Getting Mediaeval

James Lawrence

It is a good thing that mediaevalists know all about doing homagegoing to Canossa, and suchlike. Given the direct descent of progressivism from the early-modern Protestantism, humanism and classicism that overthrew the mediaeval era, it is not surprising that most people today still view that era as a period of barbarism. But the fort of anti-mediaevalism has long lain undefended in the progressivist rear, and mediaevalists (like Regine Pernoud) are generally free to walk up and demolish whole sections of it. Claims that mediaeval Europeans did not bathe or have table manners, that the Spanish Inquisition was a terrible holocaust, or that the scholars opposing Columbus in the 1490s thought that the Earth was flat, have all gone into the urban myths dustbin.

But now along comes the Alt-Right with a few ‘Deus Vult’ memes, and suddenly mediaevalism is controversial again. An achingly politically-correct article notes the Alt-Right’s habitual use of mediaeval themes, and casts a suspicious eye on scholars who may be using the history of mediaeval Europe as a “safe space to be white” while “resisting critical theory”. Expect a rush by mediaevalists to signal their political correctness by approving a non-white job grab in their field, rehashing old canards about benign Muslim influence and Andalusian paradise, and pretending to give a respectful hearing to “we-wuz-kangz” Afrocentric gibberish about European historical figures.

For our own part, however, we should examine this tendency towards mediaevalism in the Alt-Right, some of which goes considerably further than memeing. Is this the epitome of LARPing, or does it contain some deeper internal logic that would justify it, even in its occasional excesses? This depends on the intentions behind Alt-Right mediaevalism.

“LARPing” would be the likely result of any attempt to restore the mediaeval order by sheer force of will, especially where little or no trace of it remains to be preserved. This is probably true of all attempts to directly imitate a bygone era, but there seems to be a particular contradiction in terms when it comes to imitiation of the Middle Ages. One of Pernoud’s major reasons for defending the mediaeval civilisation was its ability to inherit a great deal from antiquity, yet still produce a culture sprung from its own time and place, whereas those who followed the mediaevals and considered themselves superior to them were bound to slavish imitation of classical forms. We can look to the Middle Ages for a certain degree of guidance, but if we do this correctly, the result will bear little overt resemblance to mediaevalism.

Another thing that we can do is to reclaim some ideas and concepts from mediaeval Europe in a forward-looking way, for use in our present struggle. This process of reclaiming history is anathema to “objective” historians, but God help the metapolitical movement that fails to engage in it.

As for why we should look to the Middle Ages over other areas of the European past, this question is easy to answer: this era was the source of the particular European tradition that, however altered in the course of the early modern period, was overthrown by revolutionary progressivism after 1789. Hence, if we are to restore Europe to any kind of traditional order, our yardstick for this endeavour shall have to be the tradition stemming from the Middle Ages, and not the more remote European traditions whose pursuit can only be an alluring distraction. This is implicitly understood by progressivist dogmatists, who can lay claim to antiquity far more easily than to the mediaeval era, leaving the memory of Christendom as relatively “free” ideological territory to be claimed by us.

In addition, there are incidental resemblances between our present era and the mediaeval one. For one thing, the era of Christendom offers us a reference point for European identity in a future multipolar world, because it predated the colonialist era in which the white race gained an unprecedented supremacy over every other race on the planet. Although we are all supposed to be “white supremacists” according to the likes of the Ashkenazi Defamation League, the truth is that it is impossible for modern defenders of Europeans to anchor themselves in any vision originating from the colonialist period, because the apotheosis of colonialist world-domination and sublimated white arrogance is found in progressivist Cosmopolitanism. (Thus, when BNP leader Nick Griffin tried to claim the figure of Winston Churchill in his famous televised pillorying, Labour politician Jack Straw responded by praising non-white colonial troops in the Second World War to waves of smug applause, only just stopping short of breaking into Kipling’s Gunga Din.) Progressivist Cosmopolitanism taps into white complacency, neo-colonialist schemes, and the desire for swarthy slave labour far more effectively than any misty-eyed colonialist reminisciences ever could; and the use of mediaevalist themes may induce some of us to wash their hands of this detritus and take up a better framework for European advocacy.

deusvultmemeThe mediaeval era also predates the rise of the sovereign nation-state, which is increasingly being disintegrated or hollowed out in many parts of the world, and is under long-term attack in the West from the alliance of transnational Cosmopolitan elites and foreign immigrant hordes. In this case, too, modern developments seem to produce a recurrence of the distant past: firstly because civilisational identity (e.g. Islam vs. the West) has survived all attempts to render national identity irrelevant, and secondly because the war of non-state actors (4GW) theorised by William S. Lind bears some resemblances to premodern warfare. Non-state war is low-tech, devoid of clear rules and boundaries, nasty, brutish and long, and often centred on organisations united by identity and idealism rather than territorial national identity – and according to Lind, the immigrant hordes and progressivist attacks on national sovereignty will inevitably bring this form of war to the West.

