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The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405129640
ISBN-10: 1405129646
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the most influential and controversial books of medieval history of the last 20 years ... The relevance of its argument today is uncanny." The Guardian

Praise for the first edition:

"A brilliant account of medieval Europe...it is a pleasure to read an account that is so obviously of importance for our own societies, yet is conceived in a full international context." Times Higher Education Supplement

"A fundamental work of historical sociology, as important in its way as the works of Georges Duby and Mark Bloch...a courageous and wide-ranging thesis." M. T. Clanchy, Times Literary Supplement

Review

"One of the most influential and controversial books of medieval history of the last 20 years ... The relevance of its argument today is uncanny." The Guardian

Praise for the first edition:

"A brilliant account of medieval Europe...it is a pleasure to read an account that is so obviously of importance for our own societies, yet is conceived in a full international context." Times Higher Education Supplement

"A fundamental work of historical sociology, as important in its way as the works of Georges Duby and Mark Bloch...a courageous and wide-ranging thesis." M. T. Clanchy, Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (January 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405129646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405129640
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is landmark study of how Western Europe became a "persecuting society" - when after centuries of relative tolerance, European societies began to turn on minorities. Moore studies this change primarily having regard to the position of heretics, Jews and lepers, when at about the same time, namely during the eleventh century, all became targets of persecution - and persecution of minorities thought to be threatening has been a theme of European history until the mid-twentieth century.

The period sees the beginnings of persecution of religious dissidents identified as heretics - and for the first time since the fifth and sixth centuries ACE, major efforts were made to attack those seen as heretics. Dissidents put down strong roots in parts of Europe notably Languedoc and Northern Italy and could gain rapid popularity by preaching against the wealth and excess of clerical elites. They were met with violent opposition to end their influence.

At about the same time, Jewish people also became a target of persecution after centuries of relatively cordial relations with Christians when they had become well integrated into society. Increasingly subject to restrictions on what work they could do and where they could live and the clothes they could wear, Jewish people were confined to occupations such as money lending - while Christians reduced their role in that sector of economic life. Used by the rulers to manage financial affairs and collect taxes, they became a target for exploitation by lords and kings (who could randomly seize their assets), massacre and expulsion.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, medieval Europe experienced the beginnings of new political stability. As feudal institutions manipulated and increased their power over the people, land, and territories, private warfare and civil disorder decreased. I am not inferring that violence diminished between feudal lords and their underlings, rather a gradual shift of power as medieval rulers formed centralized states. Bureaucracy increased as power shifted from individual lords to an elaborate hierarchical feudal system of lords, castilians, knights, and peasants. The centralization of power pushed medieval society towards the institutionalization of the state. R.I. Moore and Thomas A. Bisson argue that the modern state has its origins in medieval society. Moore and Bisson approach the institutionalization of the state from different angles; however, they both agree on the process through which this change took place. How did medieval Europe progress from a decentralized political state towards an institutionalized society?

R.I. Moore's, The Formation of a Persecuting Society, examines an increase in persecution in medieval European society between 950 and 1250. Moore argues the institutionalization of the state came about through group-based persecution of inferior peoples. Persecution is not new. Groups have been selectively persecuted prior to the eleventh century, however the level of persecution that Moore examines and the affects of eleventh century persecution in Europe is new. Moore concludes that persecution was necessary and needed for the expansion of the state (Moore, 148).

After centuries of tolerance, Western Europe began persecuting minorities in the eleventh century.
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Format: Paperback
It is rare these days for a book to go through more than one edition...let alone get a second printing along with a new preface, an entirely new chapter (chap 5), and a Bibliographical Excursus evaluating the book in light of the torrent of criticism over the last 25 or so years. R.I Moore's The Formation of a Persecuting Society was first published in 1987 to great fanfare. "This is an important work," began one review, if I remember correctly, in the leading medieval journal Speculum. Moore's thesis centers on "the formation of a persecuting society" in the 11-13th centuries. It is during these centuries that Europe BECAME a persecuting society--not simply a society with persecution (156). This is an important distinction. Moore illustrates the historical processes whereby persecution becomes medieval society's essential feature.

Moore draws on theories of Michele Foucault and the work of anthropologists Mary Douglass, Johnathan Leach, and Edward Evans Prichard to underpin his contention that the catalyst for the persecuting society came from a new class of educated bureaucrats who fundamentally reshaped society through a "single and far reaching process of social reclassification" (92). This new class of bureaucrat developed at a time when the traditional structures of society were coming apart. The agricultural revolution around the year 1000 resulted in "a social revolution": population explosion, new towns and villages, increased wealth, a cash economy, and a new class of "masterless men" (94-100). These economic structural changes resulted in great fears of social change and its attendant anxiety over the social order among the secular and religious governing classes.
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