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Lectures for A Medieval Survey
Lynn H. Nelson
Europe in 1300
7:00 a.m., Sunday 10 April 13th: the high point of the Middle Ages. Jubilee Year in Rome, with all of Europe paying its respects to the Church, which had at last appeared to have triumphed over its opponents, freed itself from secular control and emerged as the moral arbiter of European affairs.
Despite this apparent unity, two political philosophies were contending for dominance. The Church preserved the Roman ideal of a centralized and disciplined state encompassing all of Christendom, while the secular governments had abandoned this ideal. Unlike China, Mesopotamia, and other parts of the Old World that had sustained empires throughout their history, western Europe did not have a central plain or river system upon which such an empire could be based. Instead, there were many states, each following its own path of development: England: constitutional monarchy; Aragon: social contract; Florence: political machine; Milan, military dictatorship; Rome, theocracy; France: absolute monarchy; Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden (Switzerland): pure democracy; London: syndicalism; Venice: oligarchy; Poland: parliamentary government; and so forth. Probably at no time in history or anywhere on Earth had so many different approaches to statecraft existed in such close proximity.
The greatest of these states was the Church.
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