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Politics and State Building or Revolutions

This session examines theories of the rise of the state in Western Europe and its distinctive character(s) – and at the way in which contemporaries and subsequent commentators understood these processes; it focuses on the state’s internal organisation, its relationship to the Church and the military, and its patterns of legitimation – and at moments of state failure and revolution. Students should develop an understanding of different constructions of the state and the extent to which these were in operation at different moments of crisis in history.

Students will read a combination of modern analyses of state formation, and a series of selections from classical texts that will form the basis for short presentations.

Core Texts:


Quentin Skinner, ‘The State’ in Ball et al., Political Innovation and Conceptual Change ch 5
J Elliot, A Europe of Composite Monarchies Past and Present 137 (1992) pp. 48-71

G. Poggi, The Development of the Modern State 2nd ed. ch 2-4


Students should read Skinner and Poggi and should prepare a presentation using the following bibliography on how far thinking about the nature of state building helps us to understand one of the following four issues (aiming for a distribution of the issues across the group):

1. Charles I's policies towards Parliament in the 1630s and 40s
2. The succession crisis in the Ottoman empire between Suleyman and Mehmed
3. Hanoverian state policy in relation to commerce
4. Absolutism and the collapse of the ancien regime in France

Classical Texts on Statecraft and Politics:
Machiavelli, The Prince
Hobbes, Leviathan
Henry Home, Lord Kames , Historical Law Tracts 4th Ed., Essay 1, Criminal Law
Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political

1.The English Revolution

Hobbes, Leviathan
Charles I, Answer to the 19 Propositions http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1642-propositions-made-by-parliament-and-charles-i-s-answer
Conrad Russell, ed The Origins of the Civil War 1973 ch 1-3

2. Ottoman World:
Leslie Pierce, The Imperial Harem (OUP, )
Frederick F. Anscombe, State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands ch 1-3 (CUP, 2014)
Baki Tezcan, The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World (CUP 2010) ch 4

3. Commerce and the State
J Brewer, The Sinews of Power
P. Harding and P. Mandler ‘Fiscal-Military" State to Laissez-Faire State, 1760-1850’
Istvan Hont, The Jealousy of Trade

4. French Revolution:
T Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions
John Dunn, Rethinking Modern Political Theory, ch . 4.

Secondary Texts:
Norbert Elias, State Formation and Civilisation pt 3, ch 2.
R. Friedeburg, Luther's Legacy, The thirty years war and the modern notion of the state (CUP, 2016) ch. 1 and 7
P. Abrams, Historical Sociology ch 6 The problem of Design: The Formation of States

General works on the rise of the idea of the modern state:
M. Viroli, Reasons of State
Aylmer, The State’s Servants
Q Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought

General works on the sociology of the modern state:
Adam Przeworski, The State and the Economy under Capitalism,
B. Badie and P. Birnbaum, The Sociology of the State (Chicago, 1983)