Monks, Lawyers, and the King: The Creation of Bureaucratic Careers in the Medieval English Church

Monks, Lawyers, and the King: The Creation of Bureaucratic Careers in the Medieval English Church

By Ryon Lancaster

Paper presented at the American Sociological Association (2005)

Introduction: This chapter explores the changes in career structures in the medieval English church. During the 12th century church careers went from a system that was similar to Weber’s description of careers under traditional authority to a system that involved the promotion of educated administrators from within the church. The creation of organizational careers within the church marks one of the developments of bureaucratic structures within the church.

Over the course of the 12th century, the selection of church personnel changed dramatically in the six dioceses studied. At the beginning of the century, bishops were appointed by the king from his own household of royal officials. They were personally tied to the king, and often had little involvement in the affairs of their diocese. In contrast, at the beginning of the 13th century, English bishops were promoted from within the ranks of the secular clergy. The majority were university educated in the canon law, or occasionally in theology, and had a long career in other church offices before being promoted. Under the bishop, the staff of the diocese was promoted internally, and the majority of them were also university graduates.

This transformation in career paths represents a movement from ascription towards achievement, as well as a shift from external relations towards internal organizational roles. Overall, during the 12th century, the church saw the rise of a bureaucratic career. In an attempt to understand the rise of bureaucratic careers in the medieval church, this chapter examines the shifting patterns of appointments to top positions within local dioceses from 1066 to 1250.

Click here to read this article from the MIT Sloan School of Management


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