The Thirteenth Century International System and the Origins of the Angevin-Piast Alliance
By Wojciech Kozlowski
PhD Dissertation, Central European University, 2014
Abstract: The central question of this study is what inspired Charles I and Władysław Łokietek to establish a dynastic marriage in 1320 and in what context it happened. This inquiry is strongly interconnected with an additional interest in whether (and how) the “international” environment, in which both figures formed and strove to achieve their goals and objectives, can be characterized. The research objectives are achieved by developing and employing theoretical perspective, drawn from International Relations (IR) theories, to historical material in order to generate well substantiated interpretation of the causes and context of the Angevin-Piast marriage of 1320.
How to make sense of the late medieval “international” politics? Is the still upholding stereotype in historical IR valid, when it claims that before the middle of the seventeenth century there was no international system that could be meaningfully investigated with IR methods? More specifically, is it possible to theorize political phenomena that occurred in the thirteenth and fourteenth century in Central Europe and beyond, and avoid being accused with anachronism? Would such theorizing equip historian with new explanatory powers? Is there any scientific value in starting a conversation between a historian of medieval “international” politics and an IR theorist, fundamentally focused on contemporary global affairs? In other words, how an IR theorist would respond to the world of international politics as depicted by various medieval source material? Or, perhaps, medieval political history is an already conceptually exhausted and harvested field with very little issues left after the reapers?
These are the underlying questions that have been guiding and inspiring my scholarly work throughout my PhD program. My research can be approached from two perspectives. In terms of its content, this is a comparative “international” politics, grappling with complexities of dynastic relations in the kingdoms of Bohemia, Hungary and Poland in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. In terms of concepts and methods, however, this is a pioneering attempt to utilize and adapt great potential of IR theoretical reflection in order to render a new image of late medieval “international” politics. The interdisciplinary underpinnings of my project are particularly challenging, because bridging IR scholarship (developed and elaborated in the specific contexts of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century international system) and traditional political history of the late Middle Ages (itself meticulously explored and analyzed by generations of historians) is an innovation that only has to find its place in the scholarly environment and prove its validity.
I would argue, against some criticisms I have already encountered, that this undertaking is very promising in conceptualizing medieval “international” politics as long as it is not done by means of mere theory application. Specifically, in the heart of this project lies the conviction that meaningful investigation of this politics requires new theorization, that is, something more than adapting certain existing theories. The project also builds on another assertion that IR theories “should not be regarded as non-dynamic, a-historical intellectual constructs”, for they “have been created by someone, somewhere and presumably for some purpose”. Since IR scholarship can provide concepts, frameworks, terminologies, and specific ways of reflecting about international realities – in other words, it delivers building blocks for efficient theory-construction – immersing into this field seems to me an opening and essential step to developing necessary abilities to begin theorizing a new field.
Such theorizing determines and recognizes the elements of medieval political culture, seeks values and principles, patterns and routinized practices that forged political interests of medieval actors and shaped their “international” behaviors.