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  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2022
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Book description

What was an “advocate” (Latin: advocatus; German: Vogt) in the Middle Ages? What responsibilities came with the position and how did they change over time? With this groundbreaking study, Jonathan R. Lyon challenges the standard narrative of a “medieval” Europe of feudalism and lordship being replaced by a “modern” Europe of government, bureaucracy and the state. By focusing on the position of advocate, he argues for continuity in corrupt practices of justice and protection between 750 and 1800. This book traces the development of the role of church advocate from the Carolingian period onward and explains why this position became associated with the violent abuse of power on churches' estates. When other types of advocates became common in and around Germany after 1250, including territorial and urban advocates, they were not officeholders in developing bureaucracies. Instead, they used similar practices to church advocates to profit illicitly from their positions, which calls into question scholarly arguments about the decline of violent lordship and the rise of governmental accountability in European history.


‘In this big, important book, Jonathan Lyon dissolves the distinction between the bad old days of the feudal order and the modern forms of governance that supposedly replaced them. The heterogenous realms of the German-speaking lands take center stage in a new political narrative fit for the 21st century.’

Daniel Lord Smail - Harvard University

‘As impressive in its chronological range as it is penetrating in its observations and thought-provoking in its conclusions, Jonathan Lyon’s book will be required reading for anyone interested in how the exercise of power worked on the ground: in the localities, towns and villages of medieval and early modern Europe. A remarkable achievement and a pleasure to read!’

Björn Weiler - Aberystwyth University

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