Book Series Studies in the Early Middle Ages, vol. 15

People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300-1300

Wendy Davies, Guy Halsall, Andrew Reynolds (eds)

  • Pages: 368 p.
  • Size:160 x 240 mm
  • Illustrations:51 b/w, 1 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2007

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-51526-7
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53864-8
  • E-book
  • Available

The contributors to this book address what determined the size and shape of communities in Britain, France, Spain and Iceland in the early historic past, and the ways that these communities delineated themselves in physical terms.


"People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300-1300 is another excellent volume in Brepols' 'Studies in the Early Middle Ages' series, combining leading scholarship with handsome production values." (S. McLeod in Parergon 25.1 (2008), p. 204-205)

"I enthousiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in how medieval communities defined themselves or were defined by others." (M.A. Hall in: Medieval Archaeology, Vol. 52, November 2008, p.458-460)


This book compares community definition and change in the temperate zones of southern Britain and northern France with the starkly contrasting regions of the Spanish meseta and Iceland. Local communities were fundamental to human societies in the pre-industrial world, crucial in supporting their members and regulating their relationships, as well as in wider society. While geographical and biological work on territoriality is very good, existing archaeological literature is rarely time-specific and lacks wider social context; most of its premises are too simple for the interdependencies of the early medieval world. Historical work, by contrast, has a weak sense of territory and no sense of scale; like much archaeological work, there is confusion about distinctions - and relationships - between kin groups, neighbourhood groups, collections of tenants and small polities.

The contributors to this book address what determined the size and shape of communities in the early historic past and the ways that communities delineated themselves in physical terms. The roles of the environment, labour patterns, the church and the physical proximity of residences in determining community identity are also examined. Additional themes include social exclusion, the community as an elite body, and the various stimuli for change in community structure. Major issues surrounding relationships between the local and the governmental are investigated: did larger polities exploit pre-existing communities, or did developments in governance call local communities into being?


Introduction: Community Definition and Community Formation in the Early Middle Ages — Some Questions - Wendy Davies

Social Identities on the Macro Scale: A Maximum View of Wansdyke - Andrew Reynolds and Alex Langlands

Settlement Organization and Farm Abandonment: The Curious Landscape of Reykjahverfi, North-East Iceland - Birna Lárusdóttir

Geography, Communities and Socio-Political Organization in Medieval Northern Iceland - Chris Callow

Communities of Dispersed Settlements: Social Organization at the Ground Level in Tenth- to Thirteenth-Century Iceland - Orri Vésteinsson

Boundaries of Knowledge: Mapping the Land Units of Late Anglo-Saxon and Norman England - Steven Bassett

Mapping Scale Change: Hierarchization and Fission in Castilian Rural Communities during the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries - Julio Escalona

Central Places and the Territorial Organization of Communities: The Occupation of Hilltop Sites in Early Medieval Northern Castile - Ińaki Martín Viso

The Ending of the Roman City: The Case of Clunia in the Northern Plateau of Spain - Adela Cepas

Villas, Territories and Communities in Merovingian Northern Gaul - Guy Halsall

Community, Identity and the Later Anglo-Saxon Town: The Case of Southern England - Grenville Astill

Marmoutier: Familia versus Family. The Relations between Monastery and Serfs in Eleventh-Century North-West France - Paul Fouracre

Narrating Places: Memory and Space in Medieval Monasteries - Antonio Sennis

Populations, Territory and Community Membership: Contrasts and Conclusions - Wendy Davies