This option will explore the heterogeneous and changing forms of governmental and political collectivity – kingdoms, republics, empires, federations, provinces, cantons, quasi-governmental trading companies etc etc – which flourished in Europe and in the wider world in which Europeans operated between the age of Louis XIV and the 1848 revolutions. In a period often described as having seen first the rise of a European state-system and then of nation states, it will explore the diversity of forms of government and political life, the many different levels and modes at which governments operated, and the many internal and external pressures on their coherence and effectiveness – including interstate competition, globalising economic relations, disease and natural disasters, pressure from religious organisations and movements, rising expectations, ideological critique and popular insurgency.
Each week discussion will focus on ways in which both historians and contemporaries have conceptualised particular aspects of the relationship between states and peoples. One topic of obvious interest in this period is the nature of state crises and revolutions, and of attempts to recast states and the state system in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The Revolution has conventionally been interpreted as a turning point. We will examine and test that idea – by exploring the ways in which historians and contemporaries have conceptualised continuity and change, and by testing their accounts through our own case studies.