Medieval Thinking by Andrew Latham + Laurel Kriesel-Bigler

Feature

Medieval Thinking

Our Modern Rights Tradition Has Much Older Roots Than Many Realize
Andrew Latham & Laurel Kriesel-Bigler

The conventional account of the evolution of the modern rights tradition traces the birth of that tradition back to John Locke (1632–1704), the Glorious Revolution (1688), Thomas Paine (1737–1809), and the framers of the U.S. Constitution (1787–1789). According to this account, political and philosophical developments occurring first in early modern England and later in colonial America gave rise to a radically new understanding of rights.

The pre-modern understanding of rights—as articulated in the Magna Carta, for example—was that they were conditional claims made by people occupying particular social roles (vassals, for example) vis-à-vis people occupying different, and usually higher, social roles (lords, to continue the example). This understanding was radically reworked in the modern era, or so the conventional account would have it, by quintessentially modern thinkers like Locke, who redefined rights as unconditional and inalienable claims to such things as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness made by all persons against all other persons and especially the state.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Andrew Latham is a Professor of Political Science at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades (2011), The Holy Lance (2015), a novel dealing with the Third Crusade, and Medieval Sovereignty (2022).

Laurel Kriesel-Bigler is Prof. Latham's research assistant.


more on philosophy from the online archives

29.5—Sept/Oct 2016

The True Atheist Myth

on Past & Present Atheism & the Invention of Happiness by Jordan Bissell

32.3—May/June 2019

Theodicies & Messy Desks

on the Infinite Problem of Goods & Evil by Hugh Hunter

29.4—July/August 2016

The Very Idea

on Anselm's God & the Virtue of Existing  by Tara L. Jernigan

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

32.3—May/June 2019

Editing Jesus

on the Implications of Changing the Pater Noster by John M. McCarthy

31.6—November/December 2018

Virtue Gone Mad

Victimhood Culture Scapegoats Its Very Source by Michael P. Foley

35.4—Jul/Aug 2022

The Death Rattle of a Tradition

Contemporary Catholic Thinking on the Question of War by Andrew Latham

00