An Armory of Writs: The Rewriting of the English Social Contract, 1066-1290
Blau, Zachary S.
B.A. Thesis (Medieval Studies),Wesleyan University, April (2009)
The protection of real property rights was central to the development of the social contract paradigm upon which modern Anglo-American democracies are based. According to John Locke, whose Second Treatise of Government (1690) remains the classic exposition of the contractarian argument, “Government has no other end but the preservation of Property.” This understanding of government’s role did not arise, ex nihilo, in the early modern period; historian Alan Harding notes that medieval kings, too, “had a particular obligation to protect the property rights of their subjects.” Indeed, the way in which we view government as upholding citizens’ rights in property owes much to the means that the kings of medieval England developed to meet this obligation.