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This collaborative volume is concerned with long-term social change. Envisaging individual societies as interlinked and interdependent parts of a global social system, the aim of the contributors is to determine the extent to which ancient societies were shaped over time by their incorporation in - or resistance to - the larger system. Their particular concern is the dependent relationship between technically and socially more developed societies with a strong state ideology at the centre and the simpler societies that functioned principally as sources of raw materials and manpower on the periphery of the system. The papers in the first part of the book are all concerned with political developments in the Ancient Near East and the notion of a regional system as a framework for analysis. Part 2 examines the problems of conceptualising local societies as discrete centres of development in the context of both the Near East and prehistoric Europe during the second millennium BC. Part 3 then presents a comprehensive analytical study of the Roman Empire as a single system showing how its component parts often relate to each other in uneven, even contradictory, ways.