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Ever closer union? Unification, difference, and the 'Making of Europe', c.950-c.1350

Scales, Len

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The article explores the relationships between the universal and the particular in high medieval Europe. It notes the enduring appeal of views of the period as being marked by an increasingly unified ‘European’ culture and explains their modern salience. It observes the parallel phenomena of division and plurality in the period and the prominence of themes of conflict and fragmentation in the following centuries. The purpose of the article is to re-examine the relationship between these seemingly contradictory forms and developments. Its aim is to illuminate and explain the strengthening elements of division and disunity discernible in Europe between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries in terms of the new, over-arching cultural unities which characterise the same high medieval period. Taking as its basis the model of ‘Europeanisation’ developed by Robert Bartlett, it complicates his picture of advancing homogenisation by demonstrating the ways in which new, encompassing, integrative cultural forms promoted dis-integration and encouraged the articulation and reproduction of difference. The processes of change through which high medieval unities were created were themselves divisive, while strengthened institutions, particularly the Church and papacy, fostered division and provided fora within which contending claims could be negotiated. New, widely disseminated media allowed difference to be more sharply articulated. The cosmopolitan elements in high medieval European culture, the article contends, bore within them the seed of the particular(istic), which ripened together with those same universalising currents. This dialectic of unity and plurality sheds a fresh light on the transition from the central to the later Middle Ages in Europe.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 7, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Apr 11, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 14, 2022
Journal English Historical Review
Print ISSN 0013-8266
Electronic ISSN 1477-4534
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 137
Issue 585
Pages 321-361
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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial
re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For
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