One of the most interesting aspects of Medieval Europe I have noticed is the presence and power gossip holds in Europe. I did some preliminary research on gossip in Europe among the peasantry. One article, written by Chris Wickham entitled “Gossip and Resistance Among the Medieval Peasantry”, examines the Campango vs. Passignano in Italy. The Passignano family was a powerful monarchy, while the Campango family was of the peasant class. The case was over a land dispute, and according to Wickham, all the witnessess called forth were of peasantry class, and were split between the two sides.
In Italy, I found it interesting there witnesses are categorized ; “per visum” is a visual witness, “per aditum” an audio witness, and publica fama is the general knowledge everybody knew. Yet the problem with publica fama is that, though was accepted in the Italian courts as evidence, it was essentially gossip. Wickham demonstrates the danger of trusting gossip, as Campango creates his own “gossip” in order to place the publica fama on his side.
What is interesting, is Wickham notes that “peasant do not speak in any medieval texts” , or if they do “it is not directly”. Therefore the witnesses of others is as close as we can get to hearing and understanding what the peasants were like. One peasant culture which is more known about then others is the one existing in Iceland. This is because in Iceland the peasantry relied on public opinion and gossip to win land disputes. Public narratives from Iceland are therefore more rare then others.
I think it is interesting that the few accounts we may hold of peasantry can be categorized as gossip, thus raising the question, can we ever know truly what the peasantry was like?