Monday, November 26, 2007


19 November 2007


“Europe” as a misnomer: The word “Europe” would have meant nothing in the Middle Ages.People talked about “The Roman Empire” or “Christianity” but never “Europe”. We will nonetheless use the word for the sake of convenience.

Feudalism: A system of social and economic control where the ruling classes (monarchy,aristocracy, clergy) maintained control over and extracted suplus product from the producers (peasants, artisans, guilds) through a system of extra-economic force which was legitimated by religion.

Feudal Rent:
The forms of the extracted surplus product.
i) rent in produce (food products, animals etc)
ii) labour rent (given number of days a week of labour on the lord’s land.
iii) Labour dues. Tasks serfs were obliged to perform free of charge for the lord.
iv) Money rent.

Serfdom: The basic form of labour relations in feudalism. A serf was a peasant who was attached to the land. They could not leave the land of the lord and freely offer their labour elsewhere.

Manor: The name given to the lords’ landholdings. A lord could hold more than one manor.

Allodial holdings: land held free and clear of any feudal obligation.

Vassalage: the relationship of superiority or inferiority in the highly fragmented political structure of feudalism. Each lord was the vassal or inferior of a superior lord.

Patronage: material and moral protection of an inferior by a superior. Artists and intellectuals were able to survive and produce as the result of the patronage of powerful men.

Völkerwanderung: The “wandering of the peoples” . The invasion of the Roman Empire by the Germanic tribes which began on 31 December 495 A.D . This was to be the process which would lead to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

Feudal Synthesis: The gradual mutual influencing of the Germanic tribal traditions of the tribes with Roman practices and traditions. The inevitable outcome of the fact that the Germanic tribes were of a lower level of sophistication than the Roman Empire.

The “barbarian states”: The loose structure of Germano/Roman states that sprang up on the remains of the West Roman Empire. 4-7 century AD.

The Carolingian Empire: The empire began after Charles Martel’s defeat of the Arabs in Poitiers in France in AD 753, thus confining the Arabs to the Iberian Peninsula. It reached its height with the crowning of Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in AD 800. Charlemagne died in 814 and his empire fell apart. The Carolingian Empire represented the high point of feudalism. After the collapse of the Carolingian Empire at the end of the 9th century the land of western Europe became more and more fragmented as each individual lord increased his power.

Parcellization of Sovereignty: the fragmentation and breakdowm of political power in a context where there was little or no centralized power. Each lord would control his own private army and extract surplus product from serfs under his jurisdiction. This led to the formation of a ruling class which could exist more or less independent of the centralized monarchy. This is the main difference between East and West Rome. Although there were powerful aristocrats in the Byzantine Empire there was never the fragmentation that was seen in the west.

Widespread invasions: the collapse of the Carolingian Empire was followed by a “re-barbarisation” of Western Europe. Europe was to be under constant threat from the Arabs in the south, the Magyars (ancestors of present day Hungarians) in the east and the Vikings from the north. Particularly the Vikings were extremely effective raiders . Great sailors, they ranged all the way from America to Constantinople. Gradually, after the 10th century, the danger from the invaders decreased. The Magyars and Vikings converted to Christianity and the Arab invasions were confined to the Iberian Peninsula.

Insecurity leading to feudalism: The condition of constant insecurity that the peasantry and towns lived under meant that they had to turn to the only close source of defense: the feudal lord. This meant that that manors or villages became fortified enclaves and the peasantry was increasingly dependent on the lords. This led to the enserfment of more and more peasantry.

Different historical development of East and West Roman Empire
The traces of the different historical development survives and continues to influence present day Europe. Some form o centralized rule survived in the east under the Byzantine Empire.The Ottomans were to inhert may of the traditions and methods of rule from Byzantium. Fatih Sultan Mehmed actually took as one of his titles: “Sultan al Rum”, meaning Roman Emperor. Latin remained the language of power in the west whereas Greek continued to rule in the east, even after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Most importantly, the division of the European world into the Catholic West and the Orthodox East remained permanent.

21 November 2007


Reading material:
Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism pg 147-153.

1. Parcellization of Sovereignty. Political power as a private posession.
“Political power never focused on a single centre. The functions of the state were disintegrated in a vertical allocation downwards , at each level of which political and economic relations were ...integrated”.

2. Combination of jurisdiction with economic exploitation. The peasants inhabited a world of overlapping claims and powers which enabled a measure of resistance. The “weapons of the weak”. Also the parcellization of sovereignty allowed for pockets of resistance such as the forest. Symbolized by romantic figures such as Robin Hood.

3. Vassalage. The holding of fiefs (agricultural land, manors, right to extract surplus) in return for military service and loyalty.

4. Nature of the relationshiop of the producers to the means of production.
Immediate producer unted with the soil in a specific social relationship, serfdom.

5. Feudalism was the first mode of production to allow the autonomous development of commodity production. The sale of objects as commodities. The idea of production for profit rather than subsistance. Had existed even in antiquity but in the feudal mode of production came to acquire a physical shape in the form of the autonomous medieval towns. Later to become the birthplaces of capitalism. It is no accdent that the Renaissance occured in the economically most developed zone in Europe, north central Italy.

6. Dynamic opposition of town and country. Alone possible in the feudal mode of production. Opposition between the urban economy of commodity exchange (capitalism or proto-capitalism) , a system regulated by merchants, bankers, and guilds, and a rural economy of natural exchange (agricultural production), dominated by the manorial economy, lords and vassals.

