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The Mortgage of the Past

The Mortgage of the Past: Reshaping the Ancient Political Inheritance (1050-1300)

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Mortgage of the Past
    Book Description:

    Francis Oakley continues his magisterial three-part history of the emergence of Western political thought during the Middle Ages with this second volume in the series. Here, Oakley explores kingship from the tenth century to the beginning of the fourteenth, showing how, under the stresses of religious and cultural development, kingship became an inceasingly secular institution.

    "A masterpiece and the central part of a trilogy that will be a true masterwork."-Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California, Santa Barbara

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18350-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. General Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiii)

    In the three volumes I plan for this series it is my ambition not simply to address, and in adequate depth, the political thinking of the centuries labeled by stubborn historiographical convention as “medieval,” but also to eff ect something of a shift in the perspective from which we characteristically view that body of thought.¹ And beyond that, indeed, it is also my ambition to engineer if I at all can a modest measure of reshaping in the constitutive narrative which has long served to frame the way in which we understand the full course of Western political thought. No...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. Prologue: Kingship and Its Changing Profile in the Central Middle Ages
    (pp. 1-5)

    During the late antique and early medieval centuries a Christianized version of the archaic pattern of sacral kingship had dominated the political scene in the Latin West no less than the Byzantine East. From the late eleventh century onward, however, in the former region, though not in the latter, that was all destined to change. It was not that the institution of kingship itself was called into question or consigned to a process of marginalization. What was called into question, rather, was its age-old sacral dimension. It is true that by the closing years of the thirteenth century town dwellers...

  6. 1. Historical Orientation: The Flowering of Medieval Europe
    (pp. 6-14)

    At few moments in the unfolding of European history does the traditional, humanist-inspired periodization into ancient, medieval, and modern present more of a hindrance to understanding than it does as we edge into the period addressed in this volume. Having become accustomed to the rhythms of life and thought characteristic of the early medieval centuries (which constitute in so many ways an epilogue or coda to the world of late antiquity), we now encounter the great transposition that took place in almost every area of life during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, precipitating the crystallization of forms of economic, social,...

  7. 2. The Christian Commonwealth (i): Regnum vs. Sacerdotium—the Struggle for Control
    (pp. 15-41)

    By the latter half of the nineteenth century the name “Canossa” had long since become a piece of shorthand, symbolizing for Germans of strongly nationalistic bent nothing other than the abject humiliation of a German emperor and, indeed, of the German national spirit at the arrogant hands of a foreign religious potentate. When in May 1872, then, Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the newly and proudly unified GermanReich,proclaimed to the Reichstag that “we will not go to Canossa,” it seemed no more than appropriate that he should do so when launching the so-called May laws aimed at asserting...

  8. 3. Recuperating the Past (i): Nature and Chronology of the Process
    (pp. 42-65)

    If a vigorous development of political thinking took place over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, its necessary presupposition, and one determinative for the direction it took, was the attainment of a renewed familiarity with the intellectual legacy of Greek, Roman, and Christian antiquity. Similarly important was the intellectual stance that medieval thinkers themselves adopted when they sought to come to terms with that legacy. Both factors, accordingly, must command our attention right at the outset before we move on to engage the political thinking of the era. And the second of these factors being the easier one...

  9. 4. Recuperating the Past (ii): The Encounter with Christian and Roman Antiquity
    (pp. 66-99)

    Notwithstanding his enthusiastic evocation of the intellectual vitality of the twelfth century, Charles Homer Haskins himself viewed the century as “rather a slack period in the history of political theory.” Registering in that particular context a somewhat tepid appraisal of the significance of John of Salisbury’sPolicraticusorStatesman’s Book,he noted that “the pamphlet literature dealing with church and state had just spent its force during the controversy over investiture, and the more systematic discussion awaited the translation of Aristotle’sPolitics ca. 1260 and theSummaof Thomas Aquinas.”¹ That judgment is plausible enough, but in relation no less...

  10. 5. Recuperating the Past (iii): Fruits of the Encounter with Greek Antiquity
    (pp. 100-137)

    By the twelfth century, a species of “political naturalism” had made its presence felt on the European intellectual scene, and by the end of the following century, with the historic penetration of Aristotelian modalities of thought into political thinking, the evocation of “nature” and the “natural” had stepped forward to take up an important position under the bright lights of center stage. Time now, then, as we turn to the political thinkers of the thirteenth century, to redeem the pledge made in the last chapter to focus somewhat more intently on the meanings characteristically attached to the word “nature” (Greek...

  11. 6. Proto-Constitutionalist Innovation: The Roots of Consent Theory and the Emergence of Representative Institutions
    (pp. 138-159)

    As one reads the political writings of the first generation of medieval Aristotelians discussed in the previous chapter—and especially those of Thomas Aquinas—one cannot help being struck by the degree to which their political thinking appears to have been shaped rather by what they hadreadthan by the political realities of their own day. Books clearly played an enormously important role in their lives, conveying memories of a very different and foreign past, posing questions sometimes of very ancient provenance, mediating ideas whose “particular go”¹ had survived intact the hostility of time and was capable still of...

  12. 7. Priestly Kings and Royal Popes: The Resilience of Royal Sacrality
    (pp. 160-184)

    Of the three most celebrated compilations of national laws and customary law to survive from the thirteenth century—the other two are Eike von Repgoure’sSachsenspiegel(ca. 1230) and Philippe de Beaumanoir’sCoutumes de Beauvaisis(ca. 1283)—it is theDe legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae(1230–60), traditionally attributed to the English royal justice Henry de Bracton (d. 1286),¹ that really stands out. It does so in part because it is the most analytic in its approach to law. But it does so, too, because it went further than its German and French counterparts in probing the question of the...

  13. 8. The Christian Commonwealth (ii): Disintegration
    (pp. 185-219)

    Hundleby’s account, written by a nonpartisan eyewitness less than three weeks after the event, appears to be the only text on which it would be safe to base a reconstruction of what exactly happened at Anagni. But although that account is dramatic and arresting enough to grasp the reader’s attention, it remains the case, surprisingly, that contemporaries did not themselves make all that much of the incident. If Robert Fawtier’s analysis is at all correct,¹ the reason for that may well be that contemporaries did not view it as the outrageous, French-engineered attack on the person of the pope that...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 220-224)

    Looking back now across the two and a half centuries on which we have been focusing in this volume, it is clear that so far as the history of European political thinking is concerned, these were centuries linked together by some very important continuities. If in the mid-eleventh century kingship was the primary institutional focus of political thinking, it is notable (and especially so if one includes the papal monarchy) that that was still the case in the early fourteenth century. And beleaguered though it had come to be at the theoretical level, we have seen that at the popular...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 225-281)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 282-308)
  17. Index
    (pp. 309-327)