Economy, Society, and Lordship in Medieval Poland, 1100-1250

Economy, Society, and Lordship in Medieval Poland, 1100-1250

Economy, Society, and Lordship in Medieval Poland, 1100-1250

Economy, Society, and Lordship in Medieval Poland, 1100-1250

Excerpt

We are currently in the midst of a resurgence of interest among general medievalists in regions of Europe conventionally considered "frontiers" or "peripheries" of the continent. These include the Iberian peninsula; the Celtic areas of Great Britain; Scandinavia; and the region of Eastern Europe inhabited by the Slavs, Hungarians, and Balts, which includes the Polish duchies between the twelfth and mid-thirteenth centuries. The growth of interest in each of these regions, and their inclusion within the scope of comparative medieval history, has had a substantial impact on medieval historiography in general and on the understanding of the history of the continent as a whole in the Middle Ages. It has prompted comparative medievalists to reassess the criteria for comparison among medieval European regions, the meaning of centrality and peripherality, the symptoms and significance of contact among European regions, and the nature of the resulting changes. As a result, comparisons and contrasts between several of the conventionally peripheral and central areas of Europe are no longer expressed with reference to simplifying, reductionist stereotypes, but with reference to criteria common to the regions compared. In short, the new comparative history inquires into all aspects of each comparison in the same depth.

The history of societies, economies, lordships, and politics in the regions inhabited by Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians is both a promising and an especially difficult subject for treatment by means of the new comparative analysis, especially before and during the early phases of large‐ scale immigration of German settlers. It is promising because the history of earlier medieval economy, society, and lordship has been the subject of superb local studies, inspired by Marc Bloch and Georges Duby. These studies have shown broadly comparable economic, social, and seigneurial transitions in different regions of medieval Europe. The common features of these transitions included: (1) the polarization between the peasantry and elite; (2) a definition of, or at least a transition toward, a coherent and homogeneous peasant status; and (3) the definition of, or at least a transition toward, several coherent and homogeneous statuses within the elite, especially those of knighthood and nobility. Regional structuralist studies have thus provided a framework for close comparison among different . . .

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