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  • Paul V. Borghese (1605-1621): Mikropolitische Papstgeschichte
  • Robert Bireley S.J.
Paul V. Borghese (1605-1621): Mikropolitische Papstgeschichte. By Wolfgang Reinhard. [Päpste und Papsttum, Band 37.] (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann Verlag. 2009. Pp. xxv, 715, with CD-Rom. €218,00. ISBN 978-3-777-20901-2.)

Wolfgang Reinhard stands out as perhaps the most prominent German historian of early-modern Europe, although he is not as well known in North America as he deserves to be. He has written extensively on the expansion of Europe and on the Reformation and Catholic Reform, where he has contributed significantly to the development of the confessionalization theory. Yet the first and principal object of his research since the late 1960s has been the history of the papacy, especially the "micropolitics" of Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese, 1605-21). Making use of the rich materials in the Vatican Archives for the Borghese pontificate and especially the correspondence of the papal nephew, Scipione Borghese (readers may recall the magnificent bust of Scipione by Bernini in the Villa Borghese), Reinhard, his many students, and his colleagues have produced so many articles and books that one can only agree when he asserts that the Borghese papacy has attracted more scholarship than any other early-modern pontificate. The hefty volume at hand attempts to lay out a summary of this research. Some chapters, Reinhard notes, for the most part summarize work of his students—for example, Birgit Emich's Bürokratie und Nepotismus unter Paul V. (1605-1621) (Stuttgart, 2001), which was reviewed ante, 90 (2004), 127-29.

Fundamental to understanding Reinhard's approach are the concepts of Mikropolitik (micropolitics) and Makropolitik (macropolitics), which he has taken over from organizational sociology and, to a lesser degree, political science. Analysis of its micropolitics can tell us much about the character of a pontificate, Reinhard believes correctly. Micropolitics is a "depth politics" analogous to depth psychology. It has to do with persons, not institutions, with the allocation of offices or positions and the granting of favors and privileges for the advancement of private interests, not the formulation of policy [End Page 813] for the common good. Macropolitics, on the other hand, is concerned with visible decisions made for the welfare of the particular political entity or state and their execution. The practice of micropolitics may undermine or foster the welfare of the community; the two types of politics can overlap; for example, a prince might not be able to conclude a favorable peace treaty without buying off the minister of the other state. Nor should we identify micropolitics with corruption. Fairly clear norms existed—albeit informal ones, according to Reinhard—for the practice of micropolitics. In this context he stresses the importance of the virtue of pietas that dated back to the Romans and required that one honor one's obligations to parents and children, family and clan, ancestors and compatriots. St. Thomas Aquinas, he notes, defined pietas as "the practice of charity towards one's parents and native country." This virtue provides a positive foundation for nepotism, local patriotism (campanilismo), and clientism. It is by no means dead today.

For Reinhard, the case of the Borghese represents a model instance of the rise of a papal family. The author sketches the normal career path of a papal bureaucrat with its many variations; the goal was usually the cardinalate. Cardinal Scipione then played a major role in many aspects of papal government. For this reason, Reinhard argues, similar to Emich, that he and other papal nephews should be considered "favorites" just like his contemporaries Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, the duke of Lerma, in Spain or George Villiers, the duke of Buckingham, in England, even though they operated in an elective monarchy. But the literature on favorites has ignored them. Although most of the correspondence of the secretariat of state went out under the cardinal-nephew's signature, he held this office only briefly. As time went on, he focused on the micropolitics of the pontificate, serving as a chief of patronage, as it were, charged with the responsibility of building up networks of Borghese clients and advancing the fortunes of the family. He acquired wealth...


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