Baldus and the limits of representation

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Most contributions on agency and representation in medieval law tend to look at collegiate offices, not individual ones: when, how and to what extent can a plurality of people be represented by a single individual. For individual offices - that is, offices not representing a collectivity - the approach was typically another. From the king to the magistrate, the office was not necessarily viewed as a different subject from that of the individual person discharging it, but rather construed as a series of powers vested in that person.
Influenced by canon lawyers (chiefly, Innocent IV), Baldus de Ubaldis on the contrary approached the individual office in the same way as the collegiate one. Irrespectively of whether the office represented a plurality of people or designated a single individual, it remained a different subject from the person who exercised it. Construing the relationship between person and individual office in terms of agency provides a more penetrating insight into the dynamics of agency, which the 'standard' representation (the relationship between individual person and collectivity) sometimes fails to provide. Looking at the relationship between agent and individual office in the thought of Baldus, this contribution focuses on the limits within which the person of the agent can represent the office and act in its name. Just as the presence of lawful representation does not always allow the exercise of the office, so the lack of representation does not necessarily preclude the possibility of discharging it validly. Building on Innocent IV (but much unlike him), Baldus distinguishes between internal and external validity of agency. Because of this difference, the relationship between office and third parties does not always depend on that between office and agent. To reach this distinction, we will examine four degrees of separation between agent and office in Baldus' thought. First, obligations of the person vs. obligations of the office. Second, individual offices vs. collegiate bodies. Third, obligations that cannot be imputed to the office despite the full validity of its representative. Fourth, obligations that can be imputed to the office despite the lack of valid agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-122
Journal Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis
Issue number1-2
Early online date25 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Baldus de Ubaldis
  • representation
  • public office
  • Innocent IV

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