Power, Subordination and Negotiation: Topics in the Comparative History of Politics and Institutions

CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
10 Jul 2009
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Department of History
László Kontler
Constantin Iordachi
Additional information: 
It also studies the ways in which structures of authority and interest have been shaped into legal-institutional frameworks, as well as their resilience in the face of such formalization. It will look at change and continuity in forms of state and subsidiary powers, bureaucracies, armies, schemes of political representation, movements and upheavals, political theologies, ideologies and systems of legitimacy. It traces the changing meaning and relationship of concepts like state, sovereignty, representation, loyalty, revolution etc. – indeed, of “politics” itself. Rather than aiming to be “comprehensive”, it will concentrate on issues that have received particular attention in recent historical scholarship.
Learning Outcomes: 
The fundamental goal of this survey course is to develop a comprehensive and critical understanding of the functions of institutions in the lives of politically organized human communities in a historical perspective, through a series of topical presentations and readings selected from the classic and more recent studies of the field.
Assessment : 
Attendance at all lectures is mandatory and will be kept record of. Grading will be based on two closed book written examinations (mid-term and end-term). Both exams will test your knowledge of key facts, ideas, concepts etc. gleaned from the lectures and the readings (“quiz part”), but the main emphasis will be on the understanding of key issues and sensitivity towards historical interpretation (“mini essay part” – which could be a source analysis etc.). The contribution of both exams towards the final grade will be 50 %.


1. The two universal powers in the West: Papacy and the Empire (Klaniczay)

The heritage of the Roman Empire. The Carolingian alliance with the Papacy. The Ottonians. Reform Papacy and the Hofenstaufen challenge. The Triumph of the Papacy in the 13th Century – from Lateran IV to “Unam Sanctam”. Boniface VIII and the Avignon captivity. Charles IV and the Golden Bull.

Walter Ullmann,: The growth of papal government in the Middle Ages. A study of the ideological relation of clerical to lay power. London: Methuen, 1955.

Robert Folz: The Concept of Empire in Western Europe from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century. London: Edward Arnold, 1969

Richard William Southern, Western society and the church in the Middle Ages. London: Penguin Books, 1970

Bernhard Schimmelpfennig: The Papacy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

2. Late Antique and Early Medieval Kingship: The Basilea and the Caliphate (Al-Azmeh)

The common origins of the two institutions, their sacral legitimation, and ecumenical vocations. The political theory of sacral kingship, and its ceremonial manifestation.

Required Readings:

A. Al-Azmeh, Muslim Kingship. Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian and Pagan Polities, London 1997, pp. 131-153

A. Cameron, “The Construction of Court Ritual: The Byzantine Book of Ceremonies”, Rituals of Royalty, ed. D. Cannadine and S. Price, Cambridge, 1987, ch. 3

G. Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth. Consequences of Monotheism in Late Atiquity, Princeton, 1993, ch. 6

C. Kelly, “Empire Building”, in Late Antiquity. A Guide to the Postclassical World, ed. G. W. Bowersock, P. Brown and O. Grabar, Cambridge, Mass., 1999, ch. 7

“Umayyads” and “`Abbasids”, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed.

Supplementary Reading for this and later sessions:

G. Dagron, Emperor and Priest. The Imperial Office in Byzantium, Cambridge 2003

M. G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Chicago 1974, vol. 1, Book 2, ch. II, VII, vol. 2, Book 3, ch. I

C. Mango, Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome, new ed., London 2005

“Monotheistic Monarchy”, in A. Al-Azmeh, The Times of History, Budapest 2007, ch. 8

G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, Oxford 1968

M. Whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, London 1996

Various relevant articles in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed.

3. Kingship in medieval Europe and its sacral legitimation (Klaniczay)

Barbarian kingship and the Church. Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian ideas of sacrality. Coronation, anointing, royal ceremonies. From retinue to courtly society. Dynastic cults, royalty and state institutions. Mirrors of princes and the rise of political theory.

