The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of European Government

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9780691137087: The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of European Government

Medieval civilization came of age in thunderous events like the Norman Conquest and the First Crusade. Power fell into the hands of men who imposed coercive new lordships in quest of nobility. Rethinking a familiar history, Thomas Bisson explores the circumstances that impelled knights, emperors, nobles, and churchmen to infuse lordship with social purpose.

Bisson traces the origins of European government to a crisis of lordship and its resolution. King John of England was only the latest and most conspicuous in a gallery of bad lords who dominated the populace instead of ruling it. Yet, it was not so much the oppressed people as their tormentors who were in crisis. The Crisis of the Twelfth Century suggests what these violent people--and the outcries they provoked--contributed to the making of governments in kingdoms, principalities, and towns.

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From the Back Cover:

"In this persuasive work of comparative European history, Thomas Bisson overturns received ideas about change, 'Renaissance,' and 'government.' He enables us to feel almost physically the oppression of castles, the violence of horses, and all that was, even before its own crisis, the power of the lords ruling Europe. This masterpiece crowns a prolific career in history. It will stand as a great classic."--Jean-Claude Schmitt, école des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales

"Bisson's view is that power as lordship was not 'political' in this period but personal, patrimonial, self-indulgent, and above all violent. This book is a major contribution to the field, not only because it is the fullest development of Bisson's learned position, but because of the prodigious amount and varying character of the sources he commands and his deftness in deploying them."--Edward Peters, author of Europe and the Middle Ages

"This is an excellent book. In it, Bisson sums up a life's work and offers a grand narrative on major socioeconomic and sociopolitical changes in the central Middle Ages. There is no recent book that even attempts such a task as this. It is a very considerable contribution."--Chris Wickham, author of Framing the Early Middle Ages

About the Author:

Thomas N. Bisson is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of Medieval History (emeritus) at Harvard University. His books include "Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis, and Humanity in Rural Catalonia, 1140-1200" and "Cultures of Power: Lordship, Status, and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe".

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Thomas N. Bisson
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