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Framing the Early Middle AgesEurope and the Mediterranean, 400—800$
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Chris Wickham

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199264490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264490.001.0001

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The Form of the State

The Form of the State

(p.56) 3 The Form of the State
Framing the Early Middle Ages

Chris Wickham

Oxford University Press

This chapter distinguishes between three sorts of polities. The first are strong states, such as the Roman empire and its Byzantine and Arab successors, based on taxation and a paid army as an independent resource for political power. The second are the weak states, such as the major Romano–Germanic kingdoms of Frankish Gaul, Lombard Italy, and Visigothic Spain, with a landed army but also a strong sense of public power acting as a focus for political legitimation. The third are pre-state systems of the northern world, such as the kingdoms of England, Wales, Ireland, and Denmark. The discussion focuses on the differences between strong and weak states, the basic difference being in the role of taxation. It looks to establish a set of parameters between the economic structures of political systems, inside the broad categories of strong, tax-based states and weak, land-based states.

Keywords:   strong states, weak states, pre-state systems, tax-based states, land-based states, role of taxation, kingdom of England, Romano–Germanic kingdoms

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