The political economy of feudalism in medieval Europe

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Why did enduring traditions of economic and political liberty arise in Western Europe? An answer to this question must be sought at the constitutional level. Within the medieval constitutional order, traditions of representative and limited government developed through patterns of constitutional bargaining. The politically fragmented landscape that emerged following the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the barbarian migrations was conducive to those patterns. In particular, that landscape was characterized by polycentric and hierarchical governance structures; within those structures, political property rights holders were sovereign and residual claimants to governance returns. I elaborate on why this environment of polycentric sovereignty promoted constitutional bargaining in the direction of good governance and greater liberty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-143
Number of pages17
JournalConstitutional Political Economy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Constitutional bargaining
  • Feudalism
  • Medieval Western Europe
  • Political and economic liberty
  • Polycentric sovereignty


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