'REVOLUTION' AS AN HISTORIOGRAPHICAL CATEGORY FOR PRE-INDUSTRIAL EUROPE (from antiquity to the sixteenth century) Appendix I "REVIEW OF CONAL CONDREN <i> Status and Appraisal of Classic Texts </i> ;Appendix II "THE GERMAN ROYAL ELECTION OF 1125 AD"


  • J.O. Ward


revolution, culture, society,


The term 'revolution' -like the term 'feudalism'! -provides ·an opponunity for reflection on the construction of what may be seen as objective developments in history. It is also an invitation to ponder the mental processes and categories that determine and make possible such constructions. My purpose in this introductory2 paper, therefore, could well be seen as twofold:-

1) theoretical: to comment on what any theory of revolutions does or should imply;

2) chronological: to highlight such developments as have been dubbed revolutions in the period from antiquity to the 16th century by modern scholars and to ask why they have been so dubbed.

I do not, however, propose to linger over the first purpose above except to observe that the term 'revolution' is primarily a way of alening a reader to what one considers imponant about the past; that is, it underlines one's panicular philosophy of history, pinpoints one's passions and preoccupations. For the rest, the reader must construct his/her own impressions from the available literature3 and from the other papers in this volume.

My second purpose I hope to execute somewhat polemically, and sketchily. I have only made a very preliminary survey of what has been termed 'revolutionary' -or of what has not been so termed -for the period, in question, and that largely from textbooks. It may be, however, that the latter indicate the crystallization of large scale historiographical viewpoints rather better than monographs devoted to the empirical investigation of panicular projects or developments.