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Thread: The Medieval and Religious Origins of the European State

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    Chris's Avatar Senior Member
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    The Medieval and Religious Origins of the European State

    The Roman Catholic Church brought about its own loss of power and helped create the modern state is what this article suggests.

    The Medieval and Religious Origins of the European State

    How did the state arise in Europe? The canonical answer is Charles Tilly’s: “war made the state and the state made war.” The starting point is the fragmentation of territorial political authority in Europe after the collapse of the Carolingian empire in 888, and the ambitions of rulers in the early modern (1500-1700) era. To expand their rule, monarchs and princes fought bitter wars with other other—and to fund this increasingly costly warfare, they extracted taxes. Domestic institutions such as state administrations, fiscal offices, and parliaments arose in response to these needs. In these “bellecist” accounts,[1] rulers who succeeded in building up the administrative and military apparatus of war went on to consolidate their territorial gains and ensure the survival of their states. These relentless pressures eventually meant fewer and bigger states, from as many as 500 independent states in Europe in 1500 to 30 four centuries later.

    In a current book project, I take Tilly to church, and question each of these core pillars of the bellecist story. I show that roots of many state institutions are found in the medieval era, not the early modern. Fragmentation was not simply a post-imperial legacy, but a sustained and deliberate policy. The biggest rival for an ambitious medieval ruler was not another monarch, but the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful and wealthy political actor in the medieval era (1100-1350). Secular rivals struggled with the papacy—but they also adopted its effective institutional solutions. As a result, familiar domestic institutions such as legal systems, parliaments and concepts of representation, direct taxation, and chanceries all emulated church templates.

    This revisionist account of state formation builds on recent work that explores the deep historical causes and consequences of urbanization, the rule of law, the Crusades, the rise of universities, and parliaments.[2] It emphasizes, however, the role of the Church as both the critical rival for medieval monarchs, and the main source of institutional and conceptual innovations for these would-be state builders.

    ...
    Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
    Louis Brandeis,Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

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    midcan5's Avatar Senior Member
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    Martin Luther and 'the Reformation' had a large part too in the development of the modern state. Indulgences were a fascinating way to build wealth. But progress and the state are still a work in progress and often on the point of toppling.

    Check out Peter Watson on the topic, 'history of thought' and 'the modern mind' are excellent reads. I strongly recommend them.

    "Every fact of science was once Damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and "progress," everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man's refusal to bow to Authority." Robert Anton Wilson
    Wanna make America great, buy American owned, made in the USA. We do. PS I am not PC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by midcan5 View Post
    Martin Luther and 'the Reformation' had a large part too in the development of the modern state. Indulgences were a fascinating way to build wealth. But progress and the state are still a work in progress and often on the point of toppling. ...
    Indeed but Protestantism followed the period focused on in the OP.
    Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
    Louis Brandeis,Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

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    RMNIXON's Avatar Senior Member
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    Curiously the primary objection of Martin Luther was the wealthy absolving themselves of SIN through the Establishment Church in ways unavailable to the poor masses.

    Is this not what we see today with the Wealthy Left "Woke" and their progressive attitudes of Moral Superiority over us working slobs who can't afford electric cars, live in crime ridden cities in dire need of Police, ect....

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    Science was not destroyed by the churches at the time . Just the science they disagreed with was destroyed.

    I can't help but to say that this is the also the attitude of the current left today, so it is odd that Midcan does not recognize what he seeks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    The Roman Catholic Church brought about its own loss of power and helped create the modern state is what this article suggests.

    The Medieval and Religious Origins of the European State
    I'm not sure that I would say the Christian church in Europe brought about its loss of power. I'd be more inclined to say that when Rome left and the petty gangs of nobility took over - the church began to lose power. As feudalism took over, a more territorial composition began to shape up and getting "The Church" to okay what you wanted was as easy as promising to build monasteries, ala William II of Normandy, which of course is how William got the money and the juice to invade England.

    Was the church a tool for building states? Yes in large part though places like Denmark were already set up with sovereign territories known in the early period as Daneland: they owned the whole of Scandinavia from an early date. Ireland was divided into 5 kingdoms up until about 1200 and we know who the church survives there.

    Good pick. Good story.
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