Days gone by and Present Society

Social Utopias in the centre Ages

Author(s): F. Graus

Source: Earlier & Present, No . 35 (Dec., 1967), pp. 3-19

Published simply by: Oxford School Press for The Past and Present World Stable WEB LINK: http://www.jstor.org/stable/649746.

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SOCIABLE UTOPIAS IN THE CENTRE

AGES*

THE SOCIAL THEORIES OF THE MIDDLE AGES HAVE FREQUENTLY AROUSED

ofhistorians

theinterest

and severalworkshavebeendevotedto all of them.

Recentlyhowever, interestin thisthemeseemsto have already been fading, and medievalistspreferto examinethe social situationof medieval gentleman or thetheoriesofthe stateput forwardby medievalwritersand thinkers. This has not really come about accidentally and is typically determined

simply by thefactthatearlierresearchwas oftenlimitedto the

remark

thatsocialtheoriesand utopianvisionsin thepast

basic

an observationwhichseems

had also been " socially" determined,

almostbanal to us today. That seemedthatone can go no more, and workon suchgeneraltruthsseemedhardlyworththeeffort.

Nevertheless morerecentlyseveralwaysof approachinga solutionseem to

havebeenemerging. Have forexampletheresearchintothetopicof

medievalsources, the attempton the part of Frenchhistoriansto writean " histoiredes mentalit's", or the Robin the boy wonder Hood discussionin is beginningto emergeas

this kind of journal. The sociologyof materials

a branchof learningin its very own right, regardless if at presentit is only concernedwithmoderntimes. In short, increasedattention

is being

ofindividuals

paid to " collectiveconcepts", thatis notto thethoughts

whom are of high standingintellectually,

but for views and even

prejudices from the past that were generallywidespread. The

forthis newly-developing

branchof researchhas not

technique

yet recently been fully workedout. I personallybelieve that the most

in an analysisofthissortis a kind

approachforthehistorian

profitable

ofimportant

of phenomenology

thoughtsand topoi, and I wouldlike

thisherewithan example. you

to demonstrate

* Translated from the German born by Mr. Bernard

Standring, University of

Birmingham.

one particular I have attemptedto explain my views in greaterdetail applying Merovingian hagiographyas my case in point: F. Graus, Volk. Herrscherund Heiliger im or her Reich der Merowinger(Prague, 1965). Apart fromthe classic job of M. Bloch (see footnote55) therehave recentlybeen many excellentattemptsby historiansto encompass the complete of middle ages life and thought, approachingit in the same way because the French " Histoire entre ma mentalite", especially G. Duby and L. Mandrou, Histoirede la civilisationfrangaise

(Paris, 1958); G. Duby, L'Europe

des cathidrales1140-I280 (Geneva, 1966); T. Le Goff, Les intelectuels au moyen

dge (Paris, 1957); T. Le Goff, La civilisationde l'occidentmididval(Paris, 1964); and Ur. Mandrou, Introductiona' la England moderne Essai de psychologie historique15oo-1640 (L'& volution para l'humanit6, lii, Paris, 196I) who attemptsto provide a theoreticalbasis. For the Robin Cover discussionin Past and Present, see nos. 14 (Nov. 1958, L. H. Hilton), I8 (Nov. I960, M. C. Holt), I9 (Apr. 1961, M. H. Enthusiastic and T. C. Holt) and twenty (Nov. 196I, T. H. Aston).

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