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Carl J. Friedrich


Harper Torchbooks, NYC., 1952, 368 pgs., index, notes, bibliography, illustrations, paperback


Reviewer comment -
An excellent history that includes many topics as shown in the chapter titles. Information on economics during this period useful for our study of monetary history is in chapter 1. Chapters 1 and 2 contain information on the increasing prominence and role of the bourgeoise that shows their social situation years prior to Dr. McCloskey's contentions.. Chapter 3 shows the status and wealth of the bourgeoise in terms of fine art - both on their wealth to commission great artists and in the domestic scenes in that art. Chapters 1,5, 6, 7, and 9 discuss the events and contemporary political philosophers of the key period 1610-1660 that contained the shift from the 'princely state' to the kingly state' described by Philip Bobbitt in Shield of Achilles. It was also the period in which the financial crisis of the English monarchy culminated and set the process for the Glorious revolution and the creation of the Bank of England moving, as described by Felix Martin. And it was the period in which the Dutch bourgeoise especially became powerful, setting an example for their English counterparts.


Introduction and preface


Chapter 1 - The Pattern of Politics and Economics

I Europe in 1610; The Setting;

Dr. Friedrich concludes after some discussion: "the modern state may therefore be said to have emerged. It happened in these fifty years between 1610 and 1660".

Compare this with Bobbitt's more detailed and lengthy description of the entire process of the creation of the concept of 'state' between 1500 and the present. But this was the era of the transition from 'princely' to 'kingly' state. Friedrich focuses on the Holy Roman Empire (German) and Bobbitt also includes the changes it underwent.

Friedrich again, "In 1660 all of this was gone. The Empire had become an adjunct of the house of Hapsburg's Austrian dominions, while all other German princes, large and small, were 'sovereign' notably the elector of Brandenburg whose impending challenge to Sweden foreshadowed the Prussian career. France was clearly and incontestably a modern, national state, absolute in its sway as the Roi Soleil took over the reins in the following year".

A state to be sure but not a 'modern national state' - rather a 'kingly' state.

"The contrast is not so striking, perhaps, in the economic as in the political field. For the growing forces of capitalism extended their sway throughout the period, as they had done before and continued to do thereafter".

Friedrich notes, however, that the locus of expanding capitalistic economy did shift from the old dominant cities from Venice and Augsburg and Cologne to the growing centers of England and Netherlands and France as "the universally regarded focal points of European economic life". "The joint stock company, though well under way in 1610, was by 1660 becoming the pacemaker of economic progress, while mercantilism had achieved pretty universal acceptance as the sound policy of increasing 'the wealth of nations'".
"The revolution of political and economic thought and action is all symbolized in the word and concept of the 'state'". "While in 1606 Knolles could still translate Bodin's famous six books on the 'republic' as a work dealing with the problems of 'commonwealth', in England as on the continent it was the state that was acknowledged in 1660 to be the triumphant form of political organization. When Samuel Pufendorf, disguised as Monzambano, described the remnants of the empire as a monstrosity, he was applying the standards of 'reason of state'".

Yes indeed. but read Bobbitt's discussion of Pufendorf as the champion of the 'kingly state'. And 'reason of state' dated already back to 1500 Italy. So Friedrich is a bit late on the origin of the concept of 'state' but also a bit early in terming it a 'nation state'.

II Population;

"It was not until after 1660 that the full significance of vital statistics was appreciated by those who concerned themselves with the new national states. Hence, in spite of the great stress laid by the mercantilists upon the interrelation between population and general prosperity, our knowledge in matters of population is inferential rather than based upon statistical data in the modern sense".

III Commerce and Finance;

"As already indicated, trade routes underwent a steady change during the first half of the seventeenth century. The United Provinces forged ahead against Spain, while Britain grew strong enough under the Protectorate to challenge the Dutch successfully in the first national trade war of modern history. Meanwhile the financing of these ever-widening commercial activities likewise passed from Italian and German into Dutch and British hands".
"Sombart has asserted that 'the modern state emerged from the silver mines of Mexico and Peru and the gold mines of Brazil'; while this may be considered as exaggeration, the great influx of precious metals undoubtedly played a significant role, and occasionally the capture of treasure fleets vitally affected the course of events, as will be described in later chapters".

"Besides this overseas trade, there was of course a great deal of exchange trade going on throughout Europe. The seventeenth century is, of course, the heyday of the trading companies, merchant adventurers and the like". "While these commercial organizations were getting under way, backed as they were by the rising national states, it stands to reason that the older patterns disintegrated". "That the masters of the great territorial states, like France and England, should seek to free themselves of 'foreign' dependence, such as their financing by Florentine and German bankers, is rather natural".
"The ever-increasing need for funds to carry on the wars had obliged the princes to go to these early capitalists and bankers for help. But in our period, these requirements became so large that the shrinking resources of houses like the Fuggers were no longer able to meet them. What happened in our period was that the state itself became the source of credit, rather than the financial houses who had hitherto loaned funds".

Indeed, the 'state' was conceived for the financial purpose for funding the waging of war. First the princes and cities relied on this to justify seeking such financing, and then the kings took over and used the 'state' itself as their mechanism for extracting finances from their own populations.