Fritz Kern , Kingship and law in the Middle Ages: studies. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.

John Michael Wallace-Hadrill, Early Germanic kingship in England and on the continent. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

Early medieval kingship (ed. Sawyer, P. H.; Wood, Ian N.) Leeds: The University of Leeds, 1977.

Gábor Klaniczay, Holy rulers and blessed princesses. Dynastic cults in medieval Central Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002

4. Imperial and Royal Functions (Al-Azmeh)

The institutional bearings for the exercise of royal and imperial prerogatives. Legislative and juridical functions and institutions; mechanisms of the apparatus of state; relation to religious institutions.

Required Reading:

Al-Azmeh, Muslim Kingship, pp. 163-181

The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. A. Cameron et al., vol. XIV, ch. 9

Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, tr. F. Rosenthal, Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 414-430, 448-465, 472-481, vol. 3, pp. 3-19, 46-73

Nizam al-Mulk, The Book of Government and Rules for Kings, tr. H. Darke, London 2006, “Prologue” and ch. I

“Kadi” in Encyclopaedia of Islam

Supplementary Reading:

The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. A. Cameron et al., vol. XIV, ch. 6-8

5. Centre and Periphery, Empires and Barbarians (Al-Azmeh)

The Basileus and his Vassal, Caliphate and  Sultanate. The modalities of relation between imperial authority and that of (not infrequently) more powerful subordinates, in the context of ecumenical empire. Constantinople and Germanic and Slavic monarchs, the Caliphs and outlying princes and successor Sultans, up to and including the early Ottomans.

Required Reading:

Al-Azmeh, Muslim Kingship, pp. 181-188

“Mamluks” and “Saldjukids” in Encyclopaedia of Islam,

D. Obolensky, “Byzantium and the Slavic World”, in Byzantium, A World Civilization, ed. A. E. Laiou and H. Maguire, Washington 1992, pp. 37-48

J. Shepard, “The Byzantine Commonwealth, 1000-1500”, in The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 5, ed. M. Angold, Cambridge 2006, ch. I

Supplementary Reading:

P. M. Holt, The Age of the Crusades. The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517, London, 1986

D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500-1453, New York, 1971

6. The society of orders, late medieval political theory and parliamentarism (Klaniczay)

The evolution from the formulation of the theory of three orders in the 11th c. to the late medieval system of estates and parliaments. Magna Carta, the Hungarian Golden Bull. From the mirrors of princes to the reception of Aristotle’s Politics.

Required Reading:

Georges Duby, The three orders: feudal society imagined. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Jacques Krynen, L'empire du roi: idées et croyances politiques en France, XIII-XVe siècle. Paris: Gallimard, 1993.

Political thought and the realities of power in the Middle Ages. (ed. Joseph Canning, Otto Gerhard Oexle) Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998.

7. “The Rise of the Modern State”: Monarchs, Estates and Communities (Kontler)

This class shows the ways in which, amidst the increasing bureaucratization, fiscal and military powers and prestige of the state in the “age of absolutism”, important mechanisms of negotiation continued to characterize systems of political authority in the early-modern period, with a special emphasis on the phenomenon of the “composite state”.

Required Reading:

Gianfranco Poggi, The Development of the Modern State. A Sociological Introduction (Stanford, 1978), 60-85.

Martin van Gelderen, “The state and its rivals in early-modern Europe”, in Quentin Skinner, Bo Strath (eds.), States and Citizens. History, Theory, Prospect (Cambridge, 2003), 79-96.

Peter Blickle, Steven Ellis, Eva Österberg, “The commons and the state: representation, influence and the legislative process”, in Peter Blickle (ed.), Resistance, Representation and Community (Oxford, 1997), 115-153.

8. Ancien Regimes and Modernity (Kontler)

This class assesses debates on the eighteenth-century European system of states, the ways in which this system and its constituent element were struggling with challenges that were increasingly global, challenges exceptionalist interpretations, and looks at the supposed “crisis” of the old regime.

