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Peasants in the Middle Ages /
Werner Rösener ; translated and with foreword and glossary by Alexander Stützer.
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1992.
xi, 338 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
More Details
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1992.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1993-12:
An extremely useful survey of recent German (and other) scholarship, especially the important work by Wilhelm Abel. R"osener's work will enrich those more familiar with studies of English or French peasant life. Although he offers no startling new insights into peasant conditions from the 11th through the 14th centuries, R"osener nevertheless places central European peasant life within a broader European context. R"osener emphasizes numerous differences that existed in various parts of Europe, but notes that the manorial system helped to level the legal differences between bonded and free peasants. The population explosion and the resultant increase in density of peasant settlements, from the 11th century on, caused fundamental changes in all aspects of peasant life. It was, in fact, one of the major reasons for the end of the manorial system and the general improvement of the peasantry. Of special importance are discussions of peasant life in relation to the growing towns, innovations in farming technology, diet, inheritance and settlement patterns, and the changing nature of noble-peasant relations. Important brief sections on housing styles, clothing, peasant unrest, and more nuanced arguments about social stratification among the peasants themselves (based on regional studies of inheritance practices, production of surpluses, use of technology, legal and economic rights, etc.) increase the worth of the book. A glossary and English-language additions to the select bibliography by the translator are also welcome. Recommended for lower-division undergraduates and above. C. W. Clark; St. Andrews Presbyterian College
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, December 1993
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Unpaid Annotation
This book is a lively refutation of preconceptions that medieval peasants existed either in idyllic rural conditions or in unmitigated oppression and poverty. Werner Rosener redresses the balance of history in favor of the peasantry, illustrating that their lives were as complex and interesting as those of the nobility. Rosener considers the social, economic, and political foundations of peasant life, particularly the way in which occupational and land divisions determined the rural population's relative freedom. At the height of the Middle Ages, the peasant condition improved as tenant farming replaced the seigneurial system and progress in agricultural technology increased productivity. Peasants left overcrowded villages to farm less fertile or barely populated land. Forms of village settlement gradually diversified, and relationships among the peasants developed into more complex communal networks. The quality and variety of clothing and the design of farmhouses and farmyards changed. The author also sheds new light on successful peasants who owned land and began to form 'peasant republics' independent of the nobility. Peasants in the Middle Ages is sure to become a standard work on the history of peasant life. It will be welcomed by medievalists and by sociologists and anthropologists interested in the Middle Ages or comparative studies.
Table of Contents
Translator's Introduction
Medieval Peasantry: Origins and Development:
The Foundations of the Medieval Peasantry
The Transformations in the High Middle Ages
Patterns of Peasant Settlement and Dwelling, 1000-1400:
Nature and Environment, Clearance and Settlement
Changes in the Village
Peasant House and Holding
Peasant Clothing, Food and Work, 1000-1400:
Clothing and Food
Agricultural Implements, Land Utilization and Agrarian Development
Peasant Labour and Economy
Social Patterns, 1000-1400:
Neighbourhood and Village Community
Peasant Family and Kinship
The Social Stratification of the Peasant Population
Manorial Relations and Law, 1000-1400:
Manorial Dependence
Peasant Freedom and Independent Peasant Communities
Peasant Revolts and Resistance, 1000-1400
The Upheavals of the Late Middle Ages:
The Peasants and the Agrarian Crisis
Select Bibliography
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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