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By W. M. Spellman

This short narrative survey of political inspiration over the last millennia explores key rules that experience formed Western political traditions.

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Extra info for A Short History of Western Political Thought

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Indeed the very existence of two distinct centers of power, lay and religious, insured that the drift toward absolutism emblematic of other major centers of civilization around the world would not be replicated in Western Europe. The dynamic tension between Church and State, the competing claims of prince and bishop, would inadvertently set the stage for the growth of constitutional theory in the early modern age. ” Germanic kingship and Christianity The Germanic successor states to Rome were both modest in size and fragile in terms of political stability.

Never static, the law expanded and evolved over the centuries, and a comprehensive summing up and codification was not attempted in any systematic way until the reign of the eastern Emperor Justinian (r. 527–565) in the early sixth century. But as citizenship was extended to foreigners in the wake of Rome’s dramatic expansion, the idea of universal standards governing people irrespective of their locale began to take hold within the legal community. Classical Greek culture provided the foundation for thinking about human relations in terms of overarching law.

1000– 1300), free cities and commercial urban communities in northern Italy and the Low Countries set precedents for autonomy and guild-dominated governance. The outlines of modern representative systems, state sovereignty, property rights, the centrality of law, and the separation of church and state all can be traced back to the central and later Middle Ages (c. 1200–1450). There were only a handful of medieval writers prepared to argue in favor of the unlimited exercise of power by either kings or prelates.

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