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Feudal Society: Vol 2: Social Classes and Political Organisation 2nd Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415039185
ISBN-10: 0415039185
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (November 16, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415039185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415039185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,160,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I suppose I should be of two minds about Marc Bloch's "Feudal Society," a French work from the late 1930s which became available in English in the early 1960s, and was still fresh and exciting back when I was taking a freshman course on "Western Civilization." In theory, the book (and it is one book, although published in paperback in two volumes) has two major drawbacks. In practice, I find it solid, admirable, and well worth reading.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book for a contemporary historiography class. As has been told by other reviewers, Marc Bloch is the founder (together with Lucien Febvre) of the Annales school. As a non-historian, I won't comment on its importance for historiography, but as a very valuable read for non-historians who want to understand the history of Western civilization reading the best books that have been written on the subject. This is my first book on the middle-ages and, although it took me quite a while to finish it (about a month) and it is definitively not an easy read, since it is an extraordinarily erudite work, it is a very worthwhile read. It provides a fairly good picture of how the feudal society developed after the Hungarian, Muslim, and Scandinavian invasions, which allowed it to flourish. I would point out two basic concepts that were of particular interest to me (although not explicit in the text). First, the concept of sovereignty. It is particularly interesting visually, since land was divided among an infinite number of lords as a bottom-up chain starting from the lowest peasant through the prince or monarch. So land belonged to everyone and to no one at the same time. This is a very original idea of sovereignty, rather opposite to modern sovereignty. The second concept is that of the "hommage", which I would call contract. The hommage between serf and lord was not that of subordination entirely, but it was neither that of equals--such as the contracts of the bourgoisie were, that we can trace back to the XIIth century, and personally I was moved by Bloch's analyses of this first contract among equals--, and it was originally voluntary.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Bloch's work is one of the ten most important and influential books on medieval Europe. Bloch displays true excellence in sholarship and narration. Nothing is stated without factual documentation to support it, and no information is carried beyond its logical conclusions. It is essential to read this two volume work before moving too deeply into medieval studies. Combine this work with Strayer's Feudalism (out of print, unfortunately) and you will have a good understanding of what society was like in a good portion of the Middle Ages.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Certainly an undeniable classic in the field of "history of the middle ages". As other reviewers have already noted, Bloch was one of the initial members of what grew to become the "annales" school of western history, though, to be fair, he died before you could call it a "school" or "movement".

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.
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