The Catholic University of America

History 631A: Church, State, and Law in Early Modern Europe

Topics covered will include the relationship between church, state, and law in the Renaissance and Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, overseas expansion, early modern Rome and the papacy, the wars of religion, absolutism and constitutionalism, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. Particular attention will be given to definitions of natural law, the question of nationalism, the rise of the nation state and the growth of state power, religious toleration, codification, diplomacy, and sovereignty.


Each student will make two 10-minute presentations to the class.  These presentations can be on the topic of the week, highlighting the main controversies and questions for discussion, or can serve as an introduction to a special presentation subject (as listed in the course schedule below).  Students may choose either two subjects of the week, one subject of the week and one special subject, or two special subjects.

Each student will practice lecturing techniques in a 20-minute lecture given to the class—but geared toward undergraduates—on a subject or alternate subject of the week.  The class will then offer suggestions on improving lecturing style.

At the end of the semester, each student will write a 10-15 page paper on the historiographical debates covered in one week of the class.  Three additional books  (to be discussed with the professor beforehand) should be added to the two covered in class.

Each student is also expected to prepare for and participate in each seminar session.


Informed Participation: 20%
First Presentation: 10%
Second Presentation: 10%
20-Minute Lecture: 10%
Historiographical Paper: 50%

Course Schedule

Week One: Medieval Inheritance

Strayer, On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State
Bellomo, The Common Legal Past of Europe

Primary Source: Valla, On the Donation of Constantine

Recommended: Pennington, The Prince and the Law


Week Two: The Renaissance

Gilmore, Humanists and Jurists
Fasolt, The Limits of History

Primary Source: Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy

Special Presentation: Renaissance Diplomacy: Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy; Biow, Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries


Week Three: The Reformation

Berman, Law and Revolution, II
Witte, Law and Protestantism

Primary Sources: Luther, On Secular Authority
                            Müntzer, Sermon to the Princes
                            The Twelve Articles of the Peasants

Recommended:    Strauss, Law, Resistance and the State: Opposition to Roman Law
in Reformation Germany

Special Presentation: The English Reformation: Haigh, English Reformations, and Dickens, The English Reformation


Week Four: Calvinism

Kingdon, Adultery and Divorce in Calvin’s Geneva
Gorski, The Disciplinary Revolution

Primary Sources: Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos
                             Hotman, Franco-Gallia

Special Presentation: The Right to Revolt: Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. II, pp. 189-238 and 302-359; and Witte, The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism


Week Five: The Spanish Inquisition

Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision
Peters, Inquisition

Primary Source: Inquisition Records

Special Presentation: The Witch Craze: Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe; Ruth Martin, Witchcraft and Inquisition in Venice


Week Six: Overseas Expansion and Empire

Seed, Ceremonies of Possession
J. S. Richardson, “Imperium Romanum: Empire and the Language of Power” in Armitage, ed., Theories of Empire
Muldoon, Empire and Order: The Concept of Empire, 800-1800

Primary Sources: Alexander VI, Inter Caetera
                             Las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
                             Montaigne, “Of Cannibals” and “Of Coaches”

Special Presentation: The Holy Roman Empire: Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806; and Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, pp. 1-242.


Week Seven: Rome and the Papacy

Wright, Early Modern Papacy
Dandelet, Spanish Rome, 1500-1700
Primary Source: Pius II, Commentaries, Books I-IV; trans. Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta for the I Tatti Renaissance Library

Special Presentation: Early Modern Church Councils: Minnich, Councils of the Catholic Reformation: Pisa I (1409) to Trent (1545-63); Oakley, The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300-1870


Week Eight: Wars of Religion

Kaplan, Divided by Faith
Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War

Primary Source: Hobbes, Leviathan

Special Presentation:
The French Wars of Religion: Holt, The French Wars of Religion; Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross


Week Nine: Absolutism

Beik, Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century France
Elliott, Richelieu and Olivares

Primary Source: Richelieu, Political Testament

Special Presentation:
Enlightened Despotism: Beales, Enlightenment and Reform in Eighteenth-Century Europe; Szabo, Kaunitz and Enlightened Absolutism 1753-1780


Week Ten: Republicanism And Constitutionalism

Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment
Arnade, Beggars, Iconoclasts, and Civic Patriots: The Political Culture of the Dutch Revolt

Primary Source: Kossmann and Mellink, eds., Texts Concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands

Special Presentation: Natural Law: Hochstrasser, Natural Law Theories in the Early Enlightenment; Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace


Week Eleven: The State


Ertman, Birth of the Leviathan
Raeff, “The Well-Ordered Police State and the Development of Modernity in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe: An Attempt at a Comparative Approach,” American Historical Review 80.5 (1975): 1221-1243
Tilly, “Reflections on the History of European State-Making” in The Formation of National States in Western Europe
Pennington, "Sovereignty and Rights in Medieval and Early Modern Jurisprudence: Law and Norms without a State"

Choose One:

Foreign Trade: Tracy, ed., The Rise of Merchant Empires
Reason of State: Church, Richelieu and Reason of State
Poor Relief: Jutte, Poverty and Deviance
Military Revolution: Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change
Capitalism: Duplessis, Transitions to Capitalism in Early Modern Europe
Taxation: Bonney, ed., The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, c.1200-1815
Codification: van den Berg, The Politics of European Codification
Finance: Roseveare, The Financial Revolution, 1660-1760
Passport: Torpey, The Invention of the Passport
Sovereignty: Benton, A Search for Sovereignty
Religion: Monod, The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715
Education: Melton, Absolutism and the Eighteenth-Century Origins of Compulsory Schooling in Prussia and Austria
Philosophy: Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern State

Primary Source: Catherine the Great, Instruction of 1767


Week Twelve: The Nation


Smith, “Nationalism in Early Modern Europe” History and Theory (2005): 404-415
Elliott, “A Europe of Composite Monarchies” Past and Present 137 (1992): 48-71
Trevor-Roper, “Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland” in The Invention of Tradition

Choose One:

Spanish Empire: Herzog, Defining Nations
England: Colley, Forging the Nation, 1707-1837
France: Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France
Switzerland: Brady, Turning Swiss
Germany: Rein, The Chancery of God
Portugal: Olsen, The Calabrian Charlatan, 1598-1603
Greece: Kostantaras, Infamy and Revolt

Primary Source: Shakespeare, King John


Week Thirteen: Enlightenment

Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime
Krieger, Kings and Philosophers

Primary Sources: Kant, “What Is Enlightenment?”
                             Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings

Recommended:    Keohane, Philosophy and the State in France

Special Presentation: Jesuits and Jansenists: Van Kley, The Jansenists and the Expulsion of the Jesuits from France; Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution


Week Fourteen: The French Revolution

McManners, The French Revolution and the Church
Woloch, The New Regime

Primary Sources: Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Muller selection)
                             Arendt, “The Meaning of Revolution” and “The Revolutionary Tradition and its Lost Treasure” from On Revolution
                              Fichte, Addresses To the German Nation (12th and 13th only)
                              Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen

Recommended: Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution
                          Aston, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780-1804

Special Presentation: Napoleon: Woloch, Napoleon and His Collaborators; Grab, Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe