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Thread: Inventing the Middle Ages

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    Senior Member BeastOfBologna's Avatar
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    Inventing the Middle Ages

    PRESENT AT THE CREATION


    Pollock and Maitland’s two volumes go back to the era before the Norman Conquest of 1066. But the volumes primarily deal with the legal revolution that occurred in the reign of Henry II (1154-89), William the Conqueror’s great-grandson, and the working out of the implications of this legal revolution down to 1272. This was the founding era of what has come to be called the common law, the judicial system that still prevails in England and Wales (but only partly in Scotland) and in the United States, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, and many other countries that were once part of the British Empire. No one knows for sure the origin of the term “common law.” Either it means royal law—law common to the whole of the English kingdom, as distinct from local customs—or the term stands for secular law as distinct from church law. Henry II got into a furious conflict with his archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, formerly the king’s friend and chief official, over the marginalization of ecclesiastical (termed canon) law in the interests of the great expansion of royal law, as well as over the property of the church. Even before Becket was removed in 1170 by assassination at the hands of four of the king’s overeager courtiers, the archbishop was losing the fight to restrain this advance of the common law over every aspect of English life except marriage, divorce, blasphemy, and adultery. How and why this legal revolution happened, making English law very different from Continental European law, is the main theme of Pollock and Maitland.

    So it seems the battle between Church and State began early, and as usual, it was a battle of power, influence, and wealth which the Church began to lose. It is remarkable to see the modern parallels whereby the Conservative Christian Fundamentalists as always are looking back, even centuries as I've long suspected, to connive and finagle their power/wealth back. (me)

    The Angevin government of Henry II, as described by Maitland, arrived at its momentous reforming judicial decisions in the 1160s for reasons of both expediency and profit. The expedient was a low-cost judicial system that at the same time enhanced royal power over landed society. The profit came mainly from the cost of obtaining a royal writ to start a civil suit (as it does today) and the seizures by the crown of a felon’s movable property. If the expansion of the jury system was an institutional innovation that was bound to be favored by the gentry who would staff the juries and find their participation in the process of the common law enhanced, thereby stiffening their loyalty to the crown, this was a happy side effect. Maitland stresses that we are witnessing not the preparation of a fully elaborated, predetermined structure but a great many functional contingencies and experiments at work. The judicial outcome could have been different if one or more components were variant or absent. The role of the crown was crucially important, but there were many other factors at work, including the need for landlords to settle property disputes and the desire of peasant villagers to control crime. Dozens of contingencies had to fall into place and interact for the common law to compose itself in the way it did.
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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    Senior Member BeastOfBologna's Avatar
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    A contemporary of Percy Ernst Schramm was Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz, a wealthy pretentious Jewish dandy that was forced out of German academia and then laughed out of Britain for affectatious silliness.

    Like Schramm, Kantorowicz was a hard right-winger and despite his Jewishness wrote glowing reviews of Hitler’s character and he staunchly pushed the goals of the German superman and the German super-state. He like other Jewish intellectuals thought (hoped) Hitler’s antisemitism was a temporary aberration. He was very wrong. Kantorowicz greatest work favoring German uber status was a tribute to Frederick II that was published with the Nazi swastika on the cover.

    This was his fate:

    “Kantorowicz arrived in Berkeley in the first week of September 1939, just as the Second World War broke out, and began teaching a week later. He was immediately a smashing success. The California students loved his singsong way of talking, his romantic gestures, his elegant Continental clothes, his astonishing erudition in a dozen languages. And he loved Berkely. They were made for each other.

    Berkeley in the war years was a delightful and cheap place. Kantorowicz found a house overlooking the bay and furnished it with locally manufactured rattan porch furniture, which he retained until the end of his life, incongruously using it in his Princeton house down the street from Einstein’s in the 1950’s. While Schramm sat at Hitler’s table in the East Prussian military bunker, Kantorowicz became a Berkely prince.

    (me: though I would never consider Jordan Peterson equally erudite (he’s mostly a poseur) but the strutting peacock styles seem very reminiscent of one another)

    Then a strange thing happened, Kantorowicz suddenly lost his job at Berkeley, became an overnight hero of the American liberal left (what would Stefan George and Hermann Goering have thought of that?), and gained a better job at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton—all in a matter of a few months in 1950 and 1951. This was an outcome of the famous loyalty oath controversy at the University of California. The year 1950 was part of the era of the postwar Red scare, the so-called Joe McCarthy era. The legislators of the state of California had lavishly funded the campuses of the state university for half a century and seen them grow during that time from boondock colleges in orange groves and desert crossroads into the finest public university system in the country and, in the case of Berkeley campus, into an institution that had by 1950 more Nobel prizewinners on its faculty than existed in the whole of British higher education. In the cold war ambience of 1950, the California legislators naively decided that they wanted to make sure students were not being corrupted by Red teachers and they imposed an anti-Communist loyalty oath on the faculty. A half dozen faculty members at Berkeley (most probably fearing prosecution for perjury as in the Alger Hiss case) refused to sign and were fired. Kantorowicz, who was the most prominent, said he was not a Communist. In fact, he honestly insisted that in 1919 he had shot Communists, but signing a loyalty oath, he claimed, was a violation of academic freedom and would set the universities on the downward slope toward what had happened in Germany. A skillful Berkeley chancellor could have easily finessed this unusual situation, but Berkeley’s chancellor at the moment was inept, and Kantorowicz lost his tenured professorship and paradoxically, for a former Free Corps assassin of Reds and a proponent of proto-Nazi ideology found himself the darling of every leftist-dominated faculty club from coast to coast.
    Last edited by BeastOfBologna, 8th January 2022 at 15:32.
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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    Senior Member BeastOfBologna's Avatar
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    The author of 'Inventing the Middle Ages" Norman F. Cantor contends that the primary ideological split in modern times is between the "conservative humanists" and "social determinists". I'm advocating that society needs "social humanists" given that conservatives intrinsically lack humanism characteristics and determinists lack insight into the fundamental nature of the psychology of humans. I think we should all jump on that bandwagon. We humans just can't seem to get it right.
    Last edited by BeastOfBologna, 14th January 2022 at 14:21.
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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