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Rebel BaronsResisting Royal Power in Medieval Culture$
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Luke Sunderland

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198788485

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198788485.001.0001

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(p.20) 1 Sovereignty
Rebel Barons

Luke Sunderland

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that political thinkers across Europe in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries were negotiating the paradoxes of sovereignty when they elaborated distinctions between kingship and tyranny. New concepts of the just war, necessity, and treason conspired to allow sovereigns to crush opposition or abrogate full powers, suspending the laws. Any king, then, was a tyrant in waiting—hence the fears of political thinkers such as John of Salisbury, Aquinas, and Marsilius of Padua, who attempted to rein in sovereigns by articulating ideals such as the body politic and the common good, which argued for royal responsibilities towards society as a whole. Politics was drifting away from morality, but these writers attempted to recouple them.

Keywords:   sovereignty, common good, body politic, tyranny, political theory, just war

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