Public offices, personal demands.
Capability in governance in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands, June 28-29th, 2007
Abstracts due before 1 April, 2007.
What made a person capable of performing a public function? This issue stood at the heart of seventeenth-century European political life. Mostly the answer was simple: Europe’s ruling elite (noblemen, princes and monarchs) were capable because of their lineage, their socialisation in an elite culture and their cardinal Christian virtues, prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance. These features gave them the appropriate ethics. Therefore they had a natural right to rule. Most of the common people, accordingly, were deemed unsuitable for lack of resources and appropriate ethics.
In the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, however, the ruling elite consisted of urban magistrates. These magistrates lacked royal authority. There was no monarch, while noblemen, although highly esteemed, played a minor role in actual governance.
Did this absence of royal authority affect the assumptions of capability whereupon governance rested?
There was no clear-cut distinction between magistrates and citizens. Furthermore, Dutch urban magistrates lacked a military monopoly by which obedience could be enforced. Consequently, their capability to rule – whether real or propagated – was the single most important quality to justify their policy. The term bequamheit, or capability, was used frequently in debates on good governance. Bequamheit constituted a wide range of demands, such as nationality, age, gender, religion, experience, wealth, virtue, birth, rationality, etc.
By looking at capability in the Dutch Republic from an international perspective this conference aims at improving our understanding of seventeenth-century Dutch political life.
• How and why did these criteria change or differ in time and place? Was there for example a difference in criteria of capability between European republics and countries with royal authority?
• Was capability seen as transferable or hereditary?
• Could incapability be proven and to what consequence?
• If so, how could incapable magistrates be put out of office, and by whom?
Keynote speaker: prof. dr. Conal Condren, Scientia Professor of Politics and International Relations from the University of New South Wales (Sydney).
Hosts: Jan Hartman, Jaap Nieuwstraten and Michel Reinders. Paper abstracts (400 max.; deadline April 1 2007) and inquiries to email@example.com
Jan Hartman, Jaap Nieuwstraten and Michel Reinders.
Faculty of History
Erasmus University Rotterdam Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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