Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational by David Wallace

By David Wallace

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1394-C. 12 But rather than seeking to qualify further the terms of a political historiography, we might pause to ask: Whence this nervousness in the articulation of a broadly historiographical (rather than narrowly historicist) approach? During and immediately after the heyday of deconstruction, which coincides roughly with the rise of New Historicism, grand récit fell under suspicion and Page xvi out of favor. 15 There is now heightened awareness of simultaneous historiographical trajectories, often running in different directions.

These councils could not initiate legislation, but they brought the initiatives of the Signoria and colleges into contact with a broader range of public opinion. The complexity of this governmental machinery, the end product of several centuries of civic evolution, was supposed to ensure that no single family, professional, or civic group could achieve a permanent monopoly of power. 28 Florence was a congenitally unruly city. Prominent families, still moved by feudal mores, habitually resorted to violence in regulating their affairs.

A particular collective body that proves expansive and welcoming during periods of economic boom may later prove hostile and exclusionary; acts of folly, viciousness, and stupidity may be achieved through collective action as well as by individual or despotic diktat. Burckhardt, and Renaissance critics after him, take little interest in the particular forms and dynamics of medieval polity (or even in the process, foundational to their period-governed assumptions, of epochal transition). The terms "medieval" and "Renaissance," each suggestive of a free-standing finality, are themselves generally resistant to thoughts of historical transition.

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