In Our Time: Marsilius of Padua - George Garnett talks with Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time BBC Radio 4

Thursday 30 May - BBC Radio 4

George Garnett, Professor of medieval History at Oxford, together with Annabel Brett (Cambridge), and Serena Ferente (Amsterdam) spoke on BBC Radio 4 "In Our Time", in an episode on Marsilius of Padua. Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed this canonical figure from the history of political thought.

Marsilius of Padua (c1275 to c1343) wrote Defensor Pacis (The Defender of the Peace) around 1324 when the Papacy, the Holy Roman Emperor and the French King were fighting over who had supreme power on Earth. In this work Marsilius argued that the people were the source of all power and they alone could elect a leader to act on their behalf; they could remove their leaders when they chose and, afterwards, could hold them to account for their actions. He appeared to favour an elected Holy Roman Emperor and he was clear that there were no grounds for the Papacy to have secular power, let alone gather taxes and wealth, and that clerics should return to the poverty of the Apostles. Protestants naturally found his work attractive in the 16th Century when breaking with Rome. In the 20th Century Marsilius has been seen as an early advocate for popular sovereignty and republican democracy, to the extent possible in his time.