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Origins of the European Economy
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  • 39 maps
  • Page extent: 1130 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 2 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 380/.094
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: HF3495 .M333 2001
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Europe--Commerce--History
    • Europe--Economic conditions--To 1492

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521661027 | ISBN-10: 0521661021)

For fifty years debate has raged about early European commerce during the period between antiquity and the middle ages. Was there trade? If so, in what - and with whom? New evidence and new ways of looking at old evidence are now breaking the stalemate. Analysis of communications - the movements of people, ideas and things - is transforming our vision of Europe and the Mediterranean in the age of Charlemagne and Harun al Rashid. This is the first comprehensive analysis of the economic transition during this period for over sixty years. Using new materials and new methodology, it will attract all social and economic historians of antiquity and the middle ages, and anyone concerned with the origins of Europe, the history of the slave trade, medicine and disease, cross-cultural contacts, and the Muslim and Byzantine worlds.

• A broad synthesis using recent results from archaeology and science to elucidate the fall of the Roman empire and the origins of the European medieval economy • Offers a new history of early European commerce and shipping, based on the 'new history' of communications and their infrastructures • Written in clear, non-technical English, and illustrated by 41 spectacular maps and by numerous charts and graphs


Commerce, communications and the origins of the European economy; Part I. The End of the World: 1. The end of the ancient world; 2. Late Roman industry: case studies in decline; 3. Land and river communications in late antiquity; 4. Sea change in late antiquity; The end of the ancient economy: a provisional balance sheet; Part II. People on the Move; 5. A few western faces; 6. Two hundred more envoys and pilgrims: group portrait; 7. Byzantine faces; 8. Easterners heading west: group portrait; 9. Traders, slaves, and exiles; People on the move; Part III. Things that Travelled: 10. Hagiographical horizons: collecting exotic relics in early medieval France; 11. 'Virtual' coins and communications; 12. 'Real money': Arab and Byzantine coins around Carolingian Europe; Things on the move; Part IV. The Patterns of Change: 13. The experience of travel; 14. Secular rhythms: communications over time; 15. Seasonal rhythms; 16. Time under way; 17. 'Spaces of sea': Europe's western Mediterranean communications; 18. Venetian breakthrough: Europe's central Mediterranean communications; 19. New overland routes; The patterns of change; Part V. Commerce: 20. Early medieval trading worlds; 21. Where are the merchants?: Italy; 22. Merchants and markets of Frankland; 23. Connections; 24. Where are the wares?: eastern imports to Europe; 25. European exports to Africa and Asia; At the origins of the European economy; Appendices; Bibliography.

Prize Winner

Gyorgi Ranki Biennial Prize 2003 - Winner

The Haskins Medal 2005 - Winner


'Cambridge University Press is to be congratulated on a polished and well-edited production … This is a noble addition to the school inspired by Pirenne, and will no doubt still be around in another sixty years' time.' Economic History Services

'Michael McCormick has written a Decline and Fall for the twenty-first century … his brilliant book will shatter most people's conceptions of the Dark Ages.' Ross Balzaretti, The Times Literary Supplement

'… an awesome book … The results are little short of extraordinary. McCormick has established a benchmark for what, as he rightly points out, has been a virtual world lost between those studying East and West, and North and South. Time will show what a massively useful work this.' Richard Hodges, Agrarian History Review

'The motor of the economic surge which appears in the increase of Mediterranean communications…was the linking of Europe to the more advanced economy of the Middle East. The Mediterranean was thus no barrier, but a bridge between two economic worlds. The significance of this clear and persuasively polished book lies in its method of observing economic development and in the convincing results …'. Neue Zürcher Zeitung

'… a product of arduous, ambitious, serious historical scholarship … a noble addition to the school inspired by Pireene, and will no doubt still be around in another sixty years' time.' EH.Net Reviews

'… this is a thorough and refeshing discussion of what documentary and artefactual sources tell us about economy and communcation in this period.' History

'The book is a remarkable compendium of information about travel. McCormick is an exceptional scholar, blessed with the linguistic gifts that allow him to range through an extraordinary number of texts … am certain it will be productively mined, as a comprehensive work of reference, for a long time to come.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'McCormick's book is a masterpiece of craft … McCormick, like Bloch and Pirenne, is writing a different kind of economic history: 'economic history as cultural history' … McCormick has carried the best work of the early twentieth century on into the twenty-first - not just by adding more lanes, but by carving out a whole new route.' New Republic

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