Legions of Pigs in the Early Medieval West


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Jamie Kreiner

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An exploration of life in the early medieval West, using pigs as a lens to investigate agriculture, ecology, economy, and philosophy

In the early medieval West, from North Africa to the British Isles, pigs were a crucial part of agriculture and culture. In this fascinating book, Jamie Kreiner examines how this ubiquitous species was integrated into early medieval ecologies and transformed the way that people thought about the world around them. In this world, even the smallest things could have far-reaching consequences.
Kreiner tracks the interlocking relationships between pigs and humans by drawing on textual and visual evidence, bioarchaeology and settlement archaeology, and mammal biology. She shows how early medieval communities bent their own lives in order to accommodate these tricky animals—and how in the process they reconfigured their agrarian regimes, their fiscal policies, and their very identities. In the end, even the pig’s own identity was transformed: at the close of the early Middle Ages, it had become a riveting metaphor for Christianity itself.

Jamie Kreiner is an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia whose research focuses on the early Middle Ages. She is the author of The Social Life of Hagiography in the Merovingian Kingdom.

“Anyone new to medieval animal studies, especially scholars of other periods prone to simplifying the Middle Ages, will especially benefit from Kreiner’s dedication to coherent but complex presentations of evidence. Legions of Pigs is larded with fascinating tidbits, and I know I’ll return to it often.”—Karl Steel, American Historical Review

“A rich and original work, full of fascinating and little-known material, Legions of Pigs is held together by the author’s firm belief in early medieval ecological sensibility. . . . In both form and content . . . Legions of Pigs is a really nice book.”—Paolo Squatriti, Medieval Review

“Kreiner’s book is written with non-medievalists in mind—she elucidates time-specific social and legal terms so that they are understandable without a background in the period. She finds just the right balance of using source materials to support her arguments without getting bogged down in details. Her writing style is a delight to read. This book demonstrates how medieval environmental and agricultural history can be written as a history of ideas and culture with wide appeal.”&mash;Dolly Jorgensen, Agricultural History

“‘Exhaustive’ is the word that best describes this approach to understanding the role of pigs in the economic, cultural, social, and religious life of the early Middle Ages . . . . Medievalists and upper-level undergraduates will thoroughly enjoy this study.”—R. T. Ingoglia, Choice

“Kreiner’s work is an excellent example for medieval historians looking to integrate archaeology, text, and material culture into a commentary on the cultural innovations of the period.”—Mariechristine Garcia, Comitatus

Legions of Pigs is one of the best accounts of the early Middle Ages I have read.”—Paul Freedman, author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America and Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination

“One of the most original books I’ve read in a long time. Written with great verve, its exploration of porcine/human interactions is an interdisciplinary tour de force.”—Julia Smith, Chichele Professor of Medieval History, University of Oxford

“Jamie Kreiner’s book has a stunning range, from Iceland to the Islamic lands, showing how we cannot understand the medieval world at all unless we understand pigs. This was one of the most insightful and satisfying reads I have had for ages.”—Chris Wickham, author of The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000

“What a wonderful story, intermingling humans, animals, and plants in a unique world. Politics, economics, philosophy, and even society appear as never before, reaffirming the fact that we are not, and never have been, alone on Earth.”—Massimo Montanari, Bologna University

Legions of Pigs is an engaging and refreshing investigation of how pigs factored within early medieval cultural and ecological settings. Resonating with current cultural and environmental preoccupations, it will no doubt have wide appeal.”—Michael MacKinnon, University of Winnipeg

Winner of the George Perkins Marsh Prize from the American Society for Environmental History
ISBN: 9780300246292
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
48 b/w + 32 color illus.
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