chapter  6
17 Pages

Why kings? 1

WithLisa Wolverton

This chapter questions the normative status of kings and kingdoms in the historiography. The implicit denigration of societies and polities lacking a central authority figure tacitly defines certain people and places as marginal, whether acephalous polities, as in Iceland or among the transelbian Slavs, or societies where dukes, counts, or otherwise designated leaders held sway. In place of teleologies linking kings to state formation – as well as coins to monetized economies – an argument is made for comparative political analysis that bridges “peripheral” and “core” regions of Medieval Europe. The suggested adoption of the designation “prince” for all rulers and of “polity” for all socio-political orders would permit marginalized regions to be considered along with canonical ones. A more nuanced understanding of the intersections of human agency and geographic constraint can help us better understand the impressive diversity of political communities from Iceland to Wales to Bohemia.