The Foundations of Modern International Thought, 1494–1713 (seminar)

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This was a late-spring 2002 seminar.

This seminar extended the inquiries of previous Center for the History of British Political Thought programs in two novel directions: from the Three Kingdoms and their Atlantic extensions to the relations between the British polities and their European neighbors, and from the history of political thought to the history of international thought. The defining subject of political thought has traditionally been the state in its internal, domestic or municipal capacities; it has rarely encompassed the relations between states, or what might be called "international thought." The origins of modern international thought have been variously traced to the emergence of balance-of-power doctrines in late fifteenth-century Italy, the birth of international law in sixteenth-century Spain, the publication of Hugo Grotius's De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), and the Peace of Westphalia (1648). These are not moments in British history, though the extent to which they included or affected the British polities deserves examination. With the help of distinguished visiting faculty, the seminar reconstructed the history of early-modern international thought from the French invasion of Italy (1494) to the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) by examining transnational communities of envoys, soldiers, clerics and professors, and the treatises, treaties, and diplomatic manuals they generated. This approach offered new genealogies of such Janus-faced concepts as sovereignty, rights, the balance of power, and reason of state, and provided the outlines of conceptual and political geographies of "Britain" and "Europe" that are both idiomatic to the early-modern period and relevant to current discussions in politics, philosophy, international law, and the theory of international relations.

Director: David Armitage is Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), and editor of Bolingbroke: Political Writings (1997) and Theories of Empire, 1450–1800 (1998). His current project is International Thought in the Age of Revolutions, 1688–1848.