In this examination of the functions of lordship in a medieval society, Benjamin Arnold seeks answers to some of the most fundamental questions for the period of political and institutional history: How did the lords maintain control over the people, land, and resources? How was their rule sustained and justified?
Arnold chooses to analyze the Eichstätt region, an area on the borders of three major German provinces: Bavaria, Franconia, and Swabia. The region was the geographical and political dimension within which succeeding bishops, with great tenacity and inventiveness, survived the threat of dominion by their secular neighbors, the counts. The bishops of Eichstätt were able to emerge with a durable territorial structure of their own, which they succeeded in recasting, between 1280 and 1320, into a credible and long-lasting principality.
Modern ideas of political progress, Arnold contends, tend to be unfair to medieval institutions that have not left easily recognizable descendants. He argues that it would be more prudent to observe in the territorial fragmentation of Germany not the triumph of chaos but the outcome of a reasonably orderly social and legal process that provided alternative institutions to those of a centralized or national monarchy.
About the Author
Benjamin Arnold is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading.