An allod (Old Low Franconian: allōd i.e. "fully owned property", from all "full, entire" and ōd "estate, property", Medieval Latin: allod or allodium, Old High German for "entire property"), also personal property, allodial land or an allodium, refers, in the law of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period and especially within the Holy Roman Empire, to property (almost always an estate or an urban plot of land), over which the owner (the hereditary lord) had full ownership and free disposal.
This form of ownership meant that the owner had no obligation to render benefits or obligations to any other person. An allod could be inherited freely according to the usual law of the land. To begin with, the income from allodial estates was not even liable for taxes paid to the territorial princes (Landesfürsten).
In all of these ways, the allod differed from fiefs, which did not fully belong to their feudatories (Lehnsmänner) or vassals (Vasallen). Overall sovereignty remained with the feudal lord, who could require certain services from his vassals under common law. These might vary from vassal to vassal. A vassal had "usable ownership" (German: nutzbares Eigentum) of his fief, whereas a lord had "full ownership" (volles Eigentum) over his allod. This was also reflected in the contemporary synonymous term for an allod, "Erbe und Eigen" (loosely: "inherited and owned"). The property of burghers within the scope of town rights was usually allodial in nature. Likewise, ecclesiastical establishments (such as abbeys and cathedrals) held their estates in Erbe und Eigen.
The conversion of a fief into a hereditary possession - a familiar process in the 19th century - is called "allodification". Ownership of these fiefs continued to be limited however to the rights of the former feudatories. Only the overall sovereignty of the feudal lord over the estate was repealed, whilst the rights of the feudatory remained unaffected. Such a so-called "allodified fief" became similar to a family entailed estate (Familienfideikommiss); often it was also explicitly converted into a fee tail (Fideikommissgut).
Emergence and historical development
The allod as a form of ownership was established amongst the Germanic tribes and peoples, before it became part of the feudal system. Land that was originally held in common by the whole community was transferred to a single individual. The freemen of the Germanic peoples divided or drew lots for the land in the countries they had conquered and taken possession of. This gave rise to the essential character of the allodial estate: a freely-owned property allocated and guaranteed by the will of the whole people or by the people's law (Volksgesetz). The owner was free of all dependencies on other individuals and any limitations as far as his property rights were concerned.
In many regions only the owners of an allod were counted as freemen, men who could participate in all common, public rights and duties. They were the members of the territorial assembly (Landesgemeinde). The free landowners of the Dark Ages are one of the groups from which the nobility emerged over the course of time. They saw themselves as equal partners of the territorial lords, because they participated alongside them as members of the territorial assembly and were not subordinate to them as vassals. The freedoms associated with allodial estates (tax exemption, hunting rights, etc.) were only exercised by the nobility in most states - even if, after 1500, they had to subordinate themselves increasingly to the territorial princes (as part of the establishment of statehood) - who remained, politically and economically, the most influential group of landowners. The term allod only occurs in the Franconian region and those territories influenced legally by Frankish tribes. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, there were no more allods in England at all and, in France, allodial estates existed mainly in the south. In Germany, the allodial estates were mainly those owned by the nobility in the south. There were many lords who had founded their powerful position on extensive allodial estates in the eastern Alpine countries and the lands of the Bohemian Crown. The king as supreme feudal lord was never lord over the whole of the kingdom's territory.
Allodial possession could also arise if the lord renounced his rights in favour of the vassal. Deforested land has been considered as allodial estate by the princes. Conversely free territorial lords were sometimes punished for an offence, by the sovereign converting their allodial land into an enfeoffment.
The differences between the two forms of medieval ownership - the fiefdom and the allod - diminished over time. Firstly, vassals were no longer required to render liege services from the 17th century at the latest, and the rights of inheritance of the vassals became much stronger in the early modern period, and, secondly, the territorial princes were able to force freemen in the 16th Century to make regular tax payments. In the 19th century, feudal law was finally gradually abolished in most European countries. At this time the property concept of a common law arose, as epitomised by the code civil. While in France the "régime féodal" was ended in 1789 at the stroke of the pen by the revolutionary legislature, in Germany it was not until the mid-20th century that feudal law was finally abolished (in 1947 by Allied Control Council law).
- Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire
- Crown land
- Imperial estate
- Droit de régale
- Allodial title
- Otto Brunner: Land und Herrschaft. Grundfragen der territorialen Verfassungsgeschichte Österreichs im Mittelalter. 5th edition, Rohrer, Vienna, 1965 (Unamended reprographic copy of the 5th edition: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1984, ISBN 3-534-09466-2).