After reading this article you will learn about the political thought in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are regarded as the last phases of the Middle Ages. Historians and scholars have noticed that during these two centuries political thought underwent spectacular changes.
In the opinion of Hearnshaw—”To the period of an assured institutional church, sitting in calm sovereignty, and regulating human life by a careful accommodation between ideal principle and actual tendency, there succeeds a period of sects and of revolution, a period of Spirituals and Lollards and Hussites, a period marked by a conciliar movement against papal sovereignty. To the period of an assured and static society, in which nobility rose high and proud above dependents and serfs, there succeeded a period of villains risings in the country, and turbulent movements of artisans in the towns.”
Radical changes in various aspects of political thought became prominent. Slavery and private property were challenged. Many liberal minded Christians during these two centuries openly revolted against the institution of slavery and private property.
Some of them even went further by saying “private property is a mortal sin”. Rebels refused to accept any compromise on these two institutions. They attacked the church as the initiator of compromise. They said that true Christianity was above any compromise. The genius of Christianity was much wider than the church.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the state, which was an emasculated one in the previous centuries, began to gather more and more power. The authority of the church was in the declining condition because of people’s loss of faith on church fathers and their activities and emergence of the state as a new force.
Loss of church’s power changed the entire political scenario of these two centuries. The theory of the fourteenth century was anti-clerical and pro-state. The impressive rise in the power of the state was particularly discernible in France, where the monarch was the undisputed and unchallenged authority in the Christian world and, since he had no intention to be an imperial power, he was the sovereign in the real sense within his own kingdom.
The gradual increase in the power of French kings was strongly supported by all classes and sections of French society. In France a strong and centralized government under the sovereign authority of a powerful king was established auguring the advent of a new age of absolute monarchy. Power of the state far exceeded that of the church. Nation-state assumed a particular shape.
The storm which gathered in the past over the right to impose taxes considerably subsided in the last two centuries of the middle Ages. The king announced that the power to impose taxes fell within the jurisdiction of secular authority and the church had nothing to do with it.
Royal supporters began to increase day-by-day and this strengthened the position of the king. Even a belief which arose was that the Pope could not be regarded as the owner of the church property but simply a steward. This drastically eroded both the prestige and power of the Pope. He remained no longer an unassailable authority in both the temporal and spiritual words.
In the fourteenth century, the church itself was raged by a controversy. Many church people attacked the Pope and other top clergymen for their unreligious activities and attitudes. The ecclesiastical writers also did not hesitate to attack the church authorities.
Moreover, the luxurious living standard and accumulation of wealth were strongly resented by people and ultimately the church was alienated from the rest of the society. This caused the alleviation of the influence which the church exercised in earlier centuries. People’s apathy towards the church became most spectacular towards the end of the.
Fifteenth century and this betokened the advent of a new era and attitude.