Session Title

Archaeology of Production and Power in the Middle Ages

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Pam J. Crabtree

Organizer Affiliation

New York Univ.

Presider Name

Pam J. Crabtree

Paper Title 1

How Are Economic Resources Transformed into Power?

Presenter 1 Name

David Yoon

Presenter 1 Affiliation

American Numismatic Society

Paper Title 2

Rural Production and City-State Formation in Medieval Lucca

Presenter 2 Name

Taylor Zaneri

Presenter 2 Affiliation

New York Univ.

Paper Title 3

Clay Pans and Pita Bread in Early Medieval Europe (Sixth to Seventh Century), from Spain to Eastern Europe

Presenter 3 Name

Florin Curta

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Florida

Paper Title 4

Cows versus Cod: Contextualizing a Medieval Commercial Fishery in Iceland

Presenter 4 Name

Frank J. Feeley

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Graduate Center, CUNY

Start Date

14-5-2017 10:30 AM

Session Location

Fetzer 1005

Description

Medieval state-building is most often seen from a privileged perspective, rather than through the everyday activities of the general population. However, the creation and maintenance of sociopolitical power requires a constant process of negotiation of countless relationships of personal dependence, cooperation for mutual advantage, ideological justification, and threatened coercion. In order to remain active, these relationships must be continually performed, reinforced, or adjusted. These actions are never without cost, and that cost is embedded in material consumption that ties sociopolitical power to its economic basis. Mobilizing economic production—that is, diverting it from consumption by the producers to use as a political resource— involves complex relationships of sociopolitical power. Thus, production and power are closely entwined, with sociopolitical power dependent on economic production and the social methods through which it can be mobilized.

In the Middle Ages of Europe and the Mediterranean, the mobilization and political uses of production are known to have involved a diverse and complex set of institutional processes and social arrangements, ranging from “feudal” structures to ecclesiastical spiritualities to the hiring of contractors. For the late medieval and early modern periods, historians have elucidated many aspects of how this worked. However, prior to the proliferation of documentary archives in the late Middle Ages and after, there is often frustratingly little written information about the organization, mobilization, and political use of primary-sector production (i.e., agriculture, animal husbandry, and resource extraction).

Modern archaeological research, however, is providing increasingly abundant information about everyday life and household activities among the less-documented portions of medieval populations, which generally include the people doing the actual work of production. More consistent retrieval and recording of plant and animal remains and production refuse, as well as more powerful and informed modeling of production systems provide clear evidence for changes in primary production during the Middle Ages. At the same time, better representation of the range of social statuses and functions in archaeological evidence allows a more complex picture of the material world of food production and consumption. This evidence can then be synthesized with the available written evidence to give a fuller picture of the practice of early and mid-medieval societies materially enacted, reproduced, and altered political order.

We believe that a summing-up of current work on this problem in various regions of Europe and the Mediterranean will provide an opportunity for creative dialogue and sharing of productive approaches among researchers. Despite differences between regions in their environmental characteristics or their political structures, by bringing together a variety of archaeological studies we can contribute to the common problem of understanding how primary production played a role in the production and reproduction of sociopolitical power.

Pam Crabtree

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May 14th, 10:30 AM

Archaeology of Production and Power in the Middle Ages

Fetzer 1005

Medieval state-building is most often seen from a privileged perspective, rather than through the everyday activities of the general population. However, the creation and maintenance of sociopolitical power requires a constant process of negotiation of countless relationships of personal dependence, cooperation for mutual advantage, ideological justification, and threatened coercion. In order to remain active, these relationships must be continually performed, reinforced, or adjusted. These actions are never without cost, and that cost is embedded in material consumption that ties sociopolitical power to its economic basis. Mobilizing economic production—that is, diverting it from consumption by the producers to use as a political resource— involves complex relationships of sociopolitical power. Thus, production and power are closely entwined, with sociopolitical power dependent on economic production and the social methods through which it can be mobilized.

In the Middle Ages of Europe and the Mediterranean, the mobilization and political uses of production are known to have involved a diverse and complex set of institutional processes and social arrangements, ranging from “feudal” structures to ecclesiastical spiritualities to the hiring of contractors. For the late medieval and early modern periods, historians have elucidated many aspects of how this worked. However, prior to the proliferation of documentary archives in the late Middle Ages and after, there is often frustratingly little written information about the organization, mobilization, and political use of primary-sector production (i.e., agriculture, animal husbandry, and resource extraction).

Modern archaeological research, however, is providing increasingly abundant information about everyday life and household activities among the less-documented portions of medieval populations, which generally include the people doing the actual work of production. More consistent retrieval and recording of plant and animal remains and production refuse, as well as more powerful and informed modeling of production systems provide clear evidence for changes in primary production during the Middle Ages. At the same time, better representation of the range of social statuses and functions in archaeological evidence allows a more complex picture of the material world of food production and consumption. This evidence can then be synthesized with the available written evidence to give a fuller picture of the practice of early and mid-medieval societies materially enacted, reproduced, and altered political order.

We believe that a summing-up of current work on this problem in various regions of Europe and the Mediterranean will provide an opportunity for creative dialogue and sharing of productive approaches among researchers. Despite differences between regions in their environmental characteristics or their political structures, by bringing together a variety of archaeological studies we can contribute to the common problem of understanding how primary production played a role in the production and reproduction of sociopolitical power.

Pam Crabtree