Chapter Four

I’ve now finally completed the work on Chapter Four, which required the most extensive work in this redraft.

The chapter begins with a discussion of the Donation of Constantine, which claimed to be a text from the fourth century, was forged in the late eighth century, and finally exposed as such in the fifteenth century by Nicholas of Cusa and Lorenzo Valla. It’s an interesting document for what it shows of papal/imperial relations, and for how it was used in the centuries afterwards. As a claimed gift of land from the Empire to the Church it sets in process some important questions about temporal/spiritual power and the relation of place and politics. The chapter then moves to a discussion of the crowning of Charlemagne, and what he and Pope Leo III thought they were doing. This leads into a discussion of the titles of both Empire and Emperor – was this a restitution, a transfer, a replacement of Byzantium, and so on. Again questions of the relation between the church and secular power – the key theme of the medieval chapters. I’ve added a brief discussion of the ‘Divisio Regnorum’ by which Charlemagne apportioned his empire between his sons (in the end this was irrelevant because only one survived him). It is a geographical division, certainly, but it’s not straight-forwardly territorial. There is an English translation but it is very misleading.

There is some discussion in this section of the relation between Charlemagne and Mohammed, drawing on the debate sparked by Henri Pirenne’s work. Islam and Byzantium tend to be marginal themes in the book, but they do come up from time to time. Along the way there are brief discussions or digressions into The Song of Roland, Einhard and Notker the Stammerer’s accounts of Charlemagne, and later Emperors and Popes, notably Frederick Barbarossa and Frederick II.

The second half of the chapter is about two themes – representations of land and possession of it. The first of these backtracks to Rome, to offer a broad account of cartography until the late Medieval period. It leads into a discussion of the way the place of Jerusalem in maps relates to the politics of land and the Crusades. The second looks at feudalism. With both of these themes there is a huge amount of very good material that already discusses similar questions, so my treatment can afford to be more limited. But they are crucial issues, and I’ve expanded the treatment of the Crusades and feudalism in this draft. I had an important breakthrough in working on the feudalism discussion, which was fundamental in terms of working out how to present this argument. Feudalism is of course a retrospective label applied to a diverse range of political-social-economic-technological-legal phenomena. In a sense it’s unsurprising that I didn’t find it especially useful: I am trying to resist reading retrospective concerns into earlier texts and contexts; and I’m asking a different question. Ultimately I just don’t think work on feudalism can answer what for me is a fundamental question: if the middle ages put such emphasis on property in land, why did it have such a weak sense of territory?

As with previous chapters there was an awful lot of reference checking and following up on obscure things. Fortunately I’d been pretty thorough in the writing of this material, but even so there was a lot to fill in. There are two references to Innocent IV’s writings that still need completing, but apart from those I think it’s done. To my mind the fairly disparate elements of this chapter now sit together fairly well, even though they were written in Tasmania, Singapore, York, London and Seattle between 2006 and 2010.

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4 Responses to Chapter Four

  1. Pingback: The Birth of Territory – Chapter Updates | Progressive Geographies

  2. Keith Lilley says:

    “Ultimately I just don’t think work on feudalism can answer what for me is a fundamental question: if the middle ages put such emphasis on property in land, why did it have such a weak sense of territory?”

    I agree Stuart – junk feudalism, but I am not sure about the Middle Ahes having a “weak sense of territory”! Have you seen the book on the Gough Map by Dan Birkholz? Worth checking out.

    Glad to see your book is progressing well!

    all the best,


  3. Pingback: Gough map | Progressive Geographies

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