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, 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 that 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801485213
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 01/26/1999
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)
Lexile: 1520L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Barbara H. Rosenwein is Professor of History at Loyola University, Chicago. She is the author of To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter: The Social Meaning of Cluny's Property, 909-1049, editor of Anger's Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages, and coeditor of Monks and Nuns, Saints and Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society, all from Cornell.

What People are Saying About This

Patrick J. Geary

"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."

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."

Walter Goffart

"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."

Herwig Wolfram

"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."

H. E. J. Cowdry

"The subject and scope of Barbara H. Rosenwein's study are somewhat understated by its title.... Useful and stimulating."

William Ian Miller

"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."

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