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State Formation And Medieval Government

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Chapter Summary

During the 1960s and early 1970s anthropologists and archaeologists developed a four-stage model for the evolution of social organisation: band, tribe, chiefdom and state. With the development of the state, hierarchy becomes increasingly fixed into at least two social classes, the leaders of states in their early phases usually being kings or emperors. This chapter discusses central and controversial problem of the nature of socio-political interaction: to what extent was there a bureaucracy, ordered ranks of seniority among nobility and royal servants, or a judicial and legal structure? This is obviously key to any understanding of medieval government, and something that extant sources such as medieval histories, annals, letters or lawcodes often only hint at; terminology that may appear to represent specific functions or offices as it might nowadays was often used in a very different way in medieval documents, sometimes in conscious imitation of Roman models.

Keywords: four-stage model; medieval government; state formation

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