This year’s seminar focuses on bottom-up perspectives on state building and decision-making. In the past, historians exclusively explained the development of state formation as a phenomenon driven by the prince, and his vassals and officials. However, a lively debate has emerged in recent decades about what was decisive in this process. It is increasingly apparent that the top-down perspective cannot adequately explain all the changes. This seminar highlights what André Holenstein calls “empowering interactions”: initiatives through which subjects could help design and expand the machinery of state and direct processes of norm building. Beginning with classical explanatory models for state formation, such as theories regarding the military revolution and fiscal-military agendas, we will discuss how individuals, corporations, and communities benefitted from a stronger state, and attempted to adapt princely institutions and law making to suit their needs. The resultant effects on policy could be either intentional or the unintentional side effect of other ambitions, such as social mobility. This seminar's primary goal is to unpack the human factor in state building, and the complex interactions between individuals and groups on several, partially overlapping levels. The following topics -among others- will be covered:
Going to court: the administration of justice
Petitioning and complaints
Rebelliousness and revolutions
Patronage and clientelism
Ritual and ceremony
Gender: the role of women
The compulsory reading sheds light on different regions in early modern Europe. It is an explicit aim of this seminar to highlight the geographical, social, and cultural factors that framed opportunities for participation and impact.