A lazy secretary found an innovative way to do his (boring) job – Fribourg, 1439

Picture yourself as the one following the officer in the review of his militia men. As last year, and the year before, you will have to produce again the same document, listing the names of all inhabitants enrolled in the urban militia, from inside and outside the walls. This includes the check of the defensive and offensive weapons which they carry, and have to possess and care throughout the year by law.

Instead of writing in details the different weapon categories (guns, staff weapons and crossbows) over and over again next to the names, you decide to draw pictograms. Not only is it quicker, but also more efficient when you have to provide sums of armed forces according to weapon categories at the end of the exercise.

Rôle des compagnies, ville et campagne, s.d. (1439). Fribourg, Archives d’Etat, Affaires Militaire 2. © Marcult 2019

The “military” organisation of the town at the time consisted of dividing the city in four quarters (Bourg, Hôpitaux, Auge and Neuveville), all of them having to provide men ready to defend the city in time of need, or from which armed expeditions can be manned. A network of neighbouring villages outside of the walls are assigned to each quarter. Around 1460, compagnies with names and banners appeared, still related to a specific urban space. This was probably influenced by other existing types of military organisation in neighbouring areas. On the one hand, the system of Reisgesellschaft found in Bern is comparable. On the other hand, states’ armies such as the ones of the Duchy of Savoy, which produced ordinances to regulate the compagnies, show similarities as well. No such document has been preserved for Fribourg. However, we do have lists of armed forces since the early fifteenth century during the transitional period before the compagnies’ organisation. Each company then held a book for the record and to report to the city council.

Cite this article as: Daniel Jaquet, "A lazy secretary found an innovative way to do his (boring) job – Fribourg, 1439," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 25/03/2019, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/243.