Court History

Clarissa Campbell Orr explains the recent revival in the history of courts, from those of the Byzantine emperors to that of Hitler.

There has been a recent revival of interest in studying the history of royal or princely courts which has found a focus in the Society for Court Studies, started in September 1995. The study of courts is taken in its widest sense, to consider the dynamics of power of any ruler, be it a Byzantine emperor or a twentieth-century dictator. In April 1998, Jeremy Noakes, in a paper to the Society’s annual conference, explored the nature of ‘courtiers’ in attendance on Hitler. He argued that modern elected politicians have their personal entourages, masters of spin, confidantes and mistresses, just as royal or princely courts in the past had their favourites, chief ministers, masters of ceremonies -- and mistresses. The formal structure of power and the means of its legitimisation may vary, but it is probably not too rash a generalisation to say that all power centres take on the character of courts.

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