Klavs Randsborg

title.none: Pestell and Ulmschneider, eds., Markets in Early Medieval Europe (Klavs Randsborg)

identifier.other: baj9928.0401.032 04.01.32

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Klavs Randsborg, Kopenhagen University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Pestell, Tim, and Katharina Ulmschneider, eds. Markets in Early Medieval Europe: Trading and 'Productive' Sites, 650-850. Bollington, UK: Windgather Press, 2003. Pp. xvi, 304. $45.00 0-9538630-7-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.01.32

Pestell, Tim, and Katharina Ulmschneider, eds. Markets in Early Medieval Europe: Trading and 'Productive' Sites, 650-850. Bollington, UK: Windgather Press, 2003. Pp. xvi, 304. $45.00 0-9538630-7-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Klavs Randsborg
Kopenhagen University

This quite beautifully produced volume contains nineteen interesting contributions towards the understanding of the rise of trade production and commerce from the seventh century AD on, as studied in the main from the so-called production (here "productive") sites. In the volume, these sites comprise both settlements particularly rich in small finds, and ditto scattered on the coasts, of North Western Europe, thus obviously with commerce as an important activity.

In earlier research, the latter have often been considered "towns" (or proto-towns). No doubt they constitute a category of their own, prior to the regional or provincial towns and cities of the tenth-eleventh century, while the former sites seem in the main to be estate centres. Nonetheless, much excavation and discussion of typologies of settlements are needed, perhaps in particular a holistic vision.

Few of the coastal production sites start before, but many of them continue after, the chronological phase of the volume ("650-850"). The crucial seventh century--where everything ends and everything begins--as well as the ninth century, where the new order of the (late) tenth century is not yet established, certainly defines a period important in its own right, and in several respects, of which the crucial question of the formation and re-formation of estates is probably not the least important.

The work, the result of an Oxford meeting by prominent scholars in 2000, is in three parts: I. History, Numismatics and the Early Medieval Economy; II. Trading and "Productive" Sites in the British Isles; III. Markets and Settlements on the Early Medieval Continent. An introduction to the theme is given by the editors, centered on the (coastal) emporia in particular in England.

Part I contains contributions on Anglo-Saxon England (Campbell), coins (and hoards) (Blackburn), currency at different sites and in ditto regions (Metcalf), another quantitative approach, and, hinterland studies (Palmer), including transportation routes.

Part II holds contributions on markets in western Britain (Griffiths), around the Solvent (Ulmschneider), including Hamvic and Isle of Wright, in East Kent (Brookes), the important crossing to the Continent, Suffolk with Barnham and Sutton Hoo (Newman), in West Norfolk (Rogerson), and elsewhere in East Anglia (Pestell), in Lincolnshire (Leahy), and, finally, in East Yorkshire (Richards). A part of these studies takes us way into the "countryside," as well as into other phases than the main one stipulated.

Part III includes contributions on "markets" in Norway-Sweden (Sawyer), strangely devoid of archaeology, on Tisso (Jorgensen), a key site on West Zealand/Sjælland including a magnate farmstead complex and a huge coastal production site (in fact larger than Ribe, Southwest Jutland/Jylland, which incidentally did grow into a proper town), Gross Stromkendorf in Mecklenburg, a Slavonian coastal centre (Tummuscheit), Tjitsma/Wijnaldum in the Netherlands (Tulp), a Frisian terp, on ports on the lower Seine (Le Maho), again a contribution devoid of archaeology, and, finally, on S. Vincenzo, the South Italian monastery made famous in archaeology due to the excavations of Richard Hodges (Moran).

No doubt among the third group of contributions, the paper on Tisso is the archaeologically most important one, perhaps in particular since the site joins the function of the coastal production sites (with an eye to commerce) and an "inland" estate centre. Tisso no doubt is an important clue to an understanding of the rise of coastal production sites in the seventh century. The latter should per se no doubt be understood in terms of the following two crucial factors.

The first one is the international, indeed inter-continental tendencies concerning commerce and the larger market. Thus, in the late seventh century happenings in Central Asia are linked with the arrival of the Bulgarians in the Balkans and with the Moslem pressure on Byzants, as well as on Western Europe.

The second factor no doubt rests with the formation of the estates of the Carolingian era. These competing entities and groups of such would have been in high need of outlets and nodules of transformation of their productive agricultural and related potential. Thus, both the archaeologically rich estates centres (inland "markets," etc.) and the "emporia" (production sites meant for regional as well as supra-regional commerce) appear in the archaeological data as "rich" (in metal finds, etc.). However, the two functions should be kept separate.

The decline of said coastal production sites, indeed their transformation, is no doubt linked with the decline of Carolingia, in turn connected with crises in the Moslem and other worlds. It is hardly a coincidence that the Viking raids on the West take place exactly at the decline of this "world system," only to come to a halt as the provincial Islamic silver (coins of Samarkand, Bukhara) joins the Russian trade towards Scandinavia.

The present volume no doubt brings together several very important studies, but in other respects it does not set new agendas (as collective volumes rarely do). Thus, in terms of understanding the larger forces at work, it hardly brings us further than the scholarship a generation or more ago. Not the fault of the contributors, though, but hardly truly "groundbreaking", as the publishers would have it. Less English, please; more Europe, and the World.