chapter  1
7 Pages

Prologue

Second, while avoiding the pitfalls of ahistoricism, the various historical materialist accounts suffer from what can only be described as a crippling economism; for they invariably seek to reduce medieval geopolitics to the dynamics of the feudal mode of production (and especially its associated class dynamics), treating ideas and mentalités collectives as derivative phenomena. But as the extant historiographical literature clearly indicates, the social logic animating the various political actors comprising the medieval Latin “international” order are not simply artifacts of social property relations or class dynamics.Rather, geopolitical rivalry is ultimately explicable only in terms of the dynamic interactions of certain material developments and developments in an analytically discrete “cultural realm.” In other words, as we shall see, late medieval geopolitics can only really be explained in terms of the historically contingent convergence several social, institutional and cultural developments that produced a particular constellation of war-making units, structural antagonisms and cultural understandings of “geopolitics”—a constellation that had emerged by the middle of the thirteenth century and persisted until the mid-sixteenth. To seek an explanation for medieval geopolitics exclusively in the domain of property relations and class confl ict is to overemphasize the role of brute material forces, paying insuffi cient attention to the autonomous role of ideas, identities and other intersubjective factors in medieval (and contemporary) political life.