Political Theories of the Middle Age

Political Theories of the Middle Age

Political Theories of the Middle Age

Political Theories of the Middle Age

Excerpt

Had what is here translated, namely, a brief account of the political theories of the Middle Ages, appeared as a whole book, it would hardly have stood in need of that distorting medium, an English translation. Englishmen who were approaching the study of medieval politics, either from the practical or from the theoretical side, would have known that there was a book which they would do well to master, and many who were not professed students or whose interests lay altogether in modern times would have heard of it and have found it profitable. The elaborate notes would have shewn that its writer had read widely and deeply; they would also have guided explorers into a region where sign-posts are too few. As to the text, the last charge which could be made against it would be that of insufficient courage in generalization, unless indeed it were that of aimless medievalism. The outlines are large, the strokes are firm, and medieval appears as an introduction to modern thought. The ideas that are to possess and divide mankind from the sixteenth until the nineteenth century -- Sovereignty, the Sovereign Ruler, the Sovereign People, the Representation of the People, the Social Contract, the Natural Rights of Man, the Divine Rights of Kings, the Positive Law that stands below the State, the Natural Law that stands above the State -- these are the ideas whose early history is to be detected, and they are set before us as thoughts which, under the influence of Classical Antiquity, necessarily shaped themselves in the course of medieval debate. And if the thoughts are interesting, so too are the thinkers. In Dr Gierke's list of medieval publicists, beside the divines and schoolmen, stand great popes, great lawyers, great reformers, men who were clothing concrete projects in abstract . . .

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