Required Reading:

Ulrich Im Hof, The Enlightenment (Oxford, 1994), 83-105. („Europe and its states”)

John Brewer, „The Paradoxes of State Power” (excerpts from The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1715 [Cambridge, 1989]), as reprinted in James B. Collins, Karen L. Taylor (eds.), Early Modern Europe. Issues and Interpretations (Oxford, 2006), 332-347.

H.M. Scott, „The Problem of Enlightened Absolutism”, in H.M. Scott (ed.), Reform and Reformers in Later Eighteenth-Century Europe (London, 1990), 1-36.

9. Revolutions: 1640, 1776/1789, 1848 (Kontler)

The phenomenon of revolution, “the myth of our time”, has been studied in a more pragmatic and revisionist fashion by recent historians. The class will provide an insight into this process of reinterpretation.

Required Reading:

Perez Zagorin, Rebels and Rulers 1500-1660. I: Society, State and Early-Modern Revolutions (Cambridge, 1982), 3-27.

John Morrill, „The War(s) of the Three Kingdoms”, in Glenn Burgess (ed.), The New British History. Founding a Modern State 1603-1715 (London, 1999), 65-91.

François Furet, “The French Revolution revisited”, and Colin Jones, “Bourgeois revolution revivified: 1789 and social change”, in Gary Kater (ed.), The French Revolution. Recent Debates and New Controversies (London, 1998), 53-67, 87-112.

Jonathan Sperber, The European Revolutions 1848-1851 (Cambridge, 1994), 239-259.

10. Nation- and State-Building during the “Long Nineteenth Century”


This class provides a broad overview of the inter-related processes of state-building and institutional change during the long nineteenth century, highlighting the emergence of nation-states and the multiples interactions among historical regions of Europe, with a focus on Central Europe.

Required Reading:

Mann, Michael. The Sources of Social Power. Vol. II: “The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1860-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), Chapter 3: “A theory of modern state,” pp. 44-91; and chapter 7: “Conclusions to Chapters 4-6: The emergence of classes and nations,” pp. 214-253.

Peter F. Sugar, “External and Domestic Roots of Eastern European Nationalism,” in Peter F. Sugar, Ivo J. Lederer, eds., Nationalism in Eastern Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969), 3-54

Kemal H. Karpat, “The Balkan National States and Nationalism: Image and Reality,” Islamic Studies, 36 (1997), 82-104.

11. Radical Politics and Regime Changes in interwar Europe


This class focuses on issues of regime-building, resistance and collaboration in the context of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in interwar Europe. Special attention is devoted to the unique and the common features of fascist and communist regimes, mostly German National-Socialism and Soviet Stalinism.

Required Reading:

Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 1-22.

Dussen Wilson, “The nation supreme: The idea of Europe, 1914-1945,” in The History of the Idea of Europe, 83-146.

Ian Kershaw, Moshe Lewin, “Introduction: The Regimes and their Dictators: Perspectives of Comparison” in Ian Kershaw, Moshe Lewin, eds. Nazism and Stalinism. Dictatorships in Comparison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 1-25.

12. Divided Worlds: Political Models of Dictatorship and Democracy


This class focuses on post-1945 political developments in Europe, with an emphasis on the communist take-over and the process of Sovietization in Eastern Europe, dissent, resistance and collaboration under the communist rule, and the wave of democratic revolutions in 1989.

Required Reading:

Norman Davies, “Divisa et Indivisa,” in Europe: A History, pp. 1109-1136.

Jan Gross, “The Social Consequences of War: Preliminaries for the Study of the Imposition of Communist Regimes in East Central Europe,” East European Politics and Societies 3 (1989), 198-214.

Katherine Verdery, “What was socialism and why did it fall?,” in What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, 19-38.

Daniel Chirot, “What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989?,” in Vladimir Tismăneanu, ed., The Revolutions of 1989. London: Routledge, 1999, 19-50.