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State Formation and Violence

In this seminar we shall analyse debates about the concept of the state, state formation, and violence. I would like students to divide up the following questions between them and prepare short presentations to stimulate our discussion. There are essential readings that all students should read, irrespective of what question you have chosen to talk about.

Essential reading:


  • What was the early modern state and where was it located?
  • What forms of early modern state existed and how differently did they function?
  • How did states differ across Europe?
  • How did the growth of empires affect state formation?
  • What was the role of the fiscal-military in state formation?
  • 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 (Basingstoke, 2014)

Barbalet, Jack, 'Violence and Politics: Reconsidering Weber's "Politics as a Vocation’", Sociology (2020)

Boes, Maria R., Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Germany: courts and adjudicatory practices in Frankfurt am Main, 1562-1696 (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, 1550-1700 (Cambridge, 2000)

Carroll, Stuart, ed., Cultures of Violence: Interpersonal Violence in Historical Perspective (Basingstoke, 2007)

Davis, Ann E., 'Bringing Politics Back In: Violence, Finance, and the State', Journal of Economic Issues 47:1 (2014), 219-246.

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

Elliott, J. H., 'A Europe of Composite Monarchies', 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, 1500-1660 (London, 2002)

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

Kollmann, Nancy, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (Cambridge, 2012)

Lane, F. C., 'Economic Consequences of Organized Violence', 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 Europe', 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 Europe (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 1400-1797 (Leiden, 2013), pp. 513-42.

Rowbotham, Judith, et al. (eds), Shame, Blame, and Culpability: Crime and Violence in the Modern State (London, 2014)

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

Sandberg, Brian, War and Conflict in the Early Modern World: 1500-1700 (London, 2016)

Sandberg, Brian, Warrior Pursuits: Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France (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 Europe (Princeton, N.J, 1994)

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

Tlusty, B. Ann, The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany: Civic Duty and the Right of Arms (Basingstoke, 2011)

Weber, Max, 'Politics as Vocation', 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, 1500-1914 (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)