The sixth century, edited by Richard Hodges and William Bowden (Leiden, 1998) was the first product of the collective work of Group 3 of the 1993–8 European Science Foundation project, The Transformation of the Roman World. We initially intended it to be the first of three volumes on “Production, distribution and demand” with a second on the seventh century and a third on the eighth-ninth. In the end, however, we opted for a single volume as our post-Roman reference point, focussed on the eighth century, or, rather, the “long” eighth century of 680–830, a period which seemed to us to have both a general homogeneity and a long enough span to allow for the pinning down of differences. The memory of the intermediate period, 600–80, has not entirely left us: Simon Loseby, in particular, has written his article in this volume as a sequel to his sixthcentury article, which enforces consideration of the seventh century; and of course several others have used that century as a startingpoint for their analyses. All the same, the eighth century is in the foreground in this book. After an introductory chapter by John Moreland on current problems in the theory of exchange, we move roughly from North to South, beginning in Denmark and ending in Syria-Palestine. Our aim throughout has been to illustrate the problems of eighth-century production, distribution and demand in each region as a separate entity, which has to be seen in its own terms, not those of other regions and centuries. Comparative issues are, however, picked up in the conclusion. We intended, when planning this book, to use the eighth century as the focus for a discussion of what one might call the “post-transformation” period, so that we could see what had actually changed, in production, distribution and demand, after the definitive end of the Roman world-system. We think and hope that some of this aim has been achieved.
We have pursued this theme for five years of our lives, in (roughly) twice-yearly meetings located all across Europe and the Mediterranean, in Birka, Tunis, Mérida, Lausanne, S. Vincenzo al Volturno, Strasbourg, Ribe, Isernia, Istanbul and, finally, Utrecht. Until Isernia