By W. M. Spellman
This short narrative survey of political concept over the last millennia explores key rules that experience formed Western political traditions.
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Additional resources for A Short History of Western Political Thought
Searching for a strong military partner in its own struggle against Lombard aggression, and in its dispute with the Byzantine church over the propriety of religious icons or images, the papacy decided to cast its lot with the upstart Carolingians. In 751, Pepin’s palace coup d’etat against King Childeric was recognized by Pope Zachary (r. 741–752), and Boniface, acting as papal representative, formally anointed the new monarch in the Frankish city of Soissons. Three years later Pope Stephen II (r.
But the Middle Ages also bequeathed early forms of consultative government that were deeply embedded in the culture of Germanic society. Feudal land systems, rising to prominence in the tenth century, emphasized reciprocal obligations amongst the military elite, and the propriety of customary land tenure for the unfree serf. During the central Middle Ages (c. 1000– 1300), free cities and commercial urban communities in northern Italy and the Low Countries set precedents for autonomy and guild-dominated governance.
The latter action was attempted on occasion, with uneven results for the papacy’s overall prestige, but the assertion when combined with the sanction of excommunication, at least allowed the popes to define “temporal rulership” as a religious charge. Western Europe during the Middle Ages was a unified quasi-state in the sense that religious heterodoxy was disallowed everywhere. Almost everyone agreed that dissent was to be crushed, the “other” reproached and, if need be, eliminated. But the Middle Ages also bequeathed early forms of consultative government that were deeply embedded in the culture of Germanic society.
A Short History of Western Political Thought by W. M. Spellman