The Political Economy of Feudalism in Medieval Europe

Constitutional Political Economy (forthcoming)

27 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2020 Last revised: 29 Oct 2020

See all articles by Andrew T. Young

Andrew T. Young

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business

Date Written: October 2020


Why did enduring traditions of economic and political liberty arise in Western Europe? An answer to this question must be sought at the constitutional level. Within the medieval constitutional order, traditions of representative and limited government developed through patterns of constitutional bargaining. The politically fragmented landscape that emerged following the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the barbarian migrations was conducive to those patterns. In particular, that landscape was characterized by polycentric and hierarchical governance structures; within those structures, political property rights holders were sovereign and residual claimants to governance returns. I elaborate on why this environment of polycentric sovereignty promoted constitutional bargaining in the direction of good governance and greater liberty.

Keywords: Political and Economic Liberty; Medieval Western Europe; Polycentric Sovereignty; Constitutional Bargaining; Feudalism

JEL Classification: H11; H77; P16; P5

Suggested Citation

Young, Andrew T., The Political Economy of Feudalism in Medieval Europe (October 2020). Constitutional Political Economy (forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Andrew T. Young (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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