History ETDs

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This dissertation offers a comparative analysis of forms of social and political organization in eleventh- and twelfth-century Rus, Norman England, and Aquitaine as they are represented in accounts of conflicts, disputes, peace-making, and interpersonal agreements found in Rusian, English, and Aquitanian political narratives. From this analysis, Rus, the Eastern European polity that later gave rise to Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia, emerges as a regional variation of a European society, in contrast with the predominant view of Rus as being profoundly different from Latin Europe. A comparison of narratives from all the three regions examined in the dissertation shows that they display very similar understanding of key concepts of aristocratic medieval politics, such as honor, vengeance, reconciliation, and legitimacy as well as significant parallels between the unwritten "rules of play" (Gerd Althoff) that guided behavior of lay elites. The parallels with Rus are most pronounced in the Western sources written in the vernacular (Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle) or semi-vernacular (Conventum Hugonis); the Conventum displays particularly striking similarities with some Rusian chronicles. Western vernacular texts, as well as Rusian chronicles written in East Slavonic, probably offer a more direct representation of oral political discourse than learned Latin works do, and similarities between Rusian and Western vernacular narratives may be explained by similarities between political cultures reflected in those narratives. One aspect of the comparative analysis offered in this dissertation deals with elements of the noble fief and feudal pyramid seen by many historians as an exclusive feature of the medieval West. According to Susan Reynolds, they were created by academic lawyers at the time of the rise of the centralized bureaucratic state. This dissertation argues that elements of the noble fief and feudal pyramid existed in twelfth-century Rus in no lesser degree than in its contemporary England and in eleventh-century Aquitaine. The absence of any knowledge of Roman law and of a bureaucratic state in Rus along with the presence of relations looking remarkably "feudo-vassalic" suggests that such relations in the West may have more "native" roots than is allowed by Susan Reynolds and her followers.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Bokovoy, Melissa

Second Committee Member

Monahan, Erica

Third Committee Member

Ivanova-Sullivan, Tanya

Fourth Committee Member

Prestel, David



Project Sponsors

The Dudley Philips Dissertation Fellowship

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