The Carolingians, the Church, and the medieval constitution

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Abstract

In the eighth century, Charles Martel confiscated Church property to make distributions of benefices and precaria to his vassals. This project was an investment in state capacity and secularizations of Church property were continued under Charles’ son Pippin III. Many scholars have characterized this development as the expansion of Carolingian (monarchical) authority at the expense of the Church and to the benefit of the lay nobility. I argue that a better characterization is one of constitutional bargains that, taken together, benefited the Church as well as the Carolingians and their noble vassals. This opportunity for mutually beneficial constitutional exchange arose because of a decrease in the importance of trade relative to landed wealth and the increased papal insecurity resulting from Muslim and Lombard threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-366
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science Journal
Volume56
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Comparative economic development
  • Medieval constitution
  • Medieval economic history
  • Political property rights
  • Polycentric governance
  • State capacity

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