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Centuries of transition

Davidson, Neil (2011) Centuries of transition. [Review]

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Abstract

This review of Chris Wickham's Framing the Early Middle Ages situates the book within the context of his earlier writings on the transition to feudalism, and contrasts his explanation for and dating of the process with those of the two main opposing positions set out in Perry Anderson's Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (1974) and Guy Bois's The Transformation of the Year One Thousand (1989). Although Framing modifies some of Wickham's earlier positions, it largely sidesteps explicit theoretical discussion for a compellingly detailed empirical study which extends to almost the entire territorial extent of the former Roman Empire. The review focuses on three main themes raised by Wickham's important work: the existence or otherwise of a `peasant'-mode of production and its relationship to the `Asiatic' mode; the nature of state-formation and the question of when a state can be said to have come into existence; and the rôle of different types of class-struggle - slave-rebellions, tax-revolts and peasant-uprisings - in establishing the feudal system.