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Birth of the Leviathan
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  • Page extent: 380 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.51 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 320.94
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: JN5 .E77 1997
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Europe--Politics and government
    • Constitutional history--Europe
    • Local government--Europe--History
    • Comparative government
    • Social problems in literature

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521484275 | ISBN-10: 0521484278)

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$34.99 (G)

For many years scholars have sought to explain why the European states that emerged in the period before the French Revolution developed along such different lines. Why did some states become absolutist and others constitutionalist? What enabled some to develop bureaucratic administrative systems, while others remained dependent upon patrimonial practices? This book presents a new theory of state-building in medieval and early modern Europe. Ertman argues that two factors--local government and sustained geo-military competition--can explain most of the variation found across the continent.


1. Introduction; 2. The origins of patrimonial absolutism in Latin Europe; 3. The triumph of patrimonial absolutism and the failure of reform in Latin Europe, c. 1500–1789; 4. Bureaucratic constitutionalism in Britain; 5. Bureaucratic absolutism in Germany; 6. Patrimonial constitutionalism in Hungary and Poland and its premature demise in Scandinavia; 7. Conclusion.


"...a stimulating read....Ertman's key insight is that the timing of geopolitical competition matters immensely to political development, an argument which he presents and supports elegantly....The sociologist Ertman possesses a fine sense of history, and historians, whether they end up agreeing with Ertman's assessment or not, will not be disappointed reading this interesting book." Rolf Strom-Olsen, The Sixteenth Century Journal

"This is an excellent discussion of the development of the state in medieval and early modern Europe. It is innovative theoretically; broadly but selectively comparative among western, central, and eastern Europe and Scandinavia; well grounded in monographic literature in five languages; and well-written....this is a stimulating study, well worth reading by anyone interested in early stages of state development." R. Burr Litchfield, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Ertman's analysis should be a required guide...and,like other essential works, should strongly discourage facile assumptions about how rational bureaucracies and constitutional regimes developed in the first place." Andrew C. Gould, The Review of Politics

"Thomas Ertman's Birth of the Leviathan is, without question, the best book to date on state formation in early modern Europe, surpassing all previous works on the subject in historical scope, empirical depth, and theoretical sophistication." Philip S. Gorski, Contemporary Sociology

"An extensive bibliography and an excellent index are also decided pluses." Philip R. P. Coelho, Journal of Economic History

"Historians of all these regions and all these centuries must be grateful to Ertman not only for constructing his major interpretive scheme, and for his analysis of so much of the crucial process of state-building, but for provoking much in the way of exceptions and counter-arguments in a continuing scholarly conversation." Richard W. Kaeuper, American Historical Review

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