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Cultivating the City in Early Medieval Italy
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: January 2021
  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online ISBN: 9781108773966
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Book description

Food-growing gardens first appeared in early medieval cities during a period of major social, economic, and political change in the Italian peninsula, and they quickly took on a critical role in city life. The popularity of urban gardens in the medieval city during this period has conventionally been understood as a sign of decline in the post-Roman world, signalling a move towards a subsistence economy. Caroline Goodson challenges this interpretation, demonstrating how urban gardens came to perform essential roles not only in the economy, but also in cultural, religious, and political developments in the emerging early medieval world. Observing changes in how people interacted with each other and their environments from the level of individual households to their neighbourhoods, and the wider countryside, Goodson draws on documentary, archival, and archaeological evidence to reveal how urban gardening reconfigured Roman ideas and economic structures into new, medieval values.

Reviews

‘Caroline Goodson leads the reader on a fascinating journey through the cities of early medieval Italy exploring their complex landscape through archaeological and botanical evidence. She shows the enormous potential of gardens and orchard for economic and social history, by providing a vivid and original image of the interaction between nature and urban culture.’

Maria Cristina La Rocca - Università degli Studi di Padova

‘A distinctly original book, based on thorough integration of textual and archaeological sources. It refreshes a traditional topic in Italian medieval historiography, urban history, showing postclassical cities were places of agricultural production. Cultivating the City in Early Medieval Italy also brings out what was special about early medieval gardening practices in Italy by addressing the topic of urban gardening in a long duration, from imperial Roman times to the Year 1000. Its sustained discussion of that mysterious Dark Age phenomenon, the accumulation of 'Dark Earth', is particularly exciting. For historians of city and countryside, early medieval archaeologists, and any who have wondered how gardens changed during the first millennium AD, this study provides many insights.’

Paolo Squatriti - University of Michigan

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