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5 Universal Authority in Pre-modern History

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Chapter Summary

It is part of Western self-imagery to regard international law as a product of modern Western civilization. It can be seen that period of lesser darkness in the West as an in-between time, offering a bridge between the expanding consciousness of classical antiquity and the intellectual and artistic explosiveness of the Renaissance. Especially between 800 and 1400, the Western world acquired a complex of social and civic characteristics that have been designated by posterity as medieval and seen to have been shaped by the feudal ordering of society. Was there a feudal sense of order? How did it differ from public order patterns of the more distant past? Did it embrace a conception of universal authority? Because of the apparent linkage between world law and the still-continuing system of nation-states, it is worth pausing to reflect on the re-discovered relevance of the medieval period of world history.

Keywords:civic characteristics; classical antiquity; public order patterns; universal authority; Western civilization; world law



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