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This book is first and foremost an extended examination and discussion of the enslavement of men and women by others of their society and in particular of the means and causes of the gradual end of slavery in early medieval Europe between 500 and 1200. Drawing upon a very wide range of primary and archival sources, Professor Bonnassie places fresh findings about subjection, servitude and lordship in relation to the prevailing understanding of social history which has developed since the work of Marc Bloch. The author explains how slavery long persisted in southern France and Spain, as part of a public order that also sheltered free peasants, giving way in the tenth and eleventh centuries to a new regime of harsh lordships that mark the beginnings of feudalism. He shows that feudalism in south-western Europe was no less significant than in northern European lands.