‘Reason of state’ or ‘reason of princes’? The ‘new monarchy’ and its opponents in France, Germany and the Netherlands, during the seventeenth century

A new synthesis about the transformation of early modern rule is necessary, since older assumptions about the making of an institutional bureaucratic state have been undermined. As a consequence, early modern comments on ‘reason of state’ need to be re-interpreted. They were often (mis-)understood as mirroring the gradual replacement of medieval rule based on personal ties and Christian values by institutionalized power states. Since the 1950s, many of the assumptions on which this interpretation was based have been questioned.
The project will re-interpret these comments as ‘reason of princes’, analyzing the fundamental transformation in the nature of early modern rule not in terms of state building, but as driven by participation in war on an unprecedented scale and by new constellations within society backing up the enormous increases in war related burdens. It will summarize this new constellation as ‘new monarchy’.

The project will link this re-interpretation with evidence from pamphlet polemics and estate debates on princely politics. Both sources reflected the debate within society over war-politics and the new constellations in society favoring it. By combining research on contemporary analyses of princely politics with research on the struggle within societies about the consequences of princely politics, the project will contribute to a new synthesis of the nature of Early Modern rule that will be addressed as ‘new monarchy’. This combination of intellectual and social history with an international comparison makes this project unique in its kind.

Prof. Dr. Robert von Friedeburg


Spring 2011 (pending on funding) - Spring 2015

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