The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715

By Keefe, Thomas M. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715


Keefe, Thomas M., The Catholic Historical Review


The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715. By Paul Kleber Monod. (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. 1999. Pp. x,417. $35.00.)

By his own admission Monod found it necessary to narrow the scope of his project by eliminating a consideration of monarchy and religion in Africa and Asia. Nevertheless, he has produced an impressive study of the evolution of monarchy in early modern Europe from an institution that represented godly ideals to one that had begun to absorb the rationalism of enlightened liberalism. Even with a narrower focus, his finished product will be a challenging and stimulating exercise for readers interested in the history of ideas. His research has resulted in an impressive array of primary and secondary sources in several languages,which are displayed in more than seventy-five pages of notes. He will utilize the observations of a wide range of famous and ordinary contemporaries to support his arguments. As a scholar of English history, Monod is obviously more familiar with western European conditions; however, he includes material from translations pertaining to Scandinavian, Polish, and Russian experiences in order to treat Europe as a whole. His comparative analyses demonstrate that he has mastered the political and religious details and their implications; moreover, he fortifies and expands upon many of his arguments with references to philosophy, social theory, anthropology, and literature. One will also discover photographs of thirty-five paintings and statues associated with the images of kingship that are deftly assessed in the text.

In his introductory chapter Monod defines and discusses terminology that will be applied consistently as his story unfolds. Unlike other studies that deal with the exercise of monarchical power, he indicates that he will place more emphasis on the importance of religious beliefs. For instance he points out how Renaissance humanism began to challenge traditional Christian views at a time when monarchs were faced with a substantial population increase, dynamic economic change, and escalating social instability, conditions that weakened their authority. …

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