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Negotiating Space: Power Restraint, and Privileges of Immunity in Early Medieval Europe
     

Negotiating Space: Power Restraint, and Privileges of Immunity in Early Medieval Europe

by Barbara H. Rosenwein
 

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Why did early medieval kings declare certain properties to be immune from the judicial and fiscal encroachments of their own agents Did weakness compel them to prohibit their agents from entering these properties as historians have traditionally believed? In a richly detailed book that will be greeted as a landmark addition to the literature on the Middle Ages.

Overview

Why did early medieval kings declare certain properties to be immune from the judicial and fiscal encroachments of their own agents Did weakness compel them to prohibit their agents from entering these properties as historians have traditionally believed? In a richly detailed book that will be greeted as a landmark addition to the literature on the Middle Ages. Barbara H. Rosenwein argues that immunities were markers of power. By placing restraints on themselves and their agents, kings demonstrated their authority, affirmed their status. and manipulated the boundaries of sacred space.

Rosenwein transforms our understanding of an institution central to the political and social dynamics of medieval Europe. She reveals how immunities were used by kings and other leaders to forge alliances with the noble families and monastic centers which were central to their power. Generally viewed as unchanging juridical instruments, immunities as they appear here are as fluid and diverse as the disparate social and political conflicts that they at once embody and seek to defuse. Their legacy reverberates in the modern world where liberal institutions, with their emphasis on state restraint, clash with others that encourage governmental intrusion. The protections against unreasonable searches and seizures provided by English common law and the U.S. Constitution developed in part out of the medieval experience of immunities and the institutions that were elaborated to breach them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this able and thought-provoking book. . . Rosenwein investigates her case studies with her customary disciplined scholarship and sensitivity to nuance. There is much absorbing material to ponder here, not only about the workings of power relationships in early medieval societies but also about notions concerning holy places, gift-giving, purity, defilement, protection, and asylum. . . There are lessons to be learned in all sorts of directions. . . Historians will find challenging food for thought in Rosenwein's pages."—Richard Fletcher, Times Literary Supplement, 9 July 1999

"While it is essential reading for anyone interested in questions of law, power, and politics in the early Middle Ages, Rosenwein's forays into anthropological literature and Anglo-American legal history recommend this work to a wider audience."—Adam J. Kosto, Law and History Review, Spring 2001

"An unconventional new contribution. . . . Rosenwein's line of thought opens up entirely new vistas of interpretation to historians as she reads between the lines of apparently dry-as-dust material hitherto relegated to diplomatic and legal history, and finds vitally important power politics and enormous creativity lurking behind its demurely formal record. . . Beyond its stated subject of the ordering of space, Rosenwein's book suggests that creativity and ingenious power politics are as characteristic of troubled times as of peaceful prosperity."—Aline G. Hornaday, Journal of Unconventional History, Fall 1999

"The subject and scope of Barbara H. Rosenwein's study are somewhat understated by its title . . . useful and stimulating. "—H. E. J. Cowdry, English Historical Review, April 2000

"Our understanding of how early-medieval Europe functioned as a secular and a religious community is greatly enhanced by this splendid monograph. . . A superb study."—Harry Rosenberg, Speculum, January 2001

"Anyone who has picked up a volume of early medieval charters has encountered an immunity diploma. Anyone who has read Barbara Rosenwein's wonderful book will never read an immunity the same way again. This is one of the most interesting and important books I have read in many years."—Thomas F. X. Noble, Arthuriana, Spring 2001

"Rosenwein has produced another original and ambitious study of a topic with wide-ranging implications. One of its greatest merits is that it seems likely to provoke readers to thought and, with luck, to further research on some of the issues that it raises."—James A. Brundage, Church History, March 2001

"Readers will learn much from this book about monastic privileges in the early Middle Ages. Rosenwein has taken a subject that has been in the bailiwick of continental scholarship and introduced it to an English-speaking audience with style and wit."—Kenneth Pennington, Syracuse University. American Historical Review, October 2001

"This book is a must-read for political theorists of the public/private distinction. Medievalists who already have come to expect clarity of vision, reliable research, and an eye for the interesting will welcome another masterful performance from Barbara Rosenwein."—William Ian Miller, University of Michigan

"In her stimulating book the author challenges the narrow understanding of immunity and exemption current in diplomatic and legal historical literature. By a careful and subtle analysis of well-documented cases, Barbara Rosenwein succeeds in her attempt to see immunities and exemptions as flexible instruments of political and social life-not only in the Middle Ages but from antiquity down to . . . modern legal systems."—Herwig Wolfram, Universitët Wien

"Barbara Rosenwein . . . makes us rethink in a way entirely new, more complete and more dynamic, the power games of feudal society-and at the same time invites us to meditate on some of the 'neo-medieval' aspects of our own 'liberal' society."—Jean-Claude Schmitt, L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

"Once more Barbara Rosenwein takes a seemingly well-understood aspect of medieval history and makes us think about it in new ways. Her book leads us to a deeper appreciation of how power was developed and shared in the first millennium."—Patrick J. Geary, University of Notre Dame

"Barbara Rosenwein calls attention to an institution that has rarely been examined in such detail and over so many centuries. Her ambitious study, which also appeals to anthropological ideas, should stimulate much fruitful discussion."—Walter Goffart, University of Toronto

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801485213
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
01/28/1999
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

What People are Saying About This

Jean-Claude Schmitt
Barbara Rosenwein... makes us rethink in a way entirely new, more complete and more dynamic, the power games of feudal society—and at the same time invites us to meditate on some of the 'neo-medieval' aspects of our own 'liberal' society.

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