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Land, freedom and the making of the medieval West

Innes, Matthew (2006) Land, freedom and the making of the medieval West. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 16 , pp. 39-74. ISSN 0080-4401.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0080440106000430

Abstract

In the course of the fifth and sixth centuries, barbarian warbands acquired property rights in the former provinces of the Roman west, in a process that established the broad structural characteristics of early medieval society in western Europe: that is the central contention of this essay. Focusing on the western Mediterranean heartlands of the Imperial government and senatorial aristocracy, it argues that these property transfers were fundamental to the emergence of ethnic identity as the crucial political marker in the post-Roman west. Latent conflict over the respective rights and obligations of barbarian ‘guests’ and their provincial ‘hosts’ structured the first attempts at post-Roman state-formation in the west, for the nature of the ‘hospitality’ offered to barbarian warbands accommodated within the Empire became a matter of contention as second and third generation ‘guests’ continued to enjoy the fruits of the property of their ‘hosts’. Interpreting these new social relationships in the light of established legal forms, barbarian kings identified agreed mechanisms for the legitimate transfer of Roman property to their followers: this process allowed Roman landowners to seek remedies for illegitimate or violent seizure, but at the price of acknowledging a significant redistribution of land to a new class of barbarian soldiers whose liberty was rooted in their military service. The result was the emergence, by the seventh century, of regionalised and militarised elites who appropriated the language of ethnicity to legitimate their position.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: 'Read at the University of Southampton April 26 2005'. Copyright © 2006 Royal Historical Society and Cambridge University Press.
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 21 May 2008 13:47
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/690

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