Much of this chapter also appears in SD , fols.
Classical politicalthought imagined close ties between
different levels of sovereignty, paralleling the responsibilities of a ruler
with those of a male head of household: Aristotle, Politics
1.1–2; Cicero, De officiis 1
GL , pp.
64–5. A foundational document for politics and politicalthought in
the European Middle Ages, it was only in the fifteenth century recognised as
a forgery (probably from the eighth century).
470 years, if counting from 330 to 800 (the year of
Charlemagne's imperial coronation in Rome
to each his due’. 3 [ 1.2 ]
Aquinas was especially influential
on medieval politicalthought, reconciling the teachings of Christ with
Aristotelian logic to achieve a distinctive philosophy of law and the
state. Mankind, he argued, could not apprehend the eternal law of God
directly, but by applying reason (the divine spark which set man apart
from and above the animals) he might deduce a body of
the development of English law during the early eleventh century.
politics and society in early medieval England
Understanding the origins of
Wulfstan’s politicalthought requires some knowledge of the
troubled history of later Anglo-Saxon England. His vision of a holy
society cannot be separated from the social and intellectual upheavals
that radically reshaped
M. Kowaleski, Local Markets and Regional
Trade in Exeter , Cambridge, 1995, p. 96.
S. Reynolds, ‘Medieval urban history and
the history of politicalthought’, Urban History
Yearbook , 1982, pp. 14–23; S. H. Rigby, ‘Urban
Archbishop Wulfstan of York is among the most important legal and political thinkers of the early Middle Ages. A leading ecclesiastic, innovative legislator, and influential royal councilor, Wulfstan witnessed firsthand the violence and social unrest that culminated in the fall of the English monarchy before the invading armies of Cnut in 1016. This book introduces the range of Wulfstan's political writings and sheds light on the development of English law during the early eleventh century. In his homilies and legal tracts, Wulfstan offered a searing indictment of the moral failures that led to England’s collapse and formulated a vision of an ideal Christian community that would influence English political thought long after the Anglo-Saxon period had ended. More than just dry political theory, however, Wulfstan’s works are composed in the distinctive voice of someone who was both a confidante of kings and a preacher of apocalyptic fervour. No other source so vividly portrays the political life of eleventh-century England: what it was, and what one man believed it could be.
hitherto unexplored by ‘traditional’ legal
The subject is now increasingly
being recognised as vitally important to the wider understanding of
politics and society. This is not the extent of its reach, however, for
as this volume demonstrates, legal history has a role in other
‘histories’, among them politicalthought,
‘popular’ culture, and gender relations
the king, while it is his advisers (especially at this time
William de la Pole) who have been the cause of the king’s
misfortunes. Indeed, they highlight how the king’s fortunes (both
financially and metaphorically) are at a low ebb and how his
susceptibility to influence stems partly from his lack of resources.
Absorbing contemporary politicalthought, properly functioning justice
at home is seen as
The documents in this section consist of Wulfstan’s political tracts, those texts the archbishop composed either for public circulation or as private memoranda with the purpose of articulating or advocating for some aspect of his social vision.
Latin text: Iohannis Wyclif De Civili Dominio , vol. 2., ed. J. Loserth (London: WS, 1900), pp. 5–7.
At the beginning of this chapter, Wyclif explains that he is responding here to a Benedictine monk in Oxford who attacked his claim that temporal lords may remove property from churchmen who abuse it in some way. This principle played a defining role in Wyclif’s late politicalthought. Throughout the chapter, he addresses the monk as ‘my brother’.
[In defending his position on sacerdotal exemption from taxation,] my