Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State

Article excerpt

Alan Harding, Medieval Law and the Foundations of the Stale (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). x + 392 pp. ISBN 0-19-8215 8-X. £40.00. In this substantial book, Alan Harding traces the prehistory of the idea of the state by examining the use of the words status, etat, and estate in medieval legal texts. Hc finds that 'state' tends to appear in these texts in two basic senses. First, it appears in reference to the condition of a collective, as in 'the state of the realm', or 'the state of the commonwealth'. second, it appears in reference to the state of the individuals who made up the collective, culminating in 'the state of the king'. Tn the later Middle Ages, these two separate senses begin to come together in a political theory of the constitutional state (p. 254). Harding notes that for Thomas Aquinas it is legislation that links regime and people (p. 7), and this insight by Aquinas is fundamental to the argument that Harding develops here, tracing the construction of legal systems in the medieval West out of which, this book argues, the state in its modern sense emerges.

The breadth of material covered and the density of the book's argument make it difficult to summarize adequately. There are ten chapters. The opening chapter is a brief discussion of 'state' as word and concept, with an emphasis on Aquinas. The rest of the book divides essentially into two parts. Chapters ii to ? survey the growth of legal jurisdictions in the medieval West. Chapter ii discusses the lawgiving of the Prankish and Anglo-Saxon kings; chapter iii the potential challenge posed to royal judicial authority by the private jurisdictions of feudal landholders; chapter iv the peace movement and the role of monarchies in its support; chapter iv the judicial systems of Hngland and France, kingdoms which, in contrast to Germany, Harding sees as compact enough to sustain a unified polity (p. …

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