Spring 2004

SOCS 639
Early Modern Europe, 1350-1750: From Christian Commonwealth to Sovereign States

Printy,Michael O.

01/26/2004 - 05/08/2004
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 104

This course is a historical investigation into the emergence of the idea and reality of the modern sovereign state. It will be argued that although the "state" has come to be seen as a universal norm for political authority, its emergence was in fact conditioned by a number of intellectual, religious, geographic, and technological factors in the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern era. While our historical and geographic focus will be on the question of why the state emerged as it did in Early Modern Europe, due attention will be paid to the way in which that history is read and analyzed in light of contemporary concerns with "failed states," "nation building," the relationship of religion to political legitimacy, and the place of violence in political action.

As an institutional history, we will explore the techniques, mechanisms, and instruments by which the state successfully asserted its power over rival claimants (religious groups and institutions, clans and families, autonomous communities) through its bureaucracy, modern finance, and, above all, monopoly of military power. As a cultural and intellectual history, we will seek to understand how the state came to been seen as "legitimate," so that its authority was recognized--against the countervailing claims of other groups--even without the direct resort to violence. In a close reading of important primary texts, we will ask to what extent the emergence of a modern concept of the morally autonomous rational individual was indebted to the assertion of an all-powerful state that could enforce laws and preserve order and property without recourse to religious authority. What role did the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-reformation play in the consolidation of state authority and the weakening of the political power of religious institutions? We will also probe the limitation of these claims to authority, looking both at internal and external resistance to the all-embracing claims of the modern state.

Readings from primary sources include works by Dante, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jean Bodin, and Thomas Hobbes. Readings from secondary interpretations include works by Max Weber, Geoffrey Parker, Michael Walzer, Reinhard Koselleck, and Otto Brunner.

Students will be responsible for two papers and in-class presentations.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Michael Printy (B.A. Yale University; M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is visiting faculty in the history department. He specializes in European intellectual history, and is the author of Enlightenment and the Creation of German Catholicism (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and co-editor of A Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe (Brill, 2010). He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, German History, The Journal of the History of Ideas, and History and Theory. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is currently working on a book on religion and philosophy in the German Protestant Enlightenment.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Peter Blickle THE REVOLUTION OF 1525 (Johns Hopkins University Press) paperback

Bodin ON SOVEREIGNTY edited by Julian Franklin (Cambridge University Press) paperback

Dante MONARCHY translated by Prue Shaw (Cambridge University Press) paperback

Hobbes LEVIATHAN edited by Richard Tuck(Cambridge University Press) paperback

Reinhart Koselleck CRITIQUE AND CRISES (MIT Press) paperback

Geoffrey Parker THE MILITARY REVOLUTION 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press) paperback

Michael Walzer, THE REVOLUTION OF THE SAINTS 1982 (Harvard University Press) paperback


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