Marsilius of Padua

2 Jun, 2024 320 Political science

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the canonical figures from the history of political thought. Marsilius of Padua (c1275 to c1343) wrote ‘Defensor Pacis’ (The Defender of the Peace) around 1324 when the Papacy, the Holy Roman Emperor and the French King were fighting over who had supreme power on Earth. In this work Marsilius argued that the people were the source of all power and they alone could elect a leader to act on their behalf; they could remove their leaders when they chose and, afterwards, could hold them to account for their actions. He appeared to favour an elected Holy Roman Emperor and he was clear that there were no grounds for the Papacy to have secular power, let alone gather taxes and wealth, and that clerics should return to the poverty of the Apostles. Protestants naturally found his work attractive in the 16th Century when breaking with Rome. In the 20th Century Marsilius has been seen as an early advocate for popular sovereignty and republican democracy, to the extent possible in his time.

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  • Annabel Brett 6 episodes
    Professor of Political Thought and History at the University of Cambridge
  • George Garnett No other episodes
    Professor of Medieval History and Fellow and Tutor at St Hugh's College, University of Oxford
  • Serena Ferente No other episodes
    Professor of Medieval History at the University of Amsterdam

Reading list

  • Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective
    Richard Bourke and Quentin Skinner (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • Ideas of Power in the Late Middle Ages, 1296-1417
    J. Canning (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Essays in Mediaeval History presented to Reginald Lane Poole
    H.W.C. Davis (ed.) (Clarendon Press, 1927)
  • Marsilius of Padua and 'The Truth of History'
    George Garnett (Oxford University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Europe in the Late Middle Ages
    J.R. Hale, J.R.L. Highfield and B. Smalley (eds.) (Faber and Faber, 1965) Google Books →
  • Equalization in the Body and the Body Politic: From Galen to Marsilius of Padua
    Joel Kaye ( 2013)
  • Democratic Moments: Reading Democratic Texts
    Xavier Marquez (ed.) (Bloomsbury, 2018) Google Books →
  • Defensor Minor and De Translatione Imperii
    Marsiglio of Padua (trans. Cary J. Nederman) (Cambridge University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • The Defender of the Peace
    Marsilius of Padua (trans. Annabel Brett) (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Marsilius of Padua
    Gerson Moreno-Riano and Cary J. Nederman (eds) (Brill, 2012)
  • Marsilius of Padua: Between history, Politics, and Philosophy
    A. Mulieri, S. Masolini and J. Pelletier (eds) (Brepols, 2023) Google Books →
  • Community and Consent: The Secular Political Theory of Marsiglio of Padua's Defensor Pacis
    C. Nederman (Rowman and Littlefield, 1995) Google Books →
  • Marsilius of Padua at the Intersection of Ancient and Medieval Traditions of Political Thought
    Vasileios Syros (University of Toronto Press, 2012) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 320.1 (Political theory)