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University of Toronto Scarborough
Political Science
Andy Lee

POLB70 Classic Texts in Political Theory IProfessor Lee Lecture 8 November 1 Medieval Political Thought Aquinas Political Thought in the Middle Agessome general comments Some backgroundThe word medieval is actually constructed of two words Media middle center and Aevus generation age timeBut nobody in the Middle Ages actually used this wordit was retrospectively applied in the Renaissance by scholars who tried to give a name to the period when the Roman Empire collapsed and the period of the revival of learning and arts in the C14What happened when Rome collapsed in C5The governing structure of the Empire was replaced by the Germanic successor kingdomswho brought in their tribal customs that became the basis for feudalismMuch of the classical learning that had been accumulated fell into disuse and decay in the Westmuch intellectual activity had migrated to scholars in the Byzantine Empire but especially in the Middle EastThe only institution that brought some semblance of unity was the ChurchA new kind of political entity began to emerge that was generally called Christianitas or Christendom which treated the Church not simply as a religious institution but also as a political institution with its own universal jurisdictionOf course the Church existed since the early Roman Principatebut with the collapse of the Roman Empire the Church continued to exist and picked up the pieces of the EmpireThe Church viewed itself as the successor to the Roman Empire and even believed itself to have inherited the right to rule over the world as the Empire didwhich is why it was called Roman and Catholic universalBut this was complicated because secular kings believed themselves also to have the right to rule over conquered territoriesthus there was a brewing conflict over who had the best right to govern the church or secular authoritiesDid the Church grant legitimacy to kings and princes for their right to ruleWhen we think of the Middle Ages and political thought its important to keep in mind that political
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