The Political Writings of Archbishop Wulfstan of York
Publication date: 1 January 2016
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Archbishop Wulfstan of York (d. 1023) is among the most important legal and political thinkers of the early Middle Ages. A leading ecclesiastic, innovative legislator, and influential royal councilor, Wulfstan witnessed firsthand the violence and social unrest that culminated in the fall of the English monarchy before the invading armies of Cnut in 1016. In his homilies and legal tracts, Wulfstan offered a searing indictment of the moral failures that led to England’s collapse and formulated a vision of an ideal Christian community that would influence English political thought long after the Anglo-Saxon period had ended. Wulfstan was among the first medieval authors to envision a society organised into three orders: those who fight, those who labour, and those who pray—a model of social classification that would dominate European political thought up through the eighteenth century. More than just dry political theory, however, Wulfstan’s works are composed in the distinctive voice of someone who was both a confidante of kings and a preacher of apocalyptic fervour. No other source so vividly portrays the political life of eleventh-century England: what it was, and what one man believed it could be.
These works, many of which have never before been available in modern English, are collected here for the first time in new, extensively annotated translations that will help readers reassess one of the most turbulent periods in English history and re-evaluate the life of Anglo-Saxon England’s most important political visionary.
Edited and translated by Andrew Rabin
Publisher: Manchester Medieval Sources Online