While this is no orthodox textbook, it is nonetheless a coursebook. Its theme is the social structure of Western Europe between c. 1300 and c.1600. Its aim is not to provide a comprehensive survey, but to give perspective to the subject and to shed light upon a few different approaches. It is interdisciplinary because an important challenge, still too rarely taken up, of learning about past social development lies in the connected study of various activities and attainments, whether political, literary, artistic or scholastic. It is also essential to achieve understanding of the methodologies of those trained in the separate, perhaps all too separate, disciplines of history, social science, political theory, literary criticism and history of art. The book is introductory in that it opens the door on the work of experts in these fields. In introducing students to the research of leading scholars, in the context of a book concerned with a general theme, the intention is to demonstrate that the world of teaching and learning may not be best served by the preservation of hierarchical notions that set the results of research at the highest end of the educational spectrum and books for courses at the lowest.
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