The New Polis – Political History & The State (Part II)   Leave a comment

And here is Part II of the two-part essay for The New Polis:

The New Political History

In the 1960s and 1970s, the emergence of history from below via the popular politics of trades unions and political parties challenged the validity and authority of traditional narratives of political history, all of which positioned the state as their central tenet. New political history rejected this and instead focused on political culture.

An example of this is provided by Alford, who examines Tudor history via the new approaches that placed emphasis on the political culture that was present in the 16th century rather than the bureaucracies and institutions of government that were in place during the era. This approach stresses a need to assess ideologies, ideas, and processes within the sovereign state in line with the social and cultural issues that manifest within a much broader focus. Alford underlines the idea that the Tudor historiography may be severely limited as a direct result of the limitations placed upon it when only mechanisms of state are analysed and suggests that taking such a radically different approach would enhance the knowledge of political history when positioned within that specific context…

Visit The New Polis for the rest of the essay


Posted September 4, 2018 by keirmartland in History, Uncategorized

The New Polis – Political History & the State (Part I)   Leave a comment

See Part I of my essay published by the new journal The New Polis:

According to Erika Cudworth and John McGovern in The Modern State: Theories and Ideologies, in politics the state is defined as a political community living under a single system of government in the most basic terms. Additionally, the state is a key element of modern politics as a result of the complexity that is inherent within society in the modern era, although there is no consensus as to what the state is or what it does.

While many accept Max Weber’s 1918 definition of the state as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory,” there are a wide range of disparate, interrelated and overlapping theories and ideas concerning political phenomena that impinge on the state and complicate the way in which it may be perceived and interpreted.

Jeffrey and Painter note that temporal and spatial parameters are important in establishing the nature and importance of the state. However, despite the problems present in defining the state, there have been a wide range of approaches to it from political historians over the past two centuries, many of which seek to explore histories as part of identity formation, the impact of social convention, and the influence of power structures, among other elements…

Visit The New Polis for the rest



Posted September 4, 2018 by keirmartland in History

Photographs of Pontifical High Mass   Leave a comment

On 5th May, I was a tunicled Clerk at a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by my Ordinary. This took place at the Cambridge Catholic Chaplaincy, Fisher House. Here are some photographs:

Posted May 15, 2018 by keirmartland in religion

Towards a naturalistic account of man, society, and politics   Leave a comment

Towards a naturalistic account of man, society, and politics
By Keir Martland

For much of the Middle Ages – ordered anarchy though it was, owing to the situation on the ground of overlapping jurisdictions and law codes – the path to a fully-developed political or legal philosophy of any kind was blocked. There were, to be sure, a number of obstacles for the political philosopher, and no single factor can be held entirely responsible. Among these factors was the very idea of Christendom itself, since men in the Middle Ages did not separate ‘Church’, ‘State’, ‘Empire’, ‘kingdom’, ‘Europe’ etc. If ever Hilaire Belloc’s line that “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe” was factually correct, it was during the early to high Middle Ages. Naturally, this lack of clear thinking was one significant impediment to the development of serious political thought. At the same time, this Christendom required, so many thought, a single dominus. Whether pope or Western Emperor, for as long as the secular realm was thought of in the same terms as the spiritual realm, where one Lord and one Faith were both sufficient and necessary, for as long as the mission of the temporal powers was the same as the mission of the spiritual powers, one man on earth surely ought to be lord of the world. As a result, for much of the Middle Ages, while the battle for the position of dominus mundi raged between pope and emperor or pope and king or emperor and king, the ‘political thought’ produced was necessarily to a certain extent propaganda which took for granted the unity of Christendom under one divinely-appointed head. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted March 28, 2018 by keirmartland in History, Philosophy, religion

The Middle Ages as Ordered Anarchy (PFS 2017)   Leave a comment

Posted October 16, 2017 by keirmartland in History, Public Speaking, Video

Reflections on the importance of the medieval English parliament    Leave a comment

Reflections on the importance of the medieval English parliament 
Keir Martland
(Feast of Michael and All Angels, 2017)

What was the importance or significance of the mediaeval English parliament? This is a vast question and my thoughts on it are particularly difficult to articulate, but I think it requires a lengthy process of ‘setting the scene’ to begin with. To put the disputes between kings and representative institutions in their proper context, it is important to consider earlier mediaeval notions of law and kingship. The early mediaeval ‘customary law’ was not one of sovereignty, like the Roman law – whose famous maxim put it ‘whatever has pleased the ruler has the force of law’ – but one of compromises worked out according to a few immutable principles. In such an understanding, law – being the law of one’s fathers – was good because it was old, and old because it was good, and law was sovereign. The king was under the law, bound by it, and his very existence was predicated upon it. Indeed, the mediaeval Icelandic constitution functioned well without a king for centuries, with only one part-time ‘government employee’, a single lawspeaker. Furthermore, since ‘feudal’ relations were essentially personal ones of reciprocal rights and duties, territoriality, like sovereignty was alien to the mediaeval social and political order. As Frank van Dun has it in his essay Uprooted Liberalism and its Discontents, “…power rested on personal allegiances between freemen. Thus, the feudal lord-vassal relationship was not a transitive relation…” Tacitus’ words might well be applied to the early Germanic or barbarian societies, ‘Nec regibus infinita aut libera potestas’ (Their kings are not unlimited or free). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted September 29, 2017 by keirmartland in History

The mediaeval roots of European freedom   Leave a comment

On the evening of 27th September 2017, I visited the boys at The Oratory School to give a short talk. I gave no title at the time, but a title which suggests itself retrospectively is ‘The medieval roots of European freedom.’ Here is a very brief outline of the 30 minute talk:

How do we explain freedom or liberalism? Any Little Englander will tell you that England is a bit special, but there are other such places in Europe worth investigating. Racialistic accounts, such as in Mein Kampf, and other accounts such as Max Weber’s, of how small countries like England and Holland came to dominate the world, are flawed. Explanations of the ‘European miracle’, too, are mostly confused, often lapsing into 19th century historicism. Rather, we must look to how our early and high mediaeval forebears thought about and practised law and kingship to come to a better understanding of liberal England and liberal Europe. After all, it was in the mediaeval period that the foundations of much that we hold dear – whether economic, political, cultural, or religious – were laid. Ideas and practices worth considering here are: strong kinship bonds; fealty; oath-helping/compurgation; the sovereignty of law; the absence of sovereign territoriality; the absence of the Divine Right of Kings; the consensus fidelium; the right of resistance etc.

Posted September 27, 2017 by keirmartland in History, Public Speaking