l'époque contemporaine : Actes du colloque de Dijon 5-6 Octobre 1995 (Publications de l'Université de Bourgogne, 81 : Serie du Centre d'Études Historiques, 5), Dijon, Éditions Université de Dijon, 1996), 477 p., ISBN 2-905965-09-6
1Although the practices it comprehends are well known to Anglophone historians, the term ’l'infrajudiciaire’ has no exact equivalent in English, and is perhaps best translated for the purposes of this review as ’infrajudicial practices' ; that is to say, the practices by which disputes which have or might normally be resolved through the judicial process are settled by practices operating within or in parallel to the normal machinery and practices of the law. Almost every student of medieval or early modern legal systems will be familiar with the way in which strict legal rules could be bent or adjusted to meet the need of individual circumstances or individual litigants, or of how litigants or people in dispute might find settllements of the margins of the legal system, and the development among francophone historians of the concept of Tinfrajudiciare ’provides a useful way of grouping these diverse practices.
2For, as the essays in this collection demonstrate, diverse these practices certainly were. This volume contains thirty – one contributions presented to a conference at Dijon in 1995, and these contributions, their geographical focus largely but by no means exclusively on France, range widely in period and subject matter : we have, for example, Andrea Zorzi writing on infrajudicial practices and Italian political institutions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and Anne-Claude Ambroise -Rendu's analysis of the crowd as an instrument of justice in the period 1870-1910 ; Nicole Gonthier's reflections on peace – making at the end of the middle ages, and Dominique Kalifa, in her essay of the rise of private policing in France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tracing the birth of private detective agencies ; and Pierre Monnet reconstructing patrician visions of honour from Frankfurt chronicles of the late middle ages, and François Bayard writing on the how infrajudicial practices operated within economic activity in Lyon and Paris in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To these specific studies are added pieces, notably by Xavier Rousseaux and Jean-Claude Farcy, attacking some broader issues, while transcripts of the debates generated by the presentations are also included. The net result is a rich, wide – ranging, and thought – provoking volume.
3The diversity of these papers, and the elasticity of the concept of ’l'infrajudici-aire', understandably makes it very difficult to make any valid generalisations about the operation of infrajudicial practices. Sometimes, for example, they can be seen as being more or less officially sanctioned, and operating within the legal system proper, while at other times they operate outside it. Sometimes the infrajudicial is resorted to when existing institutions were not felt to offer adequate means of solving problems or settling disputes, and sometimes when, as Martin Dinges comments, when parties in a dispute wish to ’avoid justice’ (p. 194). Parties involved in infrajudicial dispute resolution obviously needed people or institutions they could trust to mediate and possibly enforce decisions, and these too varied widely, from local clergymen in Ancien Regime France to apaiseurs, or institutionalised conciliators, in eighteenth-century Flanders, and the justices de paix in the Dijon area in the revolutionary period. There is also the problem of evidence : sometimes this is available in plenty, but infrajudicial practices are sometimes very thinly documented, and the historian has to reconstruct them from isolated and imperfect materials. Generally, however, as many of the contributions to this volume demonstrate, the most meaningful aspects of infrajudicial practices emerge when their interactions with the judicial machine proper are analysed. These interactions demonstrate that the infrajudicial is not just a residual category, but something whose full implications can only be appreciated when it is seen operating with relation to judicial institutions and governmental practices. Lurking behind the history of the infrajudicial, therefore, is the more familiar history of the grand lines of development of the development of the law, legal systems, and litigation in Europe, and the gradual triumph of official justice over unofficial, and central over local.
4Overall, study of infrajudicial practices demonstrate that, since human beings live together, they need methods of resolving disputes, and that the necessary means to do so are not always provided by the judicial system. Infrajudicial solutions might be sought for a variety of reasons, perhaps most often because they are cheaper than going to law, because they allow participants in a dispute to maintain honour or reputation more easily, or because they are less disruptive on interpersonal, familial, or community relations than fighting a lawsuit through to the end. Infrajudicial practices may have been very varied, but they provided an important, familiar, and flexible means of conflict resolution, often as or perhaps more effective than the resources of official justice. Despite its lack of precision, and its inherent ambiguities to which we must always be alert, the concept of Tinfrajudiciare is an indispensable research tool for the historian of the law and the operation of legal systems.
Pour citer cet article
J.A. Sharpe, « Benoît Garnot (ed.), L'Infrajudiciaire du Moyen-Âge à l'époque contemporaine : Actes du colloque de Dijon 5-6 Octobre 1995 », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, Vol. 5, n°1 | 2001, 140-142.
J.A. Sharpe, « Benoît Garnot (ed.), L'Infrajudiciaire du Moyen-Âge à l'époque contemporaine : Actes du colloque de Dijon 5-6 Octobre 1995 », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies [En ligne], Vol. 5, n°1 | 2001, mis en ligne le 02 avril 2009, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : http://chs.revues.org/793Haut de page
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