The fabric of local societies: people, land and settlement
in Neighbours and strangers
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This chapter focuses on material dimensions, such as settlement, topography and access to resources, as well as on fundamental factors that define the position of individuals within local societies and groups. Drawing on recent settlement archaeology to present a synthetic overview of the shape, size and internal organisation of rural settlements, it highlights their dynamism and diversity across time and space. It provides examples of the topographic arrangement of landed property and of the constituents of individual farming units, thereby presenting concrete illustrations of ‘neighbourhood’. The socio-economic and legal stratification of local societies is discussed, revealing high levels of local and regional variation, but also some general tendencies. The problem of freedom and servitude as formal/legal and informal categories is emphasised. An analysis of the organisation of landownership is presented together with the different forms of aristocratic property and their relationship to the property of individuals with a lower status.

Neighbours and strangers

Local societies in early medieval Europe

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