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The State, Government and Politics

In this seminar we shall analyse debates about the concept of the state, state formation, and violence. I would like you to divide into pairs and prepare short presentations to stimulate our discussion. Each pair should address one of the following questions. Please ensure that the pairs look at different questions so that all the questions are covered. The further reading will help you to answer your question.

There are also essential readings that each of you should read, irrespective of what question you have chosen to talk about.

Essential reading:

  • Chittolini, Giorgio, ‘The "Private," the "Public," the "State"’ in The Origins of the State in Italy, 1300-1600Link opens in a new window, ed. Julius Kirshner, (Chicago, 1996), pp. 34-61.
  • Olson, Mancur, Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and Capitalist Dictatorships (New York, 2000), Chapter 1
  • Poggi, Gianfranco,The Development of the Modern State (London, 1978), Chapter 1 [Scan available here]Link opens in a new window
  • Viroli, Maurizio, 'Machiavelli and the Republican idea of Politics', n G Bock, Q. Skinner and M Viroli, Machiavelli and Republicanism (Cambridge, 1990)


  • What was the early modern state and where was it located?
  • What forms of early modern state existed and how differently did they function?
  • Does the early modern state do politics?
  • To what extent did early modern states claim "a monopoly of legitimate force"?

Further Reading:

Amirell, S. E., et al. (eds), Persistent Piracy: Maritime Violence and State-Formation in Global Historical Perspective Link opens in a new window(Basingstoke, 2014)

Barbalet, Jack, 'Violence and Politics: Reconsidering Weber's "Politics as a VocationLink opens in a new window’", Sociology (2020)

Boes, Maria R., Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Germany: courts and adjudicatory practices in Frankfurt am Main, 1562-1696 Link opens in a new window(Farnham, 2013)

Bonney, Richard, (ed.) The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, c.1200-1815 (Oxford, 1999)

Braddick, Michael, State Formation in Early Modern England, 1550-1700Link opens in a new window (Cambridge, 2000)

Carroll, Stuart, ed., Cultures of Violence: Interpersonal Violence in Historical PerspectiveLink opens in a new window (Basingstoke, 2007)

Davis, Ann E., 'Bringing Politics Back In: Violence, Finance, and the StateLink opens in a new window', Journal of Economic Issues 47:1 (2014), 219-246.

Elliott, J. H., Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830Link opens in a new window(New Haven, 2006)

Elliott, J. H., 'A Europe of Composite MonarchiesLink opens in a new window', Past and Present 137 (1992), 48-71

Friedland, Paul, Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment in France (Oxford, 2012)

Glete, Jan, War and the State in Early Modern Europe: Spain, the Dutch Republic and Sweden as Fiscal-Military States, 1500-1660Link opens in a new window (London, 2002)

Hughes, Steven C., 'Soldiers and Gentlemen: The Rise of the Duel in Renaissance ItalyLink opens in a new window', Journal of Medieval Military History 5 (2007), 99–152.

Kadare, Ishmail, Broken April (London, 1990)

Kollmann, Nancy, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern RussiaLink opens in a new window (Cambridge, 2012)

Lane, F. C., 'Economic Consequences of Organized ViolenceLink opens in a new window', Journal of Economic History 18 (1958), 401-17.

Lane, F. C., Profits from Power: Readings in Protection Rent and Violence-Controlling Enterprises (Albany, 1979)

Lidman, Satu, 'Violence or justice? Gender-specific structures and strategies in early modern EuropeLink opens in a new window', The History of the Family 18 (2013), 238-60.

Merback, Mitchell B., The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance EuropeLink opens in a new window (London, 2001)

Poggi, Gianfranco,The Development of the Modern State (London, 1978), Chapters 2-4.

Povolo, Claudio, 'Liturgies of Violence: Social Control and Power Relationships in the Republic of Venice between the 16th and 18th Centuries', in Eric R. Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian History 1400-1797Link opens in a new window (Leiden, 2013), pp. 513-42.

Rowbotham, Judith, et al. (eds), Shame, Blame, and Culpability: Crime and Violence in the Modern StateLink opens in a new window (London, 2014)

Ruff, Julius R., Violence in Early Modern Europe 1500-1800Link opens in a new window (Cambridge, 2001), Chapters 2 and 3.

Sandberg, Brian, War and Conflict in the Early Modern World: 1500-1700Link opens in a new window (London, 2016)

Sandberg, Brian, Warrior Pursuits: Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern FranceLink opens in a new window (Baltimore, 2010)

Skinner, Quentin,‘The State’ in Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, ed. Terence Ball et al., (Cambridge, 1989), Chapter 5.

Thomson, Janice, E., Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns: State-Building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern EuropeLink opens in a new window (Princeton, N.J, 1994)

Tilly, Charles, Coercion, Capital, and European States, A.D.990-1992, rev. ed. (Oxford, 1992)

Tilly, Charles, ‘War-Making and State-Making as Organized CrimeLink opens in a new window’, in Peter B. Evans et al., eds, Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 169-191

Tlusty, B. Ann, The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany: Civic Duty and the Right of ArmsLink opens in a new window (Basingstoke, 2011)

Weber, Max, 'Politics as VocationLink opens in a new window', in Max Weber's Complete Writings on Academic and Political Vocations, ed. John Dreijmanis, trans. Gordon C. Wells (New York, 2008), pp. 126-166

Yun-Casalilla, Bartolomé, and Patrick O'Brien, eds., The Rise of Fiscal States: A Global History, 1500-1914Link opens in a new window (Cambridge, 2012)

You might also like this transcript of a lecture by Quentin Skinner

Jacques Callot, L'estrapade (1633) (detail)

Jacques Callot, L'estrapade (1633) (detail)