Indentures and Indentured Servants

Why were indentured servants called indentured servants?

Before the term “indenture” came about, medieval Europeans used legal documents called chirographs. Sometime before the year 1000, legal transactions involving multiple parties were recorded on a sheet of velum. Details of the transaction were recorded twice on the sheet and then the sheet was cut in half with each piece going to the parties involved in the transaction. Sometimes the cut was made along a word making it easier to verify the authenticity of the document. The below document from 1201 is an example of a chirograph cut along a word.

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Acquittance of debt by Jacob ben Moses and Margaret to Peter of Edgefield. The British Library Online Manuscript Collection, Harley Ch 43 A 54, 1201-1203.

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More questions about Vikings in Greenland, the Bishop of Gardar’s Crosier,and Unicorn Horns.

A recent Smithsonian Magazine article explores the decline and disappearance of Viking settlements on Greenland. Previous scholarship argued that the Viking disappearance was caused by a combination of factors including temperature change linked to a volcanic eruption, environmental collapse caused by livestock overgrazing, and cultural inflexibility (Vikings refused to adapt or abandon their Scandinavian farming techniques and diet). However new evidence suggests otherwise.

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The Unicorn in Raleigh, NC

The North Carolina Museum of Art houses The Triumph of Chastity (ca. 1450-1460), a painting produced by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tommaso. The painting was probably presented to a newly wedded couple.

The Triumph of Chastity, circa 1450-1460, the Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni Tempera and gold leaf on panel.

The image is rich in symbolism. Chastity enters Rome in a triumphal procession riding  a unicorn drawn chariot. The link between the virtue of chastity and the state of virginity is emphasized through the medieval European belief that only a virgin could tame a unicorn.

Cupid, symbolizing lust, kneels before Chastity, affirming the virginity of the newly wed bride. The unicorn drawn chariot is surrounded by maidens. One maiden is carrying a banner of ermine, symbolizing purity, while the others carry yokes, representing marriage and obedience. A faithful dog joins the procession in the foreground.

The Giovanni painting shares some of the same themes found in the del Pane marriage portrait of Matteo di Sebastiano di Bernardino Goazzadini to Ginevra d’Antonio Lupari Goazzadini.