Mann and Men in a Medieval State: The Geographies of Power in the Middle Ages

Mann and Men in a Medieval State: The Geographies of Power in the Middle Ages

By Rhys Jones

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1999)

Introduction: European societies in the Middle Ages witnessed a major institutional change when they moved from being primarily organized around concepts of kinship to being ordered around the power exercised by a king over a defined area of territorial jurisdiction. This shift – from a political landscape in which territory was identified through society to one in which society was ordered through territory – lies at the heart of the state-making process. In this societal change, a ruler’s sphere of power was increasingly specified through a process of territorialization, whereby rights and jurisdictions were emplaced within defined areas of operation. In effect, the political landscape became something that was defined by the needs of the state, rather than by the immediate need of its occupiers. It meant that society moved from a world of tribes and chiefdoms – in which rights of property were mainly defined through membership of a kin-group – to a society in which lordship over all land and men was increasingly assumed by state rulers. Clearly, this would have vested the change with great geographical significance. The terri- torialization of power occurred throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, and this paper proposes to examine closely spatial aspects of the process, principally within a Welsh context.

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