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This chapter provides basic orientation, with essential information on the physical geography and political history of the period 750–1000, outlining the main political trends in Francia, Italy, England and Spain. Though a period of extreme political instability at the highest levels of kings and emperors, complicated by the long-term impact of invaders from outside, many of the regions within kingdoms sustained an identity over many centuries. The chapter continues with a brief survey of available primary source material for the study of local societies (which is extended in the Appendix). It surveys charters, estate records, narratives (including annals, chronicles and hagiography), capitularies, law texts and liturgy.

Neighbours and strangers

Local societies in early medieval Europe

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