Monarchists and Monarchisms in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Friday, November 15, 2002–Saturday, November 16, 2002
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by John Christian Laursen, University of California, Riverside; Hans Blom, Erasmus University; and Luisa Simonutti, Center for the Study of Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, Milan

American triumphalism holds that ever since the eighteenth century republics have been the wave of the future, and that the ideology of republicanism was destined to win from the moment the Founding Fathers took it over. Yet in the eighteenth century monarchism was alive and well throughout Europe, contesting republicanism in a wide variety of ways, and many very modern countries are monarchies to this day. Writers could defend the single most absolute monarchy in Europe, in Denmark, on “Enlightened” grounds. Prussian officials could hold their own against critics of the Prussian monarchy, even drawing on Swiss republican theory. There were monarchist challenges to republicanism from inside the Dutch Republic and the Italian city states. England was known as a “republican monarchy.” Pierre Bayle, the Physiocrats, Edward Gibbon, and the Scots contributed to the theory and practice of monarchy. How does all this fit together?

The purpose of this conference is to establish some of the contours of the ideas of monarchism in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and from a comparative perspective, to address a series of questions: What kinds of monarchisms debated with what kinds of republicanisms? How did modernizing monarchs compete with modernizing republics? Did monarchists and republicans sometimes ignore each other, developing insular discourses? Are there any significant legacies from the eighteenth century in today’s political debates?