The decreased relevance of the nation-state has important repercussions for our present metapolitical struggle, as can be seen in the Fifth Political Theory (general introduction here) being worked on by ‘Titus Quintius’. According to this theory, nationalism is a dead letter in the eyes of both the ruling elites (who are actively hostile to it) and the majority populations of Western countries (who are mostly indifferent to it), and the long failed struggle of pro-white Rightist forces to capture nation-states through political action must be brought to an end. Instead, we should adopt a model of non-state organisation suitable to a “diaspora tribe”: concentrating on building a solid network of people who are on our side rather than trying to convert a hostile or indifferent mass, and aiming at effective control of resources, spaces and infrastructure rather than wasting time on elections.

This theory is not without its problems. Like neoreactionary passivism, it may threaten to become a rigid strategic dogma excluding all other options – which would lead us to forget that many opportunities for action still exist within the nation-state, and that many diaspora tribes were forged in battles for control of territorial states that just happened to be lost. But 5PT brilliantly cuts through two of the most self-defeating assumptions on the Alt-Right: 1) that “our people” means everyone of European ancestry in our territorial states, including hostile Cosmopolitans and apathetic deracinated mannequins; and 2) “we just have to get x number of native idiots to vote for us, and we lose forever when our enemies manage to import x number of foreign idiots to vote against us”. Even if our end goal is control of a territorial state, we need to move past this mentality and create a tighter, more cohesive organisational model, one that does not depend on winning over the masses or trying to vote the present order out of existence.

The mediaeval era of our history can yield us some useful concepts for use in our present circumstances. But before going into these in detail, however, I should first take a moment to dismiss those mediaeval concepts that are not so useful, especially as some of these are more strongly associated with mediaevalism in the popular imagination.

One of the least useful concepts, in my view, is the autonomous and hereditary aristocracy of the Middle Ages. Although elitism is a fact of life that must be acknowledged, the ideals of blood nobility are far more alien to us than those of autocratic monarchy (it is telling that Giambattista Vico placed aristocracy in his mythical “age of heroes” while locating both monarchy and democracy in the present “age of men”). If there is any modern development that can be called “neo-feudal”, it is surely the progressivist dystopia in which wealthy gated communities (in older parlance, “castles”) virtue-signal over country-sized favelas crammed with multi-racial peons, and this ought to make some of us heed the maxim to be careful what you wish for. And if we should object that the Cosmopolitan elite is a kakistocracy, an inverted parody of true nobility, this does not mean that a positive form of aristocracy can be restored in the present day; the saying that “the best argument against democracy is a conversation with the average voter” could work just as well if we substitute “neo-aristocracy” for “democracy”, and “professed neo-aristocrat” for “voter”.

Regrettably, a similar verdict must be passed on the Distributism of G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, which in Belloc’s Servile State is outlined as a restoration of the small-ownership society that existed in mediaeval England prior to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. To be sure, I certainly think that members of the Alt-Right should strive for small-scale ownership and self-employment if possible, if only to achieve relative freedom from thoughtcrime persecution. But in a massified world dominated by economies of scale, it would be difficult to extend the small-ownership model to the society at large; the most likely half-measure would be distribution of a company’s shares amongst its employees, but this would only represent one of those “diffusions of ownership” that advantage the managerial class (see Sam Francis’s Leviathan and Its Enemies). It is difficult to see how a mass society can be run without some form of managerialism, and pragmatism should be the watchword in making this serve our ideals.

With regards to a return to monarchy, which descends from mediaeval kingship, my verdict is mixed. The neoreactionary movement has furnished us with many arguments for the inherent instability of democracy and the necessity of autocratic government, and we cannot rule out the idea that such a measure may become necessary for the fulfillment of our cause. However, speaking in aesthetic and cultural terms, surely this is the worst possible place for direct mediaevalist imitation. There is a good reason why the ancient Romans, having instituted autocratic government after the civil wars of the late Republic, called their monarch an imperator (“commander”) rather than offend their own identity as a people who prided themselves on being free from the rule of kings.


The Holy Roman Empire.

Recalling the earlier discussion of Fifth Political Theory (5PT) and the decreasing relevance of the nation-state, I would say that there are two major concepts from the mediaeval era that can serve us as ideal models in the present day. They are: 1) the knightly-religious Order (which in the Middle Ages included the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitallers, Teutonic Knights, and so on), and 2) the Empire (which in the Middle Ages meant the Holy Roman Empire centred on Germany). The knightly-religious Order is an organisational model that could be started up tomorrow, while the Empire is a more distant ideal, through which we can look back not only to mediaeval Christendom but also to imperial Rome.

These concepts enable us to resolve a contradiction in 5PT: that while the practical model of European Rightist organisation must get smaller and more tight-knit, the ultimate ideal of our struggle must become greater than ever before. A diaspora tribe clinging on for dear life in its conquered homelands would have little reason to preserve itself merely for preservation’s own sake, especially when absorption into the “tide of colour” would bring its members social privileges; as Ortega y Gasset argued in Revolt of the Masses, a nation must be unified and disciplined by a great project, which is not supplied by such narrowly reductionist concepts as “ethnic interests”. The project suggested by Ortega (in 1930) was the unification of Europe into a sovereign state; and this dream, in the form of Reconquista and eventual Third Empire, can also serve as the common project of non-state organisations under the theoretical framework of 5PT.

The knightly-religious Orders of the Middle Ages can serve as an exemplar of militant unity in a common cause, which could not be broken merely by the loss of certain territories or states: the Knights Templar survived the loss of the Holy Land, and the Teutonic Knights survived the loss of their Baltic wars and the secularisation of their Prussian state. In present-day conquered Europe, modern lay ‘Orders’ based loosely on their example could behave much like 5PT’s “diaspora tribes”, yet also act as the driving force behind all sorts of larger-scale political parties, cultural associations and business organisations dedicated to the cause of Europe. In the long term, they could act as the nucleus for a “redeclaration” of the European nations outside of their parasitised and corrupted states (imagine Orders of ‘True’ Englishmen, Germans, Swedes, etc.).

The Empire requires a little more explanation, as many moderns tend to see its mediaeval form as a bad joke, rather than a polity that lasted twice as long as the Roman Empire itself. Although the Holy Roman Empire was centred on Germany, it claimed legitimate descent from the Roman Empire through the concept of “imperial translation” (dating from Charlemagne’s coronation by Pope Leo III as Roman Emperor in 800), and upheld a universal mission of defending Christendom from inner and outer enemies. In theory, the Holy Roman Emperor stood at the pinnacle of mediaeval Europe’s complex feudal hierarchy, and only an Emperor (or, more controversially, a Pope) could make a king. The Empire’s corporate social order, built on organic and hierarchical foundations completely different from and opposed to modern concepts of abstract “liberty”, profoundly influenced the native conservatism of Central Europe that tended to prevail until the conquest and devastation of Germany in 1945.

Initially the Third Empire would exist only as an ideal, one which simultaneously looks back to mediaeval Christendom and imperial Rome, while powerfully delegitimising the modern order as a mere “interregnum”. In the future event of even wildly successful political action by the True Right, the most likely initial result would be a patchwork of nationalist states and non-state organisations (i.e. the Orders described above) across Europe and the West, and the inevitable alliance of these against their Cosmopolitan and foreign-occupied counterparts would lead to the first political manifestation of the Empire. But the ideal form of the Third Empire – particularly the extent of its centre’s authority over its component parts – is a topic too large and controversial to treat here, and thus I beg leave to defer it for now to the imaginations of readers. The only requirement is that we should strive to equal and outdo the works of our ancestors.


    • He used the proverbial 10,000 words to say what could be said in one, but I suspect he lacks both the courage and the implication of that one word…. because of this one word he is forced to pick and choose elements of medieval history ever failing to understand what made it and why it worked and thus all his plans are for naught. For lack of a word, the horse was lost…….Whats that word?

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      • Spit out the name of your hobbyhorse, churl. If you’re alluding to traditional Christianity, it rather goes without saying in the bit about restoring the tradition immediately predating the modern world, doesn’t it?