"The one really sound state, from a financial standpoint, was the Netherlands. Here, in a merchants' oligarchy, the state dealt directly with the lenders. Besides, the Bank of Amsterdam, founded in 1609 and following the Italian patterns. provided a remarkably steady management for the currency resources of the country. Throughout our period, this great bank was the financial center of northern Europe".

"The Bank of Amsterdam also developed a thriving exchange which, while much concerned with the trade in various goods, also started the trade in the stock of joint stock companies. London followed suit later; in both cases the development of these exchanges became a mighty factor in the expansion of the capital market and an extension of the credit system, both public and private. It is challenging to reflect upon the interrelationship between these thriving business marts and the 'golden age' of Dutch art and culture".

IV Industry and Agriculture;

"It may seem strange to link industry and agriculture, since it has been customary, in view of the industrial revolution, to treat these two realms of economic activity as strictly antithetical. But in the period here under consideration, both appeared so closely bound up with each other as the country's productive base, that they were often treated together by writers in the mercantilist tradition". "Production increased slowly, but steadily, throughout the period from 1610 - 1660, in the advancing nations, while in Germany and Spain it fell off quite markedly".
"A slow extension of the factory system took place; for it must not be supposed that the factory had to await the machine; since times immemorial, especially in antiquity, large numbers of workers had been gathered in one place of productive effort. Not only in textiles, but in numerous other lines, the 'spirit of capitalism' made itself felt in the setting up of larger industrial establishments. Printing works, sawmills, sugar refineries, breweries, distilleries, soap-boiling and candle-making works. tanneries, various chemical and dyestuff works, as well as the finishing processes in the textile field, like dyeing and fulling, were among those which profited from large-scale organization".

"It is curious how relatively limited a role inventions and innovations played in the industrial advance during this period".
"Not infrequently, the innovations which as ingenious inventor had made available, like the ribbon loom were actually forbidden by the authorities, as depriving men of their living, being 'devilishe invention'. So advanced a nation as the Dutch repeatedly restricted its use during our period. Finally the desire of the authorities to develop manufactures took the form of forbidding the export of particular raw materials; thus England throughout the period maintained strict laws against the export of wool".

Dr. Friedrich continues with more details on industry and agriculture.

V Mercantilism as a System of Power;

"All these varied activities wee encompassed within the set of economic and political doctrines which became known as mercantilism. As the name suggests, by mercantilism is understood a welter of ideas about how to organize commerce; commerce however was very broadly interpreted to mean economic activity in general. There has been a great deal of controversy about the true meaning of mercantilism, as there were many arguments among those who expounded mercantilist ideas".

Dr. Friedrich discusses these various ideas and concludes: "With that ultimate power objective clearly in one's mind, one can say that 'national wealth through the regulation and protection of commerce' was the mercantilist credo".
"Mercantilism is what one might call' cash box thinking' and indeed the mercantilists became unduly preoccupied with the gathering of 'treasure', more especially gold and silver". "Having witnessed the decisive effect of gold upon the fate of governments, it is understandable that mercantilist writers should have concentrated upon how to acquire gold or its equivaments as the prince's main concern".

VI The State versus the Estates;

"None of these economic doctrines are really comprehensible unless they are viewed against the background of political thought about the state itself. Such political theory in turn calls for a brief sketch of the institutional evolution which it sought to rationalize and for which it set the frame".
Dr. Friedrich discusses the authors and their literature relating to the concept of the 'state' and its legitimacy itself and the legitimacy of its actions. He includes the theorists on which Bobbitt focuses in his treatment of this issue.

VII The Law of Nature and the Laws of Nature, Althsius and Grotius;

VIII State and Sovereignty;

IX Thomas Hobbes: Philosopher of Power;

X English Constitutional Ideas: Milton and Harrington;

XI The Bourgeois Element;

"Contract is an idea intimately linked with the life and work of the trading middle classes; it is a symbol of the shop. Hence it was well suited to serve as an idea of great potency in the circles in which political thought was being secularized throughout this age. It is noteworthy that the four leading thinkers whom we have mainly considered here were all commoneres. Althusius was German, Grotius was of the Dutch commercial aristocracy. Hobbes, was connected with the mercantile development of London, Spinoza also belonged to Dutch city culture.
"These writers were members of the bourgeoisie, of the capitalist middle class which in this period occupied, politically speaking, a varying position". "It was undoubtedly a part of this bourgeois spirit of the newer political thought, secularized and urban in its orientation, that it tended to eliminate the church from any role in the political sphere".

XII Conclusion

"Who is to say whether the modern state emerged in this period because some of its most striking representatives were filled with this sense of power, or whether they were filled with this sense of power because the modern state emerged?"


Chapter 2 - Baroque in Life and Letters


Chapter 3 - Baroque in Art and Music


Chapter 4 - Religion, Philosophy and the Sciences


Chapter 5 - The Sultry Years of Precarious Balance, the Dutch Ascendancy


Chapter 6 - The Thirty Years' War and the Liquidation of the Medieval Empire


Chapter 7 - The Modern State Absolute: France Under Richelieu and Mazarin


Chapter 8 - The Eastern Dynasties: Hapsburg, Romanov, Hohenzollern and Vasa, 1610 - 1660


Chapter 9 - The Modern State Limited: The Parliament, Civil War, Commonwealth and Protectorate


Chapter 10 - The Learned Ax: A Bibliographical Essay


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