Janet L. Nelson
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Peers in the early Middle Ages
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The earlier Middle Ages are generally thought of as a period when there was no such thing as equality. Nevertheless, parity, however circumscribed by particularity, is attested in enough contexts, and in sufficiently many terms, to demand serious attention as an aspect of social relations and political thinking in the earlier Middle Ages. This chapter focuses on the period before 900, though it is gazed occasionally. In Philippe Buc's L'Ambiguïté du livre, there is a striking insistence both on the role of the Bible as a source of legitimacy in the Middle Ages, and on the possibility of egalitarian readings of Holy Writ. Not that Buc means 'egalitarian' in the universalistic sense of the Enlightenment. But he notes that for some twelfth-century Bible commentators, ecclesiastical authority was legitimately and normally wielded by local clergy rather than the pope.

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Law, laity and solidarities

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