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In Praise of Prolepsis: Meaning, Significance and the Medieval Contribution to Political Thought

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To the historian concerned with the long development of Western political thinking, the medieval phase has frequently proved to be difficult to access and the significance of its various aspects or components hard to assess. One way around that difficulty is to sharpen the focus by adopting a world-historical perspective and by taking as one's criterion of significance the degree to which the components of the medieval legacy helped shape the unquestionable singularity of Western political thought. Take that tack, however, and one is likely to fall victim to charges of having succumbed to some sort of 'mythology of prolepsis'. That being so, it is long since time to respond, as here, with a word or two 'in praise of prolepsis'.

Keywords: Whig interpretation of history; historical purism; medieval contribution; mythology of prolepsis; political thought; presentism; sacral kingship; secularism/desacralization; significance and meaning; western singularity; world-historical perspective

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Oakley Center for the Humanities & Social Sciences, Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2006


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