It has taken twenty years to reconstruct, analyze, explain, and understand 350 years in the complex life of a past community. No medievalist should think that too long. The remnants from the past sought here have waited far longer and deserve commensurate patience.
This book grew from repeated engagement with the sources and will succeed to the extent it recaptures them and those who created them. To that end, I have purposely cast in it a reconstructive rather than an argumentative mode. In other words, the organization and presentation derive more from the concerns and texts of people past than from the disputes of later historians. As readers familiar with literature around my subject will recognize, the rich human reality in the medieval records has been too often neglected in cultivating a sterile national or ideological parti pris or constructing a rootless metahistory. Had I shaped this book around the historiography, I feared losing the documented past I sought and found.
Of course Land, Liberties, and Lordship was not conceived in an intellectual vacuum. Analytical frameworks of medieval economic history, of rural social history, and of East Central European history, are provided in Chapter 1. In addition, the broad substantive understanding of medieval agrarian history against which this sense of the Wrocław countryside evolved is available in my lengthy article Tenure of Land, Western European, in Dictionary of the Middle Ages,Joseph Strayer et al., eds., vol. 11, pp. 671-686 (New York, 1988). The institutional perspective may be augmented by my Tools, Agricultural, Western European and Villages: Community, pp. 72-82 and 439-441 in volume 12 of the Dictionary (New York, 1989).
In consequence I relegate most comparative issues and academic controversy to the notes. The form of citations required to save space, however, makes some notes less transparent than I would prefer. Cognoscenti may recognize the import of allusions to "Carsten," to "Buczek," or to "Grünhagen;" other readers are encouraged (implored) to trace references patiently from text to notes to bibliography. Then they will see both my large debts to and my occasionally sharp differences from two centuries of scholars in both Silesian history and medieval studies.
What follows is my sole responsibility, though I have necessarily drawn on uncounted friends, colleagues, teachers, and others. Much brief aid must go unremarked. But people who have made a particular and critical differ-