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Agrarian Change in Byzantium, ca. 630–1204

Peter Sarris, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, Fellow 2010–2011, Fall

My project was to review the sources pertaining to large estates and their management in Byzantium from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries, with a view to examining the survival of forms of direct management, wage labor, and tied labor. During the course of my stay, I read the post-Justinianic legal and jurisprudential sources from the reign of Justin II to the eleventh century (including the legal lexica); the typika and monastic documentary sources from Athos and western Asia Minor; the latest archaeological studies; and the letters of Michael Psellos and a number of other literary sources. Although this research will form the basis of an eventual monograph, I wrote up my basic argument in an article, “Large Estates and the Peasantry in Byzantium, ca. 600–1100,” which will appear in the Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire. My research also fed into a chapter (“Law and Custom in the Byzantine Countryside From Justinian I to Basil II”) for a book on law and custom in the early Middle Ages as well as an article (“The Early Byzantine Economy in Context: Aristocratic Property and Economic Growth Reconsidered”) responding to primitivist approaches to the late antique economy for early medieval Europe. Lastly, I made progress with a translation and commentary on Justinian’s Novels and completed revisions for a book (A Threshing Floor of Countless Races—Europe and the Mediterranean From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, ca. 500–700) to be published by Oxford University Press.

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