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Questioning the Capetians, 1180–1328



The sharp ascent of Capetian power between the reigns of Philip II Augustus (r. 1180–1223) and Philip IV the Fair (r. 1285–1314) is an axiom of medieval French history. In the mid-20th century, French and American institutional historians focused on governmental developments in analyzing the means by which the Capetian kings increased their real authority. But because Capetian power was also understood to have rested as much on ideological claims as on brute force, 20th century historians from Marc Bloch to Joseph Strayer already recognized cultural components as crucial to this story. Consequently, later 20th century turns toward cultural history and post-structural theory did not so much undermine as open up new possibilities for this established narrative. Most recently, a sophisticated new brand of institutional history has emerged to further invigorate a thriving field, which defines Capetian power in ways that necessitate the inclusion of ideology, art, sanctity, gender, crusade, persecution, and intellectual authority in an overarching conceptualization of the period's political history.