7. Contradiction at the very summit of the feudal chain. The monarch was the feudal suzerain of his vassals but he was also baound to them by reciprocal ties of fealty. He was not the supreme sovereign. His position was more like a first among equals primus inter pares.

8. The potential for centralizaiton and decentralization.
The feudal mode of production in the West was thus the only one in which the original structure specified a sdynamic tension between the centralizing power and de-centralist forces.

23 November 2007


1. Definition of “Pope”
Meaning “father” in Greek. “Papa”. Head of the Catholic Church. One of the oldest institutions on earth. Extant for over 2000 years. Also ruler of the independent mini-state of the Vatican. Also one of the richest men the world.

2. Apostolic Succession
Vicar of St. Peter. Vicar of Christ. Roman Pontiff. First used in AD 495. Claim that the Popes are the direct descendants to the office of St. Peter, the most beloved of the apostles of Christ.

3. Election
Carried out by secret ballot by a full vote of the Sacred College of Cardinals.Election takes place in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Cardinals meet in a “conclave” (cum clavi) when they are theoretically locked in until they elect a new Pope.(recently popularized by Dan Brown the author of the Da Vinci Code in his novel Demons and Angels) . For many years the Papacy was dominated by Italians. Before the election of the Pole, Karol Wojta as Pope John Paul II in 1978 (itself a political decision Wojta was well known for his anti-communist views) the last non-Italian Pope was a Dutch pope elected in 1522. John Paul was now followed by a German , the current Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger). It is now beleived by some that the days of the election of a Third World Pope are not far away. (Philipino candidate particularly strong)

4. Political Power of Papacy
The office of the Pope has always had great political significance.Although ever since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in A.D 495 the Papacy has no army it was still very powerful because Popes could “excommunicate”. Anybody who openly opposed a Papal ruling was made anathema , thrown out of the Church. The statements of the Popes therefore became dogma ,meaning absolute truth. (Hence the sayings like “Don’t be so dogmatic” or “He is very dogmatic in his attitude”.

5. Pentarchy
Originally there were five great patriarchates. These were Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. This was recoginzed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Constantinople was declared “The New Rome” and rose to the most important position. This was helped by the Arab invasions of Jerusalem, and Alexandria.

6. The Great Schism (1054)
After the collapse of Rome the eastern an western parts of the empire drifted apart. There were many linguistic and cultural diferences. Latin and Greek. The “New Rome” became a serious threat to the supremacy of the Old Rome. In the year A:D 395 after the death of the Roman Emperor, Theodosius the Great, the empire was divided.
Reasons for the drifting apart of the two halves of the empire.

i)Disputes in the Balkans, Southern Italy, and Sicily over whether the Western or eastern Church had jurisdiction.

ii) The designation of the Patriarch of Constantinople as ecumenical patriarch (which was understood by Rome as universal patriarch and therefore disputed)

iii) Following the rise of Islam, the relative weakening of the influence of the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, leading to internal church politics being seen as Rome vs. Constatinople.

Finally on July 16th three ambassadors from the Pope entered the Hagia Sophia during mass on a Saturday afternoon and placed a Bull of Excommunication on the altar. Even after this relations between the two churhes were not completely broken. What caused the most severe rupture was the Fourth Crusade 1204. It continues because each church sees the other as wrong and demands that it is the true chruch.

7. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
After Constantine the Great declared that Constantinople was the “New Rome” in A.D 330 the bishop of Constantinople became the second most important patriarch after the patriach of Rome. For many years Roman popes opposed this decision until in 381 the First Council of Constantinople declared that “The Bishop of Constantinople shall have primacy of honour after the Bishop of Rome, because it is the New Rome”.The Archbishop of Constatinople-the New Rome- ranking as primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox faith which is seen by followers as the One, Holy and Apostolic Church. His title is not recognized by the Turkish state which only recognizes him as the spirtual leader of the Greek minority in Turkey and refers to him as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Phanar, Fener Rum Patriği . yet his poistion is recognized world wide as the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. The Ecumenical Patriarch has a unique role among Orthodox bishops, he bears the title primus inter pares which indicates his seniority among all Orthodox bishops. This primacy grants to the patriarch of Istanbul the power to decide in cases of religious disputes in the Church. For example in 2006 the patriarch was invited to assist in declaring the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus incompetent due to his having Alzeimer’s disease. All this shows that the Papal visit of Benedict XVI.

8. Papal Infallibility
There is the popular misconception that the Pope is infallible, that he cannot be wrong. This is closely connected with the last Pope’s statement that “Islam is incapable of reform”. There is however a concept of Papal Infallibility.The definition of Papal infallibility was made by the First Vatican Council in 1870. In this council it was declared that in order for a Papal ruling to become dogma , an unchanging rule of the Catholic Church the Pope must be speaking ex cathedra , that is from the chair, meaning from the Papal throne. This is a symbollic statement meaning that the Pope must be speaking officially, otherwise his statement is purely a private opinion. For a Papal statement to be infallible it must confirm to the following rules:

i) The Pope must be speaking as the Roman Pontiff that is the heir of St.Peter.

ii) He must be speaking ex cathedra “that is in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by the virtue of his apostolic authority...”

iii) He must clearly state that whoever opposes this ruling “will become anathema” will be excommunicated.

iv) He must be speaking of a matter of faith or morals.

v) His declaration must be made for the whole church.