Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages: What Kind of Transition?

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Historical Materialism

The stereotype of slave-run latifundia being turned into serf-worked estates is no longer credible as a model of the transition from antiquity to the middle ages, but Chris Wickham’s anomalous characterisation of the Roman Empire as ‘feudal’ is scarcely a viable alternative to that. If a fully-articulated feudal economy only emerged in the later middle ages, what do we make of the preceding centuries? By postulating a ‘general dominance of tenant production’ throughout the period covered by his book, Wickham fails to offer any basis for a closer characterisation of the post-Roman rural labour-force and exaggerates the degree of control that peasants enjoyed in the late Empire and post-Roman world. A substantial part of the rural labour-force of the sixth to eighth centuries comprised groups who, like Rosamond Faith’s inland-workers in Anglo-Saxon England, were more proletarian than peasant-like. The paper suggests the likely ways in which that situation reflected Roman traditions of direct management and the subordination of labour, and outlines what a Marxist theory of the so-called colonate might look like. After discussing Wickham’s handling of the colonate and slavery, and looking briefly at the nature of estates and the fate of the Roman aristocracy, I conclude by criticising the way Wickham uses the category of ‘mode of production’.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Email:


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Historical Materialism — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation