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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - The fifteenth century


The kinds of politics explored in the previous chapter – disputes involving overlapping jurisdictions, conflicts over government – continued unabated into the first half of the fifteenth century. Indeed, this period contained some of the most vivid examples of each, dominated as it was by the prolonged struggle for reform and control of the universal Church that took place in and around the Councils of Pisa, Constance and Basle. Why this conflict was so central to the politics of the first half of the century is a matter to be discussed below, but its fading in the middle decades is one of the reasons for breaking the narrative of events in about 1450. In the second half of the century, jurisdictional conflicts became less common. There were certainly plenty of wars, and conflicting rights played a part in causing and justifying them, but almost everywhere political boundaries began to settle and become less permeable, while authority came to be more concentrated at the regnal level. This did not mean an end to conflict – the distribution of right and power within these more defined polities went on being contested; and these contests were not always contained within regnal boundaries, as we shall see – but the political actors of the second half of the century generally acknowledged the primacy of the regnal political order; the bulk of politics turned on the relations between authoritative centres and the representatives of provinces and communities; and it is not surprising that the tendency of the period was towards the enhancement of central government and the improvement of its means of rule.

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