Comparative Governance: Europe's Long Thirteenth Century: Governments, Conflicts and the Cultivation of Christendom, c. 1150 - c. 1350

Course code: MDVLGH08A 

Credits: 15 (Term 1 only) or 30

Course tutor: Dr John Sabapathy.

This course focuses on medieval Europe’s peculiar genius for cultivating potent and flexible institutions during the extraordinarily creative period between c.1150 and c.1350. ‘Institutions’ here means both social practices and organisational forms. Examples of the former would include inquests, audits, accountings or parliaments. Examples of the latter would include hospitals, colleges and commercial partnerships.

It is the way these various institutions were cultivated, their wider impacts, and the tensions between them which provide our focus. We will look at how these institutions ‘thought’, how they worked - and indeed whether they ‘worked.’ A strong emphasis will be placed on comparisons - e.g. Chinese, Icelandic, Byzantine.

The course is interdisciplinary and we will look at analytical approaches from Aristotle to Pierre Bourdieu. Historiographically, the thirteenth century provides our centre of gravity. Long-considered the apogee of the Middle Ages, it needs serious reinterpretation. So the course will give you the chance to do so. You will consequently have the chance to think about some of the ‘big interpretations’ relating to the period: Marc Bloch’s Feudal Society, R.W. Southern’s Scholastic Humanism & the Unification of Europe, Alexander Murray’s Reason & Society in the Middle Ages, Susan Reynolds' Kingdoms & Communities in Western Europe, Robert Bartlett’s The Making of Europe, Thomas Bisson’s The Crisis of the Twelfth Century

Students will both learn about this period and develop comparative analytical skills that are of generic use.

Assessment: 1 essay of 4,000 words.

Preparatory Reading: Alongside the longer books above, the following are much shorter but equally acute:

- Thomas N. Bisson, 'Medieval Lordship', Speculum 70 (1995), pp. 743-59

- Michael T. Clanchy, 'England in the Thirteenth Century: power and knowledge' in W.M. Ormrod (ed.), England in the Thirteenth Century: proceedings of the 1984 Harlaxton Symposium (Grantham, 1985), pp. 1-14. [not just relevant for England]

- Michael T. Clanchy, 'Inventing Thirteenth Century England: Stubbs, Tout, Powicke - now what?, in P.R. Coss & S.D. Lloyd (eds.), Thirteenth Century England 5 (1995), pp. 1-20 [not just relevant for England]

- R.W. Southern 'The Changing Role of Universities in Medieval Europe', Historical Research 60 (1987), pp. 133-46

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