The Early Slavs: Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe

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Cornell University Press, 2001 - History - 416 pages
More than 270 million people in Europe speak one of the many Slavic languages and dialects, but the origins and development of Slavic culture are still among the most difficult problems facing archaeologists. P.M. Barford's book is a remarkably comprehensive and accessible synthesis of the most recent archaeological discoveries, linguistic research, and literary-historical evidence about the origins of the Slavs. Much of this evidence, gleaned in the wake of recent political changes in Eastern Europe, has been unavailable in English.During the early medieval period, the Slavs expanded from their original homeland in the Ukraine to colonize vast areas and to found most of the modern nations in Eastern Europe. With first-hand knowledge of the archaeology and other research, P. M. Barford vividly portrays daily life in Eastern Europe from the early fifth to the end of the tenth century A.D., a period of profound transformation. Barford's rich and accessible survey provides the latest thinking on issues central to ongoing and sometimes fierce debates about the origins of various Slavic nations. For example: Was the first Russian state Slavic or Scandinavian? Was the first Bulgarian Empire Turkic or Slavic? Newly compiled maps and a generous number of illustrations chart the main cultural changes that took place over six centuries in the Slavic regions of Europe.

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User Review  - Miro - LibraryThing

Barford deals with the difficult subject of early Slav history in a thoughtful and non-political way. In the absence of Slavonic written history (writing only came with Christianity in the 9th and ... Read full review

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This is not an easy book to read, for a lot of reasons. As a nonspecialist, it referred to geography, events, leaders, items and even nations that I was not familiar with, requiring frequent references to the (quite lengthy) index of maps, mapped-out timelines and diagrams. It did not help that, as the book discussed, at the time of publication the field itself was in flux and rapidly changing (also not helping - errors in which maps, figures and diagrams were referred to throughout the text). Compounding these issues was the origins of the Slavs themselves, a mystery surrounded by mysteries - no certain homeland, an astonishingly widespread distribution of mutually-intelligible languages, and (most bizarrely for me) a consistent lack of corpses, bones and other remains despite respectable levels of population. The topic and writing was both frustrating and fascinating, diving deeply into details, then telescoping out into broad and illuminating trends. Perhaps it might have been an easier read if I were more familiar with the history of Europe at the time discussed, roughly 400-1200. Overall I would characterize the book as "tantalizing", revealing more mysteries than it solves. But like all mysteries, they are intriguing. 


Introduction I
The Formation of a Slav Identity
the Sixth Century
the Seventh Century
the Eighth and Ninth centuries
Daily Life
Social Structure
Towards a Christian Europe
the South and East Slavs
the West Slavs
The Early Slavs and the Modern World
Select Bibliography
Figures and Maps

Production Consumption and Exchange
Pagan Ideologies

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About the author (2001)

Paul Barford is Inspector of Ancient Monuments in the office of the Chief Archaeologist in the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art.

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