Medieval Political Theory c.1000–1500

Janet Coleman

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Medieval Political Theory c.1000–1500

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This article focuses on a selection of Christian political theorists who have been considered by scholars over many generations, indeed centuries, to have contributed to a variety of distinctive discourses about the relationships between individuals and authority. There is a sense in which what political theorizing “is” during the Middle Ages is a set of positions and justificatory explanations about “sovereign power.” The attempt to fix the boundary between sacred and temporal authority during the eleventh-century pontificate of Gregory VII is normally seen to have spawned the major and long-enduring debates in medieval political theory (and beyond) over the relation between temporal and spiritual powers. This article highlights the emergence of legal experts in canon law and civil law, to whom the name “political theorists” should not seem anachronistic. It also considers how political theory was generated as a “civil science.” Finally, it looks at some themes at the heart of medieval political theory, particularly property and poverty, the Dominican political theory of Thomas Aquinas, and Franciscans' political theory.

Keywords: Gregory VII; political theory; Middle Ages; civil science; canon law; civil law; sovereign power; authority; poverty; property

Article.  13581 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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