Review by Choice Review
A collection of 19 essays, by British historians mostly, detailing the political thought of the Latin Middle Ages. The volume also includes preparatory chapters on Greece, Rome, and Christian doctrine, as well as excursions into Byzantine, Jewish, and Islamic political thought. With so many contributors the book lacks the focus and singleness of purpose of Walter Ullmann's studies (such as A History of Political Thought: The Middle Ages, 1965); on the other hand, it is far more than a random gathering of essays. The volume tells a coherent story of medieval political thinking from the 4th to the 15th centuries. It incorporates the latest research but also explains basic terms and concepts to the beginning reader. The approach is thematic and chronological with chapters on, for example, law, community, property, government, empire, spiritual, and temporal powers. Major figures are discussed within their respective periods, and sometimes by several contributors, but they are never given prominence. Vast reaches of time separate the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, and Marsilius, and in the editor's judgment no complete history could be written that considered only their works. Hence the book is more intellectual history than it is political theory. Even so, it is an immensely learned and instructive book. It includes brief biographies of 250 medieval figures, plus extensive bibliographies and a usable index. If the price is not too daunting, the book would make a worthy addition to any undergraduate library. For lower-division undergraduate students. -P. Coby, Smith College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.