'I have concentrated upon that period which most historians consider to be the classic age of Western feudalism.
This is the early and central Middle Ages, to about 1300, and especially the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
In Section I, the documents chosen are meant to illustrate the social and intellectual milieu of the feudal age or ages.
Section II provides illustrations of the basic institutions of feudalism - vassalage, the fief, and what has traditionally been called 'private justice.' In Section III, on the feudal principality, the documents illustrate the uses made of these institutions in the least some of the states of Europe, again especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.The fourth and final section examines the self-image and the values of the warrior class through documents showing the character of chivalry.
In all these sections, the editor has attempted to give examples of the principal types of records which historians now use in their investigations of feudal society. He has therefore included not only laws and legal commentaries, private charters and administrative records, but also selections from chronicles, saints' lives, sermons, liturgical works, and imaginative literature.
His hope is that they may together illustrate works, and imaginative literature.
His hope is that they may together illustrate in concrete and human terms the relationships between men and men, and men and governments, which were at the heart of the feudal system' - Taken from the Preface.