Politics and ideology in Late Medieval Cordoba
By John Edwards
En la España Medieval, Vol.4 (1984)
Introduction: Despite the growth of ‘scientific’ analysis in the study of the past, it is still rare to find any frankness among historians concerning their own motives and preconceptions. Most historical work is based on remarkably unsophisticated conceptual apparatus, whatever the technical expertise with whicb written sources are treated.
Nowhere is the barren nature of most historical work more clearly exposed than in the study of politics and political ideas. Despite the awareness in some circíes that history as an intellectual discipline must die, even though it responds to a fundamental human demand br knowledge and understanding of man’s past, if it fails to learn from and absorb other disciplines and their discoveries, it is still in fact, though never explicitly, assumed that men’s motives for political actions in past ages can be adequately explained by the use of a few naive and fairly crude concepts.
In exploring the theory and the practical results of politics in one late medieval Spanish town, it may be possible to reflect, rather more accurately than is customary, both the reality of a certain context in the past and the ideas and prejudices of one historian. This article will not begin from wholly materialistic assumptions or from the converse belief that the only true reality is non-material.
It will however use the knowledge which has been gleaned from a decade of research into the archives of Córdoba in order to undertake a journey which will, it is hoped, go through various ‘archaeological layers’ of historical understanding to reach a more rounded view of what some men aspired to do and what they actually did.
In this search, it will be assumed that those things which are conventionally described as ‘material’ or’spiritual’, whether in metaphors derived from that traditional source of imagery, the human body, so beloved of Biblical writers and medieval and Renaissance political theorists, or in those other images which Man and his followers have found in the spheres of building and manufacture, are merely different facets of one human nature and one world. Whatever distinctions and divisions may have to be made for purposes of analysis, it must never be forgotten that none of these facts or factors can exist for long without reference to the others.