People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300-1300
Wendy Davies, Guy Halsall, Andrew J. Reynolds
Isd, 2006 - History - 366 pages
This book compares community definition and change in the temperate zones of southern Britain and northern France with the starkly contrasting regions of the Spanish meseta and Iceland. Local communities were fundamental to human societies in the pre-industrial world, crucial in supporting their members and regulating their relationships, as well as in wider society. While geographical and biological work on territoriality is very good, existing archaeological literature is rarely time-specific and lacks wider social context; most of its premises are too simple for the interdependencies of the early medieval world. Historical work, by contrast, has a weak sense of territory and no sense of scale; like much archaeological work, there is confusion about distinctions - and relationships - between kin groups, neighbourhood groups, collections of tenants and small polities. The contributors to this book address what determined the size and shape of communities in the early historic past and the ways that communities delineated themselves in physical terms. The roles of the environment, labour patterns, the church and the physical proximity of residences in determining community identity are also examined. Additional themes include social exclusion, the community as an elite body, and the various stimuli for change in community structure. Major issues surrounding relationships between the local and the governmental are investigated: did larger polities exploit pre-existing communities, or did developments in governance call local communities into being?
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