Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

John McNally

Second Advisor

John Sommerfeldt

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access



The focus of this study has derived, in part, from the experience of teaching a course in "The History of Social Thought" to undergraduate sociology majors. The more comprehensive texts in the field accord Dante some notice. But the treatment he receives as a social thinker is uniformly patronizing. One of the most substantial and adequate of these texts, for example -- the three-volume study by Howard Becker and Harry Elmer Barnes-- has this to say:

The key to Dante's character and to his social theory as well is to be found in the fact that "world peace was the target at which all his shafts were sped." It is interesting to note that the two other members of the trio who lent luster to the first quarter of the fourteenth century, Pierre DuBois and Marsiglio of Padua, also longed for an end of' the strife that surrounded them. However much they may have differed in other respects, they were all greatly concerned with the problem of preserving peace in Christian Europe. With Dante, indeed, it was the dominating practical passion of his life, for it was not only the root of his political activity, the basis of his De monarchia and omnipresent in other prose works but was also a leading thread in the Commedia. Indeed, not a few scholars look upon the Divine Comedy as fundamentally a Ghibelline political pamphlet designed to advance the prospects of Can Grande della Scala in the unification of Italy. Although this may be true, it would be unfair to Dante if we were ever to lose sigh of the fact that his aim was always peace, never mere partisan advantage.1