Friendship Networks in Medieval Europe: New models of a political relationship

Friendship Networks in Medieval Europe: New models of a political relationship

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Friendship Networks in Medieval Europe: New models of a political relationship

Julian P. Haseldine

AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2013) 1: 69-88


This article proposes a model of political friendship in the European Middle Ages drawn from current research into medieval friendship networks. It reviews the main interpretive and methodological developments in network studies for this period, now emerging as a distinct research area from the more established fields of the theory and philosophy of friendship and the study of particular relationships and their emotional content. Recent research proposes friendship as a distinct category of social and political relations separate from patronage, kinship and other bonds, in ways which mark a break from earlier, anthropologically-based approaches.

Medieval friendship was a formal, public bond to which collective and institutional relationships were integral and which was emotional but not private or individualistic. Trust-building is proposed as an interpretive framework which can account for the historical evidence of friendships in practice in ways which established models of spiritual, affective or instrumental friendship cannot. Finally, it is suggested that the apparent discontinuities with modern friendship relate more to differences in discourse and ethical framing than to the practical experience of friendly bonds, and that functional rather than theoretical studies of medieval friendship offer a basis for comparative study of modern and pre-modern friendship.

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