Power Systems in the Middle Ages


a) Familiarize oneself with the problematics connected with the study of Power and Powers in the Middle Ages and understand the underlying reality of the XII-XIV centuries;
b) Analyse and criticize the operative concepts within the world of power relations during the Middle Ages;
c) Characterize the social/political theories from and within the medieval thinkers;
d) Analyze how they contributed to the structuring and our understanding of the power relations, real and symbolic, that were established at the time;
e)Understand the construction of multiple identities on the basis of the invention of social communities;
f) Assess critically the specific elements which characterize the several power institutions and their reciprocal relation (Papacy, Kingship, Empire, Cities);
g)Recognize the existence of other forms of Power, within this constellation, and their different natures;
h)Produce short critical essays on the topics studied.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria João Violante Branco


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language



Available soon


BAILEY, F. G., Stratagems and Spoils : a social anthropology of politics, Boulder, Colorado, Oxford, 2001
BOURDIEU, P., O Poder Simbólico,(trad. Fernando Tomaz ; rev. Fernando Portugal), 2ªed, Lisboa, 1989
BOUTET, D., VERGER, Penser le Pouvoir au Moyen Age, Paris, 2000
CAROZZI, Claude, TAVIANI-CAROZZI, Huguette, Le Pouvoir au Moyen Age, Paris, 2005
GEERTZ, C., Centers, Kings, and Charisma: reflections on the Symbolics of Power, New York, 1983
FOUCAULT,M. Essential Works of Foucault, vol. III- Power (ed. FAUBION, James),London, Penguin Books, 2001
ZELDITCH, "Theories of Legitimacy" in Status, Power and Legitimacy, Strategies and Theories, (ed. L. BERGER & M. ZELDITCH Jr. ) Brunswick/ N. York/ London, 1998, pp. 33-53

Teaching method

The MA sessions will be of variable format, but in general terms they will be composed of a theoretical exposition, followed by debate, which is to be nourished by the study of a reading list of articles and essays previously given to the students for preparation. It is possible to have some sessions taught by the students, presentation of work in power point and oral exposition, or critical assessed reading of papers. In every session the students are expected to participate actively in the group debates. Two of the sessions will be exclusively devoted to expose and debate the students essays.

Evaluation method

Assessment methods - Attendance and Participation(20%), Final critical essay of about 15 pp., to be presented and discussed on a plenary session(50%), Oral presentation using power point(30%)

Subject matter

1. Theory of Power 1.1. Power and Powers: sociological, anthropological, filosophical, historical and political approaches to the topic 1.2. Social Theory of Power: from Filosophy to Sociology 1.3. Potestas, Auctoritas, Legitimitas: from word to theory. On practice and norm. 1.4.Legitimation Theory: from consensos to conflict. Te political regimes and their legitimation, from Antiquity to Late Middle Ages. 1.5. Political Theory in the Middle Ages: an overview. 2. Power in the Middle Ages: from Men to Institutions 2.1. Men in communities. 2.1.1. The Problem of the Orders: how to handle the question? 2.1.2. The Feudal Question: why do we still debate? 2.1.3. Communities – Identities: how do we balance this relationship? 2.2. Social Groups and Power 2.2.1.Clergy 2.2.2. Nobility 2.2.3.“People”? 2.3. Institucionalized Power 2.3.1. Empire and Realms 2.3.2. Papacy 2.3.3. Cities 3. Alternative Powers: Ethnic Minorities, Women, Speech, Memory