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Medieval representative assemblies: collective action and antecedents of limited government

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  • Alexander William Salter

    () (Texas Tech University)

  • Andrew T. Young

    () (Texas Tech University)

Abstract

Medieval monarchs in Western Europe responded to financial and military pressures by instituting representative assemblies. Three estates (classes; orders) were represented in these assemblies: clergy, nobility, and burghers. In the late medieval and early modern periods, some states tended towards absolutism (e.g., France); others towards constitutional monarchy (e.g., England). The German historian Otto Hintze conjectured that two-chamber assemblies were more likely to resist monarchical encroachments on their political authority than three-chamber assemblies. We argue that the two- versus three-chamber distinction is coincidental to what was truly relevant: whether chambers were estate-based or had mixed representation from multiple estates. We provide a comparative institutional analysis that emphasizes political bargaining and the costs of expressing special versus common interests. This analysis suggests that mixed representation assemblies, all else equal, provided a stronger check on absolutism than their estate-based counterparts. We also provide historical case studies of France and England that lend insights into why an estate-based Estates General arose in the former, while a mixed representation Parliament arose in the latter.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander William Salter & Andrew T. Young, 2018. "Medieval representative assemblies: collective action and antecedents of limited government," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 171-192, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:copoec:v:29:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10602-018-9258-1
    DOI: 10.1007/s10602-018-9258-1
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    Cited by:

    1. Glenn Furton & Adam Martin, 2019. "Beyond market failure and government failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 178(1), pages 197-216, January.
    2. Andrew T. Young, 2019. "How Austrians can contribute to constitutional political economy (and why they should)," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 32(4), pages 281-293, December.
    3. Stergios Skaperdas & Samarth Vaidya, 2020. "Why did pre-modern states adopt Big-God religions?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 182(3), pages 373-394, March.
    4. Salter, Alexander William & Young, Andrew T., 2018. "A theory of self-enforcing monetary constitutions with reference to the Suffolk System, 1825–1858," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 13-22.
    5. Geloso, Vincent J. & Salter, Alexander W., 2020. "State capacity and economic development: Causal mechanism or correlative filter?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 372-385.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Medieval economic history; Comparative economic development; Medieval constitution; Polycentric governance; Political property rights; Representative assemblies;

    JEL classification:

    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • P50 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - General
    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)

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