Enlightened loyalties

 Project: Enlightened loyalties
Funded by:
Academy of Finland
Period: 2005-2007
Researcher in charge: Professor Pasi Ihalainen

Major social and intellectual change was encountered in Europe during the latter half of the eighteenth century, known as the age of the Enlightenment. This was also a period of significant transformation in the ways in which social and political reality was given a linguistic expression - in how reality was conceptualized.

The project "Enlightened loyalties" discusses the conceptual construction of national, cultural and political identities in five north-western European countries (Sweden, Prussia, the Dutch Republic, England and France) in 1750-1800 from a comparative perspective and with an emphasis on conceptual history, that is, on long-term semantic change. Such macro-level change reflected and contributed to political change. Context-connected rhetorical use of language is also paid attention to.

The wide theme is approached through case studies which focus on the concepts used by estates - or influential groups within the political elite - to describe their national, cultural and political identities. Special attention is paid to how the meanings assigned to these political key concepts either remained unchanged or changed - sometimes considerably - through time, together with political reality. The analysed concepts will include 'nation', 'fatherland', 'community', 'loyalty', 'subject', 'citizen' and 'common good'.

The main theme is also addressed through comparisons between the language of loyalty of the Swedish estates (nobility, clergy, peasantry) and that of their fellow-estates in other studied countries. Comparisons are thus two-fold and are expected to reveal noteworthy similarities and varieties in conceptualizations of loyalty and the national, cultural and political community between different estates in one country and between the estates of several countries.

The project team is engaged in international cooperation within the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS/SIEDS) and the Elite Network of the European Social Science History Conference.