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Feudal Society: Vol 1: The Growth and Ties of Dependence
by Marc Bloch
ISBN 0415039169 / 9780415039161 / 0-415-03916-9
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Feudal Society is the masterpiece of one of the greatest historians of the century. Marc Bloch's supreme achievement was to recreate the vivid and complex world of Western Europe from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries. For Bloch history was a living organism, and to write of it was an endless process of creative evolution and of growing understanding. The author treats feudalism as a vitalising force in European society. He surveys the social and economic conditions in which feudalism developed; he sees the structures of kinship which underlay the formal relationships of vassal and overlord. For Bloch these relationships are mutual as much as coercive, the product of a dangerous and uncertain world. His insights into the lives of the nobility and the clergy and his deep understanding of the processes at work in medieval Europe, are profound and memorable. [via]