Reforming the European State System in the Long Eighteenth Century

Venue: Vadstena Klosterhotel

Location: Vadstena, Sweden

Event Date/Time: Sep 10, 2008 End Date/Time: Sep 14, 2008
Registration Date: Apr 30, 2008
Abstract Submission Date: Apr 30, 2008
Paper Submission Date: Apr 30, 2008
Report as Spam


The idea of a united Europe was by no means unknown in the eighteenth century. It is rather the case that different models for how to unite Europe were played out with such great sophistication and over such a wide terrain of ‘disciplines’ that the centrality of the issue of repairing a divided Europe, nowadays, is not always immediately clear.

During the entire eighteenth century, statesmen, diplomats, pamphleteers and intellectuals across Europe engaged in a major debate on the regulation of international politics. The rise of foreign trade since the late seventeenth century had complicated the Westphalia system of balancing powers, which appeared to have reached its limits for containing all-out warfare. Economic and military competition between Europe's dominant states persistently affected the potential of neutral states of realising their own commercial and political objectives. Within this context, an enormously rich debate about the future of the European State System emerged that absorbed all the political, moral and legal issues of earlier times. Across Europe scholars discussed the same issues, and not in isolation but through trans-national networks.

The purpose of this conference is to recapture the original dimensions of rival eighteenth-century visions of the past, present and future problem of European interstate politics. The participants will discuss questions such as: How did eighteenth-century scholars apply the great tradition of natural law to deal with the future of Europe? Which different sources of sociability and commercial morality were taken to be the appropriate means for building up a stable system of economically interconnected nation-states? How did different views of ‘decline’ of dominant states guide the perception of the development of wealth and power in the international realm? How did debates on tax innovation, finance and overseas trade and colonialism represent the main dividing lines within European political thought?

Through asking these questions, traditional historiographical categories like mercantilism and liberalism, and themes like the end of the ancièn regime, secularisation and the relation between Enlightenment and Revolution are suspended. They are replaced with a fresh outlook on schemes of cooperative regulation in international affairs (the ‘Concert of Europe’ and ‘Perpetual Peace’) and envisaged mechanisms of the Balance of Power and Armed Neutrality. Thus, the speakers at this conference address the longstanding debate on ‘small states’ and European integration and answers questions about the politics of globalisation. Drawing on a historical-political background that reaches deep into the eighteenth century, they seek to revive traditional perceptions in order to better understand the challenges of present-day European foreign policy and economic development.

Session 1: Small states and empires in the long eighteenth century
Session 2: Justice, law and war and the idea of a «Jus publicum europaeum»
Session 3: The rise of modern diplomacy 1714-1814
Session 4: Vattel and the foundations of international law
Session 5: Nordic political economy and the future of Europe
Invited graduate students and young scholars working on related topics will be given the opportunity to present their work during poster sessions.

The ESF Research Conferences Scheme provides the opportunity for leading scientists and young researchers to meet for discussions on the most recent developments in their fields of research. It acts as a catalyst for creating new synergistic contacts throughout Europe and the rest of the world. It develops principally through the establishment of long-term partnerships between the ESF and national and international organisations, including universities.


Box 193