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«Res publica» Redefined?

The Polish-Lithuanian Transition Period of the 1560s and 1570s in the Context of European State Formation Processes


Miia Ijäs

The union of Poland and Lithuania was ruled by the Jagiellon royal house from 1385–1572, after which a political transition to an elective monarchy was undertaken. This book studies the political transition from the Jagiellon dynasty to an elective monarchy as a political decision-making process in the 1560s and 1570s. It focuses on the Polish-Lithuanian nobility and clergy as ‘king-makers’ and their relationship with the monarchy. In addition, special attention is paid to the issue of transnational influences and the way in which the international state system affected events in Poland-Lithuania. Thus, this particular political transition is considered in the context of the great events of early modern Europe, such as the Reformation and state-formation processes.
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2. Early modern state formation – in theory and practice?


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2.  Early modern state formation – in theory and practice?

This study forms part of the scholarly discussion on the issue of state formation processes in early modern Europe. Therefore it is necessary to scrutinize existing theories on state formation and also how historiography concerning Poland-Lithuania has related to these theories. Whereas early twentieth-century theorists assimilated state formation with a centralization process, recent scholarship has emphasized that there was no shortcut from the medieval mosaic/feudal state to the modern unitary nation-state. Consequently, historians have again started to look at the nature of early modern states as federations or ‘composite/conglomerate states’. In addition, political history is increasingly influenced by the growing number of transnational studies. As a consequence, historical developments are examined through contacts, continuities and interaction between different societies, political systems and cultures. The transnational perspective challenges the so-called ‘methodological nationalism’, which has dominated the field of political history – and historical sociology – for so long.

This transnational perspective is helpful in studying the state formation processes in early modern ‘composite states’, which were by nature multicultural and heterogeneous entities. My aim is to draw attention also to the contacts and interdependences between different states. In my understanding, although local conditions are important, societies and cultures do not exist in isolation but in symbiosis with surrounding social and political systems. On the other hand, previous studies on early modern federations and ‘composite states’ have viewed integration as a central research objective. However, I do...

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