As I have noted before, Toby E. Huff in 2010 published his book Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective, which inspired this essay. He was also the author of the modern classic The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West.
Although some scholars prefer to trace Europe’s defining moment back to the ancient Greeks of the Axial Age in 800-300 BC, Huff believes that a transformative event took place in Western Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, with an extraordinary medieval fusion between Greek philosophy, Roman law and Christian theology. Other major civilizations such as China, India and the Islamic world lagged behind with respect to scientific innovation or the creation of representative political institutions like parliaments.
The theory of corporate existence, as understood by Roman civil law and refashioned by the medieval Canonists, granted legal autonomy to entities such as cities and towns, universities, charitable organizations and merchant guilds as well as professional groups represented by surgeons and physicians. All of these entities were enabled to create their own rules and regulations and, in the case of cities, establish their own courts of law. Nothing like this kind of autonomy existed in Islamic law, Chinese law or Hindu law of an earlier age.
Huff argues that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed a social revolution that laid the institutional foundations upon which modern science was later constructed. At the heart of this development was the jurisprudential idea of a corporation, a collection of individuals who were recognized as a singular “whole body” and granted legitimate legal autonomy.
Read the rest at Europe News.