Towards a Social History of Byzantium
By John Haldon
A Social History of Byzantium, edited by John Haldon (Wiley, 2009)
Introduction: To a greater or lesser extent we are able to describe some quite important aspects of Byzantine society in some detail, although the coverage is admittedly rather patchy and incomplete in many areas. But if we ask the questions, what makes things work in the way they did? Why did certain changes occur at certain points in time? How did such-and-such a situation, and the ideas and concepts through which the Byzantines themselves could describe or attempt to describe it, come into being? – these are questions about causal and structural relationships which are rarely asked, and still more rarely answered satisfactorily. And these are the sorts of questions to which a social history approach might perhaps be able to offer some useful – descriptively as well as heuristically useful – answers.