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Feudal Society: Vol 2: Social Classes and Political Organisation 2nd Edition
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One drawback is the author's romantic glorification of the medieval peasant -- Norman Cantor has called attention to this in his "Inventing the Middle Ages," pointing out that Bloch gave it Marxist trappings. I call it romantic because I suspect that Bloch owed at least as much to Jules Michelet's nineteenth-century historiography, initially with a veneer of "science" added. Of course, Bloch actually went out and did fundamental work in the archives, and tried to get a real picture of how, in the long term, life had been lived by ordinary people, instead of relying on Michelet-style suppositions. (Yes, Bloch's "Annales" school is supposed to be the antithesis of the enthusiastic Michelet; but, while Bloch established its methodology in reaction to existing approaches, in Bloch's last book "The Historian's Craft," Michelet is still among "our great forebears.")
The second is the concept of "Feudalism" itself, which these days makes anyone with a serious background in medieval studies very uncomfortable.Read more ›
Volume one of the two volume set looks at the growth of feudalism in western society, and by western I'm talking about Northern France, Western Germany, England and Northern Italy. Bloch's main concern in this volume is setting the conditions which led to the developmen of feudalism from 800 AD to 1000 AD and then describing the various forms that feudalism took.
The book is well translated, and I found it hard to argue with much of the thesis. I too have read Norman Cantor's "the Making of the Middle Ages" where he calls Bloch a Marxist (and maligns the entire Annales school). I've also read more recent productions from the Annales school. I have to say, based on this particular book, I don't really see where Bloch is a)romanticizing the peasant (another Cantor criticism) or b) a marxist.
It seemed to me that Bloch's explanation for the growth of feudalism was, basically, that central government decayed to the point where various muck a mucks needed to find an alternative way to "rally the troops" in the face of frequent small to mid size invasions. Feudalism, with its emphasis on individual obligation and quid pro pro, was an attempt to remedy the lack of communication over long distances and lack of central authority.
The peasants didn't really figure in this book at all, except near the end. Certainly, one wouldn't accuse this book of being filled with marxist/post-modern/decontructionist gobbeldy gook. This is a must read for those interested in the field, especially lay men.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What I've kind'a learned from all of this overwhelming scholarship is that there's really not one brand of Feudalism and what we may think we understand about it doesn't exist. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Bartleby (scrivner)
How unfortunate that Marc Bloch's brilliant career was cut shot by the Gestapo! This is a wonderfully written book about medieval society and its structure. Read morePublished on March 21, 2014 by marianne david
This book is fantastic. It's definitely the seminal text in medieval cultural studies, and everyone should have a copy who wishes to study this topic. Read morePublished on January 21, 2013 by Rainne
It is easy to think of the Middle Ages as a time defined by its political institutions - feudal hierarchies and oaths of fealty. Read morePublished on January 11, 2010 by T. Greer
Great presentation of the formation and features of the European feudal system with some comparison to the Japanese version of the feudal system.Published on December 23, 2009 by mjare
This book might be the most widely read among Bloch¡¯s works who is the pioneer of Annal school. This book typifies the methodology of Annal school. Read morePublished on July 14, 2002 by Suckwoo Lee
Bloch's work is one of the ten most important and influential books on medieval Europe. Bloch displays true excellence in sholarship and narration. Read morePublished on July 12, 2002 by Glenn McDorman