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A different perspective on the Carolingian economy

Material culture and the role of rural communities in exchange systems of the eighth and ninth centuries

A.W.A. Kwemme
08 April 2021
The publication in Open Access

The importance and character of exchange in the Carolingian period has long been a subject of academic debate. There is much discussion on the relative importance of local, regional and international exchange, the role of various groups of actors, and the nature of exchange. What is largely lacking is a consideration of non-elite rural dwellers as constitutive elements in the economy. The present study focusses on the role of rural communities in the development of exchange systems during the Carolingian period. To what extent did the consumptive preferences of rural communities influence the flow of goods at a regional and interregional level? This is examined by cataloguing the finds from Carolingian sites in the Netherlands and comparing their distributions between regions.

It can be demonstrated that rural dwellers indeed played a part in developments in the production and distribution of goods. At the same time the conducted analyses do not allow the establishment of a single model of how rural dwellers participated in exchange networks of the period. In fact, this study contends that there is little meaning in determining the relative importance of different groups in society for the establishment and maintenance of exchange networks at any one time.

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