A Social History of Byzantium by John Haldon

By John Haldon

With unique essays through major students, this booklet explores the social background of the medieval jap Roman Empire and gives illuminating new insights into our wisdom of Byzantine society.

  • Provides interconnected essays of unique scholarship with regards to the social heritage of the Byzantine empire
  • Offers groundbreaking theoretical and empirical study within the learn of Byzantine society
  • Includes valuable glossaries of sociological/theoretical phrases and Byzantine/medieval terms

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34 Kazhdan 1956; and 1960. 35 These views are best summarized in the work of Litavrin 1977. See also the survey of Kurbatov and Lebedeva 1984, which emphasizes both the importance of slavery in late ancient production (up to the seventh century) and the dominance of feudal relations of production from the later eleventh century. See also Udal’cova and Osipova 1985. 37 There is little point here in reviewing the vast Soviet and East European literature of the years before 1988/9 concerned with these issues, largely because, even if many of the questions it dealt with remain important, the approach espoused, the historical-theoretical base within which they were framed, and much of the vocabulary employed by both Western and Eastern medievalists – in particular, terms such as “feudal” and “feudalism” – have become largely redundant, insofar as an overly rigid and dogmatic interpretational framework inevitably constrained and distorted the ways in which the evidence could be understood and interpreted, and as historians opted to abandon terms associated with particular ways of thinking about the human past.

And in historically observable terms, this might be reflected or represented by changes in patterns of behavior of individuals or collectivities, expressed publicly through “political” means or violence, for example, although other possibilities also exist. Social action in this model is thus construed as culturally available re-action, based on personal and group narrative reconstructions of observed or perceived events and on feelings, that is to say, on the socially determined and culturally situated responses of individuals to shifts in any of the elements which make up their perceived or experienced world order.

As such, they also act as patterns for social action – future planning based on past experience. The symbolic universe is therefore the aggregate of social institutions and the beliefs and concepts associated with them, of the scripts and roles and narratives determining how people live out their relationships to the world around them. But narratives are always re-constructions of experience, they involve evaluation, and therefore there inheres within them the potential for change, for shifts in understanding roles and relationships and thus, crucially, for shifts in social practice.

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