Academic journal article The Historian

Approaches to the Byzantine Family

Academic journal article The Historian

Approaches to the Byzantine Family

Article excerpt

Approaches to the Byzantine Family. Edited by Leslie Brubaker and Shaun Tougher. (Farnham, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2013. Pp. xxv, 417. $119.95.)

This timely and handsome collection of solid, well-conceived, and original studies by twenty-one diverse international contributors investigates an important but insufficiently understood subject: the Byzantine family. Interest in the family has been growing within the ranks of Byzantine historians. This study probes manifold dimensions of Byzantine familial history and includes visual evidence such as paintings, mosaics, ceramics, sigillography, and numismatics (but always as black and white photos) as well as literary evidence. It is an admittedly incomplete inquiry; contributions are not prolix. The collection of essays contributes to an appreciation of the complexity of familial issues, and the editors emphasize the complexity of various aspects of the family.

The extensive chronological and geographical scope of the volume is reasonable: the third to the fifteenth centuries. It includes subject matter that lies beyond whatever passed for the formal borders of frontier zones in the Byzantine Empire. Its contents cover disparate regions of the empire's interior, including Italy, Anatolia, the Levant, and beyond--specifically Iraq (Baghdad). It incorporates much of the most recent historical scholarship and contains what is effectively a useful checklist of relevant primary sources and preferred editions. An unsurprising deficiency is that one cannot find any tight, coherent, overarching exposition and interpretive framework. No single theoretical framework of social history shapes all of the contributions. Few will read this book continuously end to end. This book will challenge readers, which is not an insuperable problem. Specialists will read chapters selectively in accord with their interests. This is not a handbook guide or introduction, but those who seek such a reliable work can find some assistance here. …

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