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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Hugo Small,


  Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, St Catharine's College

  PhD thesis title: From tribal to feudal? A re-evaluation of Scandinavian socio-economic structures c.800—1300

  Research interests:
  1. Viking-Age and Medieval Scandinavian History
  2. Medieval Social, Economic and Political History
                                3. Medieval Peasantry
                                4. Interdisciplinary research

Historical materialism has had a considerable impact on the study of medieval history, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. Scholars, such as R. Hilton and C. Wickham have critically applied this Marxian framework to the study of what some call medieval ‘feudal society’. However, this tradition has focused mostly on feudalism in the Western European core (France, the German states and Italy) and England, while peripheral regions like Scandinavia have been considered far less in recent years. Although there was a prolific Marxist-agrarian historical tradition within Scandinavia during the twentieth century, with scholars like H. Koht and A. Holmsen, it has not been significantly continued.

I thus intend to continue this Marxist-agrarian tradition, using a historical-materialist framework to analyse Scandinavia and Iceland’s particular feudal order between c.800–1300, while also critically reappraising the previous models within this tradition and Marxist historiography more broadly and updating them with more recent findings.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?
I was inspired to pursue my research interests by my studies of Viking and medieval Scandinavia, which led me to wonder about the socio-economic structure(s) behind the raiding, trading, feuds and politics of this period. I was also inspired by the idea of historical materialism as a ‘history from below’, which includes the majority of the population – slaves and peasants – into the grander historical narrative and events of the Viking and Middle Ages, thus having the potential to greatly deepen our knowledge of this field.