Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, Vol. 1: Foundations

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, Vol. 1: Foundations

Article excerpt

Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, Vol. I: Foundations. By R. W. Southern. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell. 1995. Pp. xxi, 330. $44.95.)

This book is the first of a projected three volumes that may well prove to be the finest achievement of the most productive and perceptive of medievalists in England. Just as St. Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape revised and completed Southern's work on Anselm and the late eleventh century, so the first of these volumes further documents and synthesizes themes familiar to readers of his earlier books, namely, his revised understanding of the emergence of schools of northern France and the place of Chartres and Paris, and his seminal notion of scholastic humanism that links the Platonism of the early twelfth century with the development of scholastic analysis, the recovery and assimilation of Aristotle, and the birth of the University of Paris. There is also much that is new here, not only in detail but in his persuasive argument that the teaching of law at Bologna (as distinct from the practice of law) began only around 1150, a generation later than the explosive expansion of the schools of philosophy and theology at Paris. Southern's reinterpretation of Irnerius and Gratian as legal practitioners, commentators, and compilers whose work led to rather than grew out of the teaching of law will probably become the most important and controversial new insight in this book.

Southern's main thesis is that an educational revolution took place in the first half of the twelfth century, built around a scholastic method of textual analysis and quaestiones, that not only influenced almost every level of European society but helped effect a unity of culture that had not previously existed. If, in the vision of Henri Pirenne, the Carolingian empire marked the First Europe, the unification of that geographical area (thus the second part of Southern's title) was forged only in the twelfth century through schools that were "international" in both students and masters, and by a common scholastic culture in arts, theology, and law. …

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