Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 August 2021
This chapter considers the differences between the sources available for our three spheres (the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world), notably the unevenness of source survival. It attempts to explain why surviving western archives are so abundant in comparison with those of the other two spheres. This has to do with the concern to preserve records of property rights in the west and the interconnections between landed families and ecclesiastical institutions. Petitioning is another area where surviving western sources can help illuminate the dynamics of political culture which existed, but for which fewer records survive, in the other two spheres; what petitions tell us about monarchical authority and expectations of the ruler by those governed; and the relationship of the ruler to the law and law-making.