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What makes a successful government?

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Laura E. Wangerin challenges traditional views of the Ottonian Empire’s rulership. Drawing from a broad array of sources including royal and imperial diplomas, manuscript illuminations, and histories, Ottonian kingship and the administration of justice are investigated using traditional historical and comparative methodologies as well as through the application of innovative approaches such as modern systems theories. This study suggests that distinctive elements of the Ottonians’ governing apparatus, such as its decentralized structure, emphasis on the royal iter, and delegation of authority, were essential features of a highly developed political system. Kingship and Justice in the Ottonian Empire provides a welcome addition to English-language scholarship on the Ottonians, as well as to scholarship dealing with rulership and medieval legal studies.
Scholars have recognized the importance of ritual and symbolic behaviors in the Ottonian political sphere, while puzzling over the apparent lack of administrative organization, a contradiction between what we know about the Ottonians as successful rulers and their traditional characterization as rulers of a disorganized polity. Trying to account for the apparent disparity between their political and military achievements, cultural and artistic efflorescence, and relative dynastic stability, which seemingly accompanied a disinterest in writing law or creating a centralized hierarchical administration, is a tension that persists in the scholarship. This book argues that far from being accidental successes or employing primitive methods of governance, the Ottonians were shrewd rulers and administrators who exploited traditional methods of conflict resolution and delegated jurisdictional authority to keep control over their vast empire. Thus, one of the important things that this book aims to accomplish is to challenge our preconceived notions of what successful government looks like.

Laura E. Wangerin is Assistant Professor of History at Seton Hall University.

Kingship and Justice in the Ottonian Empire offers a compelling, realistic, and organic approach to Ottonian government. . . . a welcome addition to Anglophone scholarship on Medieval Germany.”
—John Bernhardt, San Jose State University

"Wangerin has written a detailed, well-researched, thoughtful, and interesting book, well-placed in context, suitable for students and researchers of the Ottonians and for readers who wish to step outside the more frequently studied worlds of the earlier and later medieval periods."
-- Royal Studies Journal

- Penelope Nash

"Laura Wangerin's Kingship and Justice in the Ottonian Empire valuably challenges the ample historiography that denigrates the Ottonian government as primitive, illegible, or inexplicable because it was non-legislative... Wangerin argues persuasively that the Ottonian emperors were aware of the power that came with legislative bureaucracies and centralization, but that they chose more traditional methods of conflict resolution and delegation of authority in order to maintain peace effectively in the Ottonian Empire." - Andrew Steck, The Medieval Review

- Andrew Steck

"Laura E. Wangerin challenges traditional views of the Ottonian kingship... the book offers a detailed, well-researched analysis of Ottonian kingship. It can be a useful tool for both researchers and students of the Ottonian period."

- Central European History

"It is great to see another book in English on this fascinating period, especially one as well researched, wide ranging and thoughtful as Kingship and Justice." —German History

- Simon MacLean