Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The national state in Western Europe was a new institution, without precedent in the European World. Its rise and almost immediate conflict with the Church challenged political theorists to reexamine the assumptions of a universal church in a universal empire upon which the theory of the two swords was based. These assumptions were so generally accepted that they were not easily abandoned. In the fourteenth century Marsiglia of Padua, for all his disinterest in the two swords, had arrived at his conclusions without denying either the existence of a universal church or the validity of the traditional morality. Other writers who defended the concentration of authority in royal hands sometimes stressed the power accorded the prince in Roman law or appealed to the need for a firm hand in maintaining peace and order in the state. But these writers remained firmly committed to an ideal of justice in political relationship which had its origin in Greek, Roman, and Christian sources. It remained for a figure of the Italian Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), to make the decisive break with the past, which indeed Marsiglia had foreshadowed, an divorce politics from morality. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section V: The Rise of Capitalism and the National State to 1500. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.