When the emperor submitted to his rebellious subjects: A neglected and innovative legal account of the 1183-Peace of Constance

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Abstract

Scholarship associates Emperor Frederick Barbarossa with two momentous but seemingly colliding developments in European history: his diet of Roncaglia of 1158 is considered a landmark in the conceptualisation and growth of royal authority, but his 1183 Peace of Constance with the rebel Lombard League is represented as the legal basis for the autonomy of the Italian city republics. This paper highlights that the Peace of Constance also identified imperial prerogatives too, and it argues that, while it is now overlooked, that side of the settlement used to attract a great deal of attention well into the early modern period and from well beyond Italy. It demonstrates this by examining a virtually forgotten account by the jurist Odofredus, which differs from the now current depictions of the Peace of Constance by stating that the rectors of the League defined those prerogatives following Barbarossa’s submission to them. The paper advises partial acceptance of this account, contextualises it in the conflict between Frederick II and the League (1226 - 1250), and suggests that the Peace of Constance and Odofredus’ account not only informed seminal debates on kingship, right of resistance and popular sovereignty, but the former became a prime historical example of a settlement between sovereign and subjects and the latter its standard interpretation in the following centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-39
JournalEnglish Historical Review
Volume131
Issue number550
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2016

Keywords

  • medieval and modern
  • kingship
  • Italy
  • holy Roman emperor
  • peace settlement
  • rulership
  • city states
  • law/jurisprudence
  • Republicanism

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