Absolutism in Central Europe explores the form of European monarchy known as absolutism, how it was defined by contemporaries, how it emerged and developed, and how it has been interpreted by historians and political and social scientists. Absolutism used to be seen as a distinct form of monarchy that dominated the European continent and defined an entire age. It was believed to be a key stage in the transition from feudalism to capitalism and an era of colourful monarchs such as Louis XIV. The concept of absolutism has been undermined by modern historians. In this accessible survey, Peter Wilson investigates how scholars have defined and explained political development during what was formerly known as the age of absolutism. He assesses whether the term can still be a useful analytical tool. Drawing on the experiences of central Europe from the early 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, this book examines the wider implications of state-building.
"In a tightly argued historiographical introduction, Wilson points out that it is an abstraction that has been readily employed by generations of scholars without any serious attempt at definition. He attempts to fill this gap by representing asolutism as a distinct stage in the state-building process, during which monarchs used court display to project an image of power and majesty that mixed hard substance with mere pretension. The author reserves a special niche for the period of "enlightened absolutism," which effectively fortified the region's monarchs from the appeal of the French Revolution. This is a very well written and intelligent essay, once which might, however, challenge the analytical skills of the average university student.."
-"C. Ingrao, Purdue University, July 2001