This is a history of the peasant societies of Europe - and of the part they have played in European history - from their origins in the early Middle Ages to the present. Peasants formed a majority of people in Europe during the first half of the 20th century, and, as Werner Rosener shows in this account, they have long been - and still are - a key force in European history. The author's studies range throughout the continent, from England to Russia and from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. He aims to show the diversity of peasant societies - some independent and affluent, others prosperous but enslaved, yet others free but impoverished. Proceeding chronologically with numerous thematic excursions, he examines the forms and evolution of peasant cultures and economies, considers their impact on society at large and describes the great peasant movements and uprisings that have taken place since the 14th century. He concludes with a discussion of the present condition of peasant societies and of the problems of decollectivization in the East and those caused by the Common Agricultural Policy in the West.