The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660

The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660

The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660

The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660

Synopsis

Rich in detail and original in approach, The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660 studies diverse themes in this time period of history, such as Reformation, witchcraft, diplomacy, population structure, the growth of capitalism, wars of religion, and wars of expansion. Bonney includes in his study the Scandinavian countries and Russia, areas frequently neglected by historians. Notes, maps, a chronology, and a guide to further reading will make this indispensable for students of early modern Europe.

Excerpt

The choice of the title The European Dynastic States may at first appear rather odd and even antiquated for a history of early modern Europe. The risk is that it seems to impose an old-fashioned approach on the complex interaction of economic, social, cultural and governmental change in the key historical period analysed here. No such implication is intended. While not all early modern European states were truly dynastic within the definition given in this book, the sense of dynasty was of enormous importance everywhere. Even republican regimes such as Venice or the United Provinces acknowledged this, albeit tacitly, by drawing up specific rules precluding the emergence of a ruling family. At Venice, this led to the institution of a figurehead chief of state (the Doge) and, in the United Provinces, to an attempt in 1654 to exclude on a permanent basis members of the house of Orange from any right to rule in the state. Although these two states appeared to have secured their 'freedom' by avoiding princely rule, there was always a danger of reversion. Almost everywhere else in Europe, ruling dynasties were in place by 1660 if not by 1494, enjoying greater or lesser power in accordance with the prevailing rules of succession, the governmental system and the cultural values both of the dynasty and its subjects.

Even the term 'state' in the early modern period is very hard to interpret. Where did the state begin and where did it end, in terms of political realities, given the absence of a clear distinction between what was 'public' and what was 'private? When does the 'modern' state emerge as a permanent, impersonal, coercive power which stands apart from the private concerns of a ruling dynasty? There are no simple answers to these questions. Indeed, the year 1989-90 in which this book was completed might seem the worst possible date to attempt an answer, since it also saw the launching of a four-year scientific programme on the origins of the modern state under the auspices of the European Science Foundation. Seven teams of European scholars have been set the task of considering the themes of war and competition between state systems; economic systems and state finance; the legal instruments of power; ruling classes and agents of the state; representation, resistance and sense of community; the individual in political theory and practice; and iconography, propaganda and legitimation. The mass of interpretation and documentation that will be published in 1993 would, no doubt, have changed the final shape and content of this book had it been available in 1989. Certainly, the scholarly community as a whole will not be able to disregard . . .

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