A global world of states in the early 18th century: Politics and governance in the book series edited by the publisher Renger (1704–1718)

Staat von Siam. Halle ca. 1715. Frontispiz

Between 1704 and 1718 the publishing house Renger (Halle a. d. Saale and Braunschweig) issued several series of books, each of which deals with just one country or territory and discuss its political system, resources and history. The titles read Staat Von Chur=Pfaltz, Von Spanien, Von Siam etc. – hence the generic name Rengerische Staaten. The first series comprises over 40 European countries, the second one 15 non-European political entities, and the third one the German imperial cities. On top of that, there was also a parody and the books were plagiarized. In total, the corpus under investigation consists of more than 70 titles, all of them published anonymously.

The planned research will cover several aspects. To begin with, the material will allow us to understand the patterns that inform the description and evaluation of government in the early 18th century. The books in question refer both to the model of princely authority based on personal interaction as well as to the concept of a polity based on transpersonal institutions (Institutionenstaat). Secondly, a study of the books will highlight the common features and the differences in the ways in which European and non-European political entities were perceived and assessed  by contemporaries. The latter obviously were unsettled by the depiction of unrestrained princely power within the non-European realms. Thirdly, it is a remarkable feature of these series that they disseminate politically relevant and sensitive information on statecraft and politics as a commercial product on the open media market and that this is undertaken by a publishing house. The books were written by young scholars from the universities working in insecure and low-paid positions, but they were not regarded as academic works in the strict sense. Since there seems to have been hardly any intervention by the political authorities, the main reference point of these commodities seems to be a demand for this kind of literature from a general public.

The project thus focuses on a specific phase in the transformation and expansion of the discourse on political power. The Rengerischen Staaten mark the shift from princely rule and the society of princes to statehood and an international system; they project European norms of government onto a global plane; and they demonstrate the availability of topical political information to a public beyond the traditional elites.

PURL: http://diglib.hab.de/?link=065

Funding: HAB
Duration: July 2015 – December 2020
Researcher: Dr. Volker Bauer
Phone: +49(0)5331-808-210, Fax: -266