11-14 November 2017
The school focus is related to a new strong historiographical trend in medieval studies. Namely, this is a reexamination of “republican” or “democratic” tendencies within the medieval society. The Autumn School’s general aim is to bring together the scholars who concentrate on horizontal political ties within the medieval society.
Traditionally, the “democratic” tendency was described in historical scholarship as an extremely vertical one, where a feudal hierarchy prevailed upon the horizontal ties. Thus, in the second half of the twentieth century the elitist research paradigm focused mostly on the land-endowed nobility. Arnold Esch argued that such a focus is nothing but a result of the state of the source base, in which land acts that have survived in the Church archives prevailed. However, that testifies only to the better preservation of the church archives. Ignoring this fact, we risk making the Middle Ages even more agrarian and even more religious than they really were.
However, in the 1980s a new historiographical tendency has appeared, that focused on various republican political practices, such as public deliberation and acclamation. In the perspective of this new trend, even the churches’ inner life appeared to be deeply rooted in collective action and decision-making. After a new political self-government reality – an urban commune had appeared in the eleventh century, republican practices started to flourish. Codified law replaced the brutal force and the legal custom as the main means of regulation of social relations. At the same time, the law-making itself became a task for those to whom these laws applied, and the community of citizens directly involved in the decision-making became a political actor claiming at least legal autonomy, or even a political independence. That was exactly a “Liberty of the Ancients” that Benjamin Constant wrote about, contrasting it with “Liberty of the Moderns.” However, the latter would be impossible without the former, to which it gave birth. The Modern Time and its ideas did not appear out of nowhere. It was urban communes that rediscovered Antiquity, looking for new legal forms.
Thus, the routes of modernity are closely connected to the horizontal practices of the Middle Ages. Machiavelli and Montesquieu cannot be imagined without comprehending the republican experience of Florence, Venice and other medieval communes. The communal development created a new society where a man, his rights and property were protected by a codified law. Therefore, it is evident why we consider Venice as symbolically the best place in the world for a discussion about medieval republicanism..
The Autumn School focuses on urban and countryside communes, first forms of proto-parliaments (like Etats Généraux in France), Orders of Knighthood, universities and other self-governing and autonomous societies in this period. The main school themes are political practices: public deliberation, voting, selection by lot, direct political participation, as well as republican notions in the texts written before 1500 A.D.: virtus, res publica, libertas and dignitas. Medieval republicanism will be discussed also in its connection to the past and to the future. In our proposed program the following questions will be discussed: can one consider medieval practical republicanism a heritage of Antiquity or not? How did it contribute to the further development of republican theory and practices in the Modern time?
Republican Forms of Medieval Europe
Enterprising Politics or Routine Dealings? Political Participation in Europe before 1800
The Italian urban communal liberties
Ideals of Brotherhood in Chivalric Orders
The West and the East of Europe: Similarities and Differences:
“Tota Livonia”: the republican practices in Medieval Livonia
Democracy or Oligarchy. The city assembly in Novgorod and Venice
The medieval communal concepts of power in a comparative perspective
Workshop: The faculty participants and graduate students will present papers on their particular topics.
Master and PhD students from any university are welcome to participate: they are encouraged to present their own topics.
Students of VIU member universities:
No participation fees.
Students of other universities:
€ 200 incl. VAT
The fees will cover tuition, course materials, accommodation in multiple rooms at the VIU campus, lunches in the VIU cafeteria and social events.
Student participants will be responsible for covering their own travel expenses to and from Venice, local transportation and evening meals.
The School will provide a limited number of partial travel grants for participants from VIU member universities.
Number of ECTS credits allocated: 2
A Certificate of attendance will be issued at the end of the course.
Duration and period
4 days, 11 - 14 November 2017
Venice International University, Island of San Servolo, Venice (Italy).
July 28 – September 4, 2017.
For further information