Kingship: The Politics of Enchantmant / Edition 1

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From despots to powerless figureheads, and from the Neolithic era to the present, this book traces the history of kingship around the world and the tenacity of its connection with the sacred.

  • Considers the many forms that kingship took during this period, including: the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt; the emperors of Japan; the Maya rulers of Mesoamerica; the medieval popes and emperors; and the English and French monarchs of early modern Europe
  • Explores the panoply of governing roles that kingship involved – administrative, military, judicial, economic, religious and symbolic – but focussing on its connection with the sacred.
  • Draws on the insights of cultural anthropology and comparative religion, as well as the on the resources provided by historians.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a wide-ranging, cross-cultural exploration and meditation on sacral kingship by one of the rare, intellectually adventurous, historians in the academy." Janet Coleman, London School of Economics and Political Science

"In Oakley's hands, kingship turns out to be a tremendously insightful vantage point to understand the human story. His magisterial sweep through the history of monarchical rule shows conclusively how difficult it is to separate the history of politics from that of religion. Oakley's argument is supported by vivid examples drawn from an impressive range of times and civilizations." Charles Taylor, McGill University

"Original and lucid. This is an essential book ... it offers a persuasive reconsideration of the history of political philosophy, which bears on modern and recent as well as much older periods." Choice

"Oakley's study is neither confined to the West, nor to any period. It is not on kings, but on the very idea of kingship, an idea characterised by ubiquity, longevity and sacrality. [This] study is interesting and at times challenging." European Constitutional Law Review

“A most useful and informative survey of the theme…The juxtaposition of so much diverse material is certainly thought-provoking and demands changes in historical perspectives.”
Catholic Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631226956
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/21/2006
  • Series: New Perspectives on the Past Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 9.84 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Francis Oakley is the Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas and President Emeritus of Williams College, Massachusetts. He is also President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies, New York. In 1999 he was Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professor of the History of Ideas at Oxford University. He is the author of The Medieval Experience (1988 [1974]), Omnipotence, Covenant,and Order (1984), The Conciliarist Tradition (2003), and Natural Law, Laws of Nature, Natural Rights (2005).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations.

Series Editor's Preface.


Prologue: Matters of Perspective.

1. Gate of the Gods: Archaic and Global Patterns of Cosmic Kingship.

2. Royal Saviors and Shepherds: Hellenistic, Roman, Biblical, and Qur’ânic views of Kingship.

3. The Eusebian Accommodation: Christian Rulership in Imperial Rome, Byzantium, and Russia.

4. The Carolingian Accommodation: Christian Rulership in the Germanic Successor Kingdoms of Western Europe.

5. Sacral Kingship in Medieval and Early-Modern Europe: Papal, Imperial, National.

6. The Fading Nimbus: Modern Kingship and its Fate in a Disenchanted World.

Epilogue: Survivals and Revivals.


Suggestions for Further Reading.


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