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Political Thought and Government in the Medieval West : Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Pensée politique et gouvernement en occident médiéval : regards croisés

11th to early 13th centuries

XIe-début XIIIe siècle

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Published on Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Abstract

The aim of this colloquium is to lead a cross-cultural analyse of the action and political thinking between the 11th century and the beginning of the 13th century – period frequently neglected in favor of the 13th-14th centuries, characterised by the rediscovery of the Aristotelician political corpus –, and primarily to manage to combine these two aspects of the power.

Announcement

The Research Center on Pratiques Médiévales de l’écrit (PraME) of the University of Namur organises an international colloquium on « Political Thought and Government in the Medieval West (11th to early 13th centuries) : Cross-Cultural Perspectives », which will take place at the University of Namur from May 10th to 12th 2023.

Argument

The Twelth century, period often qualified as a new Renaissance since the well-know book of Charles Haskins, was the place of many important cultural and intellectual mutations, but also political. The institutional mutations multiply and lay the first stone of a structure that a part of the historiography qualifies under the concept of « birth of the Modern State ». Medieval thinkers, mostly members of the Clergy, also perceive these fundamental changes, and the reflexions about power and lay government (vanity of the court, tyrannicide, topic of wise king, organic metaphor, etc.) flourish in very varied works. Indeed, as there is no specific treaties on this topic (like the mirrors for princes that are growing during the Thirteenth century — with the noteworthy exception of John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, complex and polysemous work —, the political thinking of the Twelth century can be found in biblical commentaries and in the exegetical literature in general (Ph. Buc), in the growing legal production (K. Pennington), in the narrative works with a historical purpose (B. Weiler, E. Morgan) or in the literature of entertainment (D. Crouch), or even in more personal documents like letters or the preamble of rulers’ charters.

The aim of this colloquium is to lead a cross-cultural analyse of the action and political thinking between the 11th century and the beginning of the 13th century — period frequently neglected in favor of the 13th-14th centuries, characterised by the rediscovery of the Aristotelician political corpus —, and primarily to manage to combine these two aspects of the power. A global reflexion, avoiding the opposition of theory and practice, is necessary to give a new perspective to the comprehension of the action and political thinking during this Twelth century. This meeting invites the participants to consider the possibility to link concretes actions or models of rulership and more theoretical considerations, and the impact that these two structuring elements could have on each other. A second important question underlines this possibility : the finality and the reception of the works that contain and transmit them. Indeed, it is essential to identify by which way(s) and which intermediary(ies) the rulers could have access to these texts and what could be there impact on their political practices and on the mutations mentioned above. 

The contributions can touch to all the Medieval West, in order to promote a comparative and multi-spatial approach. In the same way, the concept of ruler has to be understood in a broad sense, that is all people, secular or from the clergy, who has some potestas exercised on someone else, from the Pope to a local ruler, through the abbot and the territorial prince. In the framework of this colloquium, the discussion will focus on two main themes :

  • The sources of political thought between the 11th and the early 13th century, and the methodological considerations that proceed.
  • Case studies where a system of thought underlies the governmental practice, whether or not it refers to scholarly thought.

Themes

The first theme interrogates the sources that contain political thought at this time. The multiplicity of its vectors implies a great complexity of interpretation, as the specific features of each « literary genre » determine, at least in part, its content and, by the way, its interpretation. In the absence of a specific literature, the political thought, that includes in its broadest sense anyone who produces a reflexion on a government, whatever its medium, can be observed through exegetical literature, in legal texts, in the narrative works with a historical purpose, in courtly literature, but also in epistolary production. The epistolary collections have indeed a vocation to circulate and are a powerful vector of their author’s thoughts and opinions. We can observe in the diplomatic sources, primarily in the preamble, but also in the seals, the elaboration of a real theory of power. The main question that links all these sources is their potential reception by the ruler : how and by what medium did he have access to this these discourses on power ? We have to think about the finality of the work, as expected by its author, and its concrete reception. Which is the audience of the work ? Does it reach the ruler ? And if it’s the case, by which way and by which interface ? What is, in this transmission, the potential role of the learned entourage, that grows in the rulers’ curiae at this time ? In short, the purpose is to see whether the theorical political thought has reached the ears of the ruler and potentially influenced his governmental practices.

The second focus, which follows logically from the first, tries to determine whether a potential influence of some thinkers can be detected in concretes political acts and what does it raised of practical actions from the ruler. In short, how theoretical precepts can be integrated by the ruler and transcribed in his political action. This locution has to be understood in its broadest sense and the reflexions can concern, in addition to governmental practices, the models of rulership as such (rulership by counsel, the topic of tyrannical prince, etc.), including topoï like the good and bad counselors, the control of the officers (accountability), but also the theme of princely justice, extensively discussed by medieval thinkers.

Submission guidelines

Papers will be 30 minutes each, followed by a discussion.

The communication proposals should correspond to the themes of reflection developed above.

They will take the form of a summary (300-500 words), accompanied by a provisional title.

They must be submitted by email in Word or OpenOffice format (.doc, .docx, .odt) to the organizers 

before the 15th July. 

For the sake of consistency and in order to stimulate the discussion, the organisers reserv the right to select the proposals.

Organisers

Scientific committee

  • Jean-François Nieus (UNamur),
  • Frédérique Lachaud (Université Paris Sorbonne),
  • Nicholas Vincent (University of East Anglia),
  • Nicolas Ruffini-Ronzani (UNamur).

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


Date(s)

  • Friday, July 15, 2022

Keywords

  • Moyen Âge, gouvernement, pensée politique

Information source

  • Nicolas Michel
    courriel : nicolas [dot] michel [at] unamur [dot] be

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Political Thought and Government in the Medieval West : Cross-Cultural Perspectives », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, July 05, 2022, https://calenda.org/1006370

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