Professor Giora Sternberg

Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV (Oxford, 2014; pbk ed. 2016)

Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV

Who preceded whom? Who wore what? Which form of address should one use? One of the most striking aspects of the early modern period is the crucial significance that contemporaries ascribed to such questions. In this hierarchical world, status symbols did not simply mirror a pre-defined social and political order; rather, they operated as a key tool for defining and redefining identities, relations, and power. Centuries later, scholars face the twofold challenge of

evaluating status interaction in an era where its open pursuit is no longer as widespread and legitimate, and of deciphering its highly sophisticated and often implicit codes.
Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV addresses this challenge by investigating status interaction - in dress as in address, in high ceremony and in everyday life - at one of its most important historical arenas: aristocratic society at the time of Louis XIV. By recovering actual practices on the ground based on a wide array of printed and manuscript sources, it transcends the simplistic view of a court revolving around the Sun King and reveals instead the multiple  perspectives of contesting actors, stakes, and strategies. Demonstrating the wide-ranging implications of the phenomenon, macro-political as well as micro-political, this study provides a novel framework for understanding early modern action and agency.


My research and publications to date have largely focused on two broad themes at the intersection among political, social, and cultural history: symbolic interaction and writing practices. My first book, Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV (OUP, 2014; pbk ed. 2016; shortlisted for the Royal History Society Gladstone Prize), investigates how and why individuals and groups expressed, shaped, and contested social positions in a variety of contexts, from high ceremonies to everyday routines. For contemporaries, status interaction operated as a key tool for defining and redefining identities, relations, and power; for scholars, it provides a novel lens for understanding early modern action and agency. The two themes combine in my work on correspondence, especially in my Past & Present article from 2009, which has offered a systematic framework for understanding letters as textual and material vehicles of status.

My current main research project, titled 'Writing Acts: The Power of Writing in the Ancien Régime' (under contract with Oxford University Press), explores the direct practical impact of manuscript forms in the social and political arenas. Its first major output appeared in The Journal of Modern History in 2013 (see Publications for further details). 

  • Status Interaction During the Reign of Louis XIV

  • Manipulating Information in the Ancien Regime: Ceremonial Records, Aristocratic Strategies and the Limits of the State Perspective

  • Epistolary Ceremonial: Corresponding Status at the Time of Louis XIV

  • Are formules de politesse Always Polite? The Bauffremont-Villars Incident, Discursice Struggles and Social Tensions under the Ancin Regime

  • The Race for the Mantle: Dress and Status at the Court of Louis XIV

  • More
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