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Reviewed by:
  • Monarchy Transformed: Princes and Their Elites in Early Modern Western Europe ed. by Robert von Friedeburg and John Morrill
  • Fabien Montcher
Robert von Friedeburg and John Morrill, editors. Monarchy Transformed: Princes and Their Elites in Early Modern Western Europe. cambridge up, 2017. 406 pp.

the essays gathered in monarchy transformed result from scholarly conversations among a group of European historians in two conferences organized in 2008 and 2011. The volume analyzes the relationships that princes and their elites maintained during the early modern period. With a strong emphasis on the seventeenth century, the essays offer an up-to-date review of the latest historiographical developments related to the study of the political and court cultures of Western Europe.

Readers of the Bulletin of the Comediantes will find of special interest four articles that focus on relationships between princes and elites in territories related to the Iberian monarchies and the multinational Habsburg empire. The essays of Antonio Álvarez-Ossorio Alvariño, Pedro Cardim, Bernardo J. García García, and Dries Raeymaekers collectively condense twenty years of research that have changed the way historians conceive the political interactions maintained by the Iberian monarchies and Habsburg Empire with other Western European powers. These four articles build on (1) research conducted from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid on court cultures since the mid-1990s, (2) the historiographical conception of early modern politics as the result of conflicts of jurisdictions related to the works of António Manuel Hespanha, and (3) collaborations over the past decade through which historians like García García and Raeymaekers have fostered the writing of a connected history of court networks. Collectively, Monarchy Transformed offers a renovated take on traditional historiographical debates concerning state formation processes and the general crisis of the seventeenth century. Building on John Elliott's concept of "composite monarchies," these articles consolidate the key role that Iberian studies have played in an intense debate concerning the political structures of early modern states since the 1950s and the 1970s.

All of the essays move away from the idea that new seventeenth-century monarchies anticipated the formation of modern, absolutist, and coercive [End Page 269] states that ended up inevitably domesticating their elites. By emphasizing the many forms and discourses of negotiations between princes and elites, Monarchy Transformed shows—as in Hamish Scott's essay—how aristocracies contributed to the political stability of Western European monarchies amid seventeenth-century conflicts. The essays gathered by John Morrill and Robert von Friedeburg likewise eschew shopworn generalizations, instead proposing a useful framework for any researcher interested in analyzing how concepts such as loyalty and service articulated relationships between royalty and elites during the early modern period.

As Nicholas Canny observes in his afterword, allusions to the French monarchy are frequent in the volume, which nonetheless succeeds in avoiding comparative determinism related to one predominant political model. Lucien Bély and Ronald G. Asch's essays, respectively centered on France and England, make excellent use of research that has delved into Franco-Spanish and Anglo-Hispanic relations since the early 2000s to trace the narratives of the history of European absolutism focused on specific nations. Bély and Asch reinforce the overarching claim of Monarchy Transformed: that the political history of Western Europe during the seventeenth century cannot be reduced to one pattern of state formation, nor to one mode of relationship between monarchs and their nobilities. Robert von Friedeburg's and Gunner Lind's essays add to this argument when analyzing the inner diversity of ancient nobilities and the formation of new elites, as examined in this volume.

Across the essays, negotiations between rulers and elites are studied using sources ranging from visual materials related to early modern festivals, to political treatises, administrative paperwork, and private archives. Building on this wide range of sources, the authors share common assumptions concerning the productive dimension of the constant state of warfare in relation to seventeenth-century state-building processes. All emphasize the agency of the elites when negotiating with monarchs. The contributors agree that the agency of these elites constituted a key component of the struggle for political stability in early modern Europe. As John Morrill points out...


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