29 September 2017
09:30 – 17:45 hrs.
University Library, Witte Singel 26-27, Leiden, Vossiuszaal

Effects of the rise of reason of state in political thought on history

It is well known that historical writings and historical information played a crucial role in the development of ideas on reason of state and ‘modern’ political thought (including natural law). The reverse relation, i.e. the effects of the rise of reason of state in political thought on the methods, questions and approaches in history has received far less attention. The purpose of this meeting is an exchange of ideas about this side of the relationship between researchers in the broad field of intellectual history (coming from disciplines such as history, literature, law and philosophy) working on reason of state in the 16th -18th century in various regions in Europe.

Possible specific topics for papers include the changes in historiography as a result of changing ideas on ethics and historical causality and/or the nature of human society; effects of secularisation, and of a sharper distinction between secular and ecclesiastical (or confessional) politics; of the rise of economic thought and the emergence of ‘social sciences’ (such as in the Strasbourg school, which has deep roots in late humanism); connections between growing doubts and controversies regarding the relevance of the Classics in the contemporary world (Querelle des Anciens et Modernes); and questions as to the different effects of reason of state-thought between Catholic and Protestant regions in Europe.


There is no entrence fee for this symposium. However, we would like you to register on monday september 25 at the latest. You can register by sending an email to Lisa Kattenberg: L.F.Kattenberg@uva.nl with subject Registration symposium. Please also include the following information:

  • Your name (first and last name)
  • If you would like to have lunch. We ask a contribution of 5 euros for lunch, which you can pay on site.
  • If you would like to join for diner. Diner will be at your own expense.


9:30 – 9:45  Opening

9:45 – 11:30  Session 1: Historiography and reason of state: remarks on theory  (Chair: Lisa Kattenberg)
Jan Waszink (Leiden University): Causality and secularisation; the difficult beginnings of a new historiography
Jacques Bos (University of Amsterdam): Reason of state and the circumstances of political action: from exemplarity to historicity

10:45  Short coffee & tea break

Jan Rotmans (University of Amsterdam): ‘Man as he is, not as he ought to be’. The predictability of history and the anti-utopian image of human nature in late Dutch Enlightenment thought

11:30 – 11:45 Coffee & tea break

11:45 – 12:45  Session 2: History and reason of state in various European contexts (Chair: tba)
Sarah Mortimer (Christ Church, University of Oxford): History, Reason of State, and the succession crises of the 1590s
Marisol García Gonzalez (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia): Della conservazione della pace dell’Italia. Reason of State and historiography of the Early Modern Milan

12:45 – 13:45  Lunch 

13:45 – 14:45  Session 3: Religion, reason of state and the Dutch Revolt (Chair: Jan Waszink)
Alberto Clerici (Università degli Studi “Niccolò Cusano”): Morality, politics and religion in Guido Bentivoglio’s account of the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609)
Lisa Kattenberg (University of Amsterdam): Conscience, experience and reason of state: Spanish debates about peace or truce in the Low Countries

14:45 – 15:15  Coffee & tea break

15:15 – 16:15  Session 4: History and reason of state in early Enlightenment thought (Chair: tba)
Arthur Weststeijn (Utrecht University) Classical Colonisation in a Commercial World: Colonial Concepts and Practices between Carlo Sigonio and the Encyclopédie
Marianne Klerk (St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford): Reason of State and Interest in the Dutch Republic: the legacy of Duc de Rohan

16:15 – 16:45  General discussion and closing remarks 

16:45 – 17:15  Publication Launch:  Electronic critical edition of Hugo Grotius, De Iure Praedae Commentarius/ The Law of Prize and Booty,   ed. J. Waszink e.a.

17:15  Drinks

20:00  Dinner (location tba)

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