Peasant-Citizen and Slave

Peasant-Citizen and Slave:The Foundations of Athenian Democracy

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  • Paperback (1989)

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The controversial thesis at the center of this study is that, despite the importance of slavery in Athenian society, the most distinctive characteristic of Athenian democracy was the unprecedented prominence it gave to free labor. Wood argues that the emergence of the peasant as citizen, juridically and politically independent, accounts for much that is remarkable in Athenian political institutions and culture.

From a survey of historical writings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the focus of which distorted later debates, Wood goes on to take issue with recent arguments, such as those of G.E.M. de Ste Croix, about the importance of slavery in agricultural production. The social, political and cultural influence of the peasant-citizen is explored in a way which questions some of the most cherished conventions of Marxist and non-Marxist historiography.

Reviews

  • Learned, elegantly argued and, I think, important ... Ellen Wood is inviting us, indeed I would say obliging us, to reconsider our picture of Athens.

    The Independent
  • Wood has indisputably set the agenda anew

    Times Literary Supplement
  • A compelling read … always surprising and refreshing

    Robin Osborne, Magdalen College, Oxford