Makt och människor : europeisk statsbildning från medeltiden till franska revolutionen

Research output: Book/ReportBook


State formation in Europe and, more precisely, the nature and development of the early modern type of state, is the focus of this book. The study of state formation has, in recent years, been heavily influenced by the works of Charles Tilly and his followers, who stress international military competition as the driving force in the development of the European states and state system, creating strong military-bureaucratic states from above. Against this militaristic line, other scholars, such as Wayne te Brake, Peter Blickle and several Scandinavian historians, have emphasised the strength of local society and the forces that contributed to state formation from below.

This book tries to unify these two perspectives, allowing that war and international competition was a necessary condition for state formation, but not a sufficient one. In order to understand how the early modern European state worked, it is necessary also to take into consideration the interaction of rulers and ruled.

Tracing some of the European state’s roots back to antiquity, such as the Roman perception of a central state power, this book emphasises the decisive breakdown of universal units during the high middle ages. A multitude of smaller political units were created, such as principalities, duchies, counties, ecclesiastical territories, city-states and lordships of all sorts. It was those units that kings and other rulers would later gather into territorial states. All the way up to the French revolution, the central powers of Europe ruled over conglomerate states, where they often had to deal with the political elite of each unit separately, often in the form of negotiations in estate assemblies. This, and the steady stream of protests, supplications and demands of all sorts from local society, contributed to a political culture of negotiation, which also permeated the so-called absolutist states. States can, from this perspective, be described as networks manipulated by other networks in society.

The system of sovereign states in Europe has important roots in the state system that developed in Italy during the 15th century. After the French invasion of Italy in 1494, this system spread through Europe and took its final form in the peace in Westphalia in 1648. The burden of maintaining strong military machinery in the intensified competition among the great powers often stretched the resources of the states to the utmost. Finally, all major European states experienced a severe financial crisis after the Seven Years’ War in the middle of the 18th century. The answer to this crisis was the French Revolution, which meant the end of the early modern state and the birth of a new, centralised, unified state, fired by a nationalist ideology. With imperialism and decolonisation, this system of nation-states was to spread over the whole globe. We tend to regard it as natural that the world consists of a system of sovereign, territorial nation-states, but it is not; it is an historical artefact, the result of human actions in an historical process which will continue to change even in the future.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • state formation, early modern Europe
Original languageSwedish
PublisherMakadam förlag
Number of pages240
ISBN (Print)978-91-7061-075-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch