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  • L'œuvre de Jean Bodin: Actes du colloque tenu à Lyon à l'occasion du quatrième centenaire de sa mort (11-13 janvier 1996)
  • Kenneth D. McRae
Jean-Michel Servet , ed. L'œuvre de Jean Bodin: Actes du colloque tenu à Lyon à l'occasion du quatrième centenaire de sa mort (11–13 janvier 1996). Colloques, Congrès et Conférences sur la Renaissance 41. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2004. 534 pp. index. €55. ISBN: 2–7453–0985–4.

In January 1996, three organizations joined to sponsor an interdisciplinary conference in Lyon to mark the quartercentenary of Jean Bodin's death. This volume, containing twenty-four papers from that conference, invites comparison with two similar collections on Bodin resulting from conferences in Munich (1970) and in Angers (1984). Taken singly or as a group, these collections illustrate the range and complexity of Bodin's intellectual universe and its capacity to generate new insights on Bodin himself and new comparisons with other thinkers. In an enterprise as multifaceted as this, reviewers should declare their own approach and possible biases. After early work on his political and constitutional thought, I have returned to Bodin — after long absence — to complete a listing [End Page 616] in machine-readable form of the printed, manuscript, and oral sources cited in his major works.

The papers from the Lyon conference, organized in three sections, are of variable quality and scholarly interest. Part 1, entitled "Pouvoir," is thematically conventional, with papers on the household, the concept of république, emergent international relations theory, penal law, Bodin's typology of political change, and a comparison of Bodin and Kepler on harmonic justice. Joubert's essay on international relations theory notes Bodin's distinction between the droit ennemi (justus ac legitimus hostis) — who falls under droit de guerre — and brigands et corsaires, who fall within penal justice, an idea not without current relevance. Also noteworthy is Le Thiec's searching examination of Bodin's views on the Ottoman Empire from the Methodus through the République to the Colloque; in this evolution both the sources available and the purposes for citing them are traced admirably.

In part 2, "Pouvoir et Économie," the context changes sharply and conventionality disappears. The eight papers here are all linked with Bodin's economic ideas, though not to his well-known essay on gold supply and price levels. As the title implies, most of these essays retain linkages with political rule, the public good, and emerging mercantilist economics. Economic themes are absent entirely from the Munich and Angers volumes, but at Lyon the Centre Walras of the University of Lyon II was one of the conference sponsors.

The best analytical essays in part 2 examine the policy responses to deteriorating public revenues between 1559 and 1574 (Thiveaud); the tricky question of dissuading the sovereign by moral, contractual, and practical arguments from debasing the coinage (Blanc); and attempts in the Estates General of 1560, 1576, and 1588 to address the fiscal crisis (Chantrel). These papers are flanked by two papers comparing Bodin with the pioneer French political economist Montchrestien (Panichi), and his views on public finance with those of a much later figure, Adam Smith (Bobé).

Part 3, "Unité et Diversité," has ten papers and greater thematic variety. Michel Reulos has the unique distinction of contributions to all three Bodin conferences, each one explaining aspects of Bodin's juridical sources. Pierre Lardet explores the seldom visited etymological material in chapter 9 of the Methodus, connecting successfully with three of Bodin's predecessors (Bovelles, Picard, Périon) whose identities eluded both Mesnard and Reynolds when they translated the Methodus into French and English, respectively, in the 1940s.

Bodin's Démonomanie des sorciers (1580) is represented by four essays in this section, as also by four papers at Angers. Generations of scholars have struggled to reconcile this implacable condemnation of witchcraft with the humanity, logic, prudence, and toleration of his other writings. For me, Marc Venard's essay in this volume is the most persuasive explanation to date. It places the work in a context of extreme public alarm following a Paris trial in 1571 of a sorcerer named Trois-Échelles, who boasted of 30,000...


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