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By W. M. Spellman

This short narrative survey of political proposal during the last millennia explores key principles that experience formed Western political traditions.

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Extra resources for A Short History of Western Political Thought

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Many events and circumstances are not in our power to control; what is in our power is the ability to adapt to all that we face and to maintain a virtuous disposition. The most recognizable of the Roman Stoics was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180), whose posthumously published Meditations truly encapsulated the devotion to duty, irrespective of adverse circumstances, that best defined Stoicism. ” The unimportance of a single human life, and the transitory nature of human accomplishment within the context of infinite time, are recurring themes of the work.

Churchman regularly emphasized the kingship of Christ and the royal status of the Virgin Mary. 9 But to illiterate and battle-hardened warriors, the heady doctrine of rule by heavenly appointment suggested something quite different. Subjects owed complete obedience to their earthly superiors, and the least resistance to established authority was a sin. Leading magnates may have had a 38 A Short History of Western Political Thought role in the selection, acclamation, and legitimization of the king, but once in office all subjects were duty-bound to follow royal injunctions.

4 Latin learning was kept alive in these monasteries, but little else of the Roman heritage remained. Urban centers atrophied and commercial activities that once intersected the entire Mediterranean basin were now reduced to local trade and barter. Subsistence agriculture and self-contained economic units under the control of ambitious churchmen and former imperial officials became the norm. During the course of the fifth century there emerged a series of regional kingdoms—Visigothic in Spain, Frankish in Gaul, Ostrogoth and later Lombard in Italy, and a number of smaller Anglo-Saxon territories in Britain—but none were especially successful.

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