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Short Notices 183 SHORT NOTICES Byock, Jesse L., Medieval Iceland: society, sagas and power, rpt, Berkeley, University of Catifornia Press, 1990; paper; pp. xi 264; 9 maps; R. R. P. US$10.95. Jesse Byock's study of medieval Iceland is a very useful aid to students of Norse literature and culture, as well as a learned and lively introduction to medieval Iceland for those interested in the history of its social, economic, and cultural institutions. It wiU be especiaUy valuable to readers Umited to English language sources since, along with the 1974 translation of J6n J6hannesson's A history of the Icelandic commonwealth: Islendinga saga and Kirsten Hastrup's 1985 study, Culture and history in medieval Iceland: an anthropological analysis ofstructure and change, it is one of the few works in English to provide a detailed description of the unique society developed by Norwegian emigres in the northwestern comer of Europe from the ninth century onwards. Byock focusses on the various mechanisms of power operating in medieval Iceland (including inheritance, advocacy, the Go&'-Thingman relationship, and vinfengi, or 'contractual friendship arrangements') and, unlike Johannesson and Hastrup, includes in his study evidence from a range of literary genres often treated asfictional,or at least, unreliable. But by analysing family sagas and Sturlunga sagas for the patterns and structures that represent what Byock argues was the traditional Icelandic system of consensual order, he shows them to be important sources of information on wealth and power in medieval Iceland, and expressive of interesting tensions arising from the power structures of the society. W h e n published in hard covers in 1988, the book was well received by reviewers in a range of fields. Judy Quinn Department of EngUsh University of Sydney Cipolla, Carlo M., Money in sixteenth-century Florence, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989; pp. xii, 169; 6figs,2 graphs, 18 tables; R. R. P. US$29.95. It is not the culture but the currency of Renaissance Florence that is the subject of Carlo Cipolla's study. A s is the case with the more glamorous areas of Renaissance studies, Florence is the subject because of abundance in source materials. The bulk of the book, including the useful documentary appendices, deals with technical problems and information. But, as CipoUarightiynotes in his preface, politics and personalities affected the impact of the arrival of massive quantities of silver from the Americas. Thus the stringent monetary policies of ...


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