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