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Republics in early modern Europe


Admission requirements

BSA norm en beide propedeuse Themacolleges behaald.


The aim of this course is to familiarize students with republican and constitutional forms of government in early modern Europe.
We will explore early modern republics in the larger sense of the word. Our discussions will incorporate not only standard cases, such as Florence and Venice, but also less known instances of republicanism. The less obvious examples include “mixed” or “limited” monarchies, where a significant part of the population talked and behaved like citizens, even though they were also the “faithful subjects” of a monarch.
We will look at rebellious cities like La Rochelle and Danzig, Huguenot constitutionalists in sixteenth-century France, East Central European elective monarchies, and the place of women in republican politics, without ignoring the issues of regicide and revolt in English and Dutch history.
For theoretical background, we will examine the ancient and classical origins of early modern republicanism. We will also consider the characteristics that separated it from competing currents of political thought, such as liberalism, neo-stoicism, and monarchism.
A special place will be reserved to current historiographical debates on the subject, which include disagreements about the relationship between political ideas and political behavior, the role of the “well-ordered state” in early modern Europe, and the connections between republicanism, autocratic government, modernization, and “backwardness.”
The ultimate goal of this course is to make you aware of the diversity of political life in early modern Europe, as well as the usefulness and limitations of historical categorization.

Course objectives

  • to get acquainted with different varieties of early modern European republicanism, constitutionalism, and citizenship, in the context of current historiographical debates on the topic;

  • to expand your bibliographical research skills by investigating the historiography of a subtopic of your choice;

  • to develop your your critical thinking and writing skills by producing a) a clear and concise review of a scholarly work on the topic; and b) by analyzing and synthesizing existing scholarship on your chosen subtopic in a historiographical essay;

  • to practice your oral skills by participating in weekly class discussions and giving an oral presentation.


See here

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  1. participation in class discussions (15%)
    1. review of a scholarly work (you may choose your piece from the remaining chapters of Republicanism, the list of optional readings available on Blackboard, or in consultation with me) (15%)
    2. choice of research subtopic, formulation of historiographical question and related bibliography submitted in advance (after consultation with me) (10%)
    3. oral presentation of your subtopic (10%)
    4. essay (50%)



Reading list

Van Gelderen, Martin, and Quentin Skinner, eds. Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage. 2 vols. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

  • vol. 1 (ISBN-13: 978-0521672351): ch. 1, 7-9, 13-15

  • vol. 2 (ISBN-13: 978-0521672344): ch. 3, 4, 9, 15

Selections from primary sources & an optional reading list will be available on Blackboard.


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