Three Varieties of the Protestant Enlightenment


The project "Three Varieties of the Protestant Enlightenment" (2004-2009) discusses aspects of political, religious and scientific thought in 18th-century Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden from the perspective of comparative conceptual history. Case studies from Prussia and France are also included. It analyses the vocabularies of popular sovereignty in political philosophy, parliamentary debates and pamphlet literature produced prior to the French Revolution.

The applicant’s ongoing study on "Agents of the People: Popular Sovereignty and Democracy in British, Swedish and Dutch Parliamentary and Public Debates, 1734-1800" is due to produce a book to be published by Brill Academic Publishers during 2009. The study shows that parliamentary debates can be successfully used in a comparative analysis of the modernization of Northwest European political cultures. It demonstrates continuity in the originally classical meanings of the concepts of ‘democracy’ and in the medieval traditions of estate representation for much of the 18th century and warns against a tendency to interpret political systems based on estate representation in excessively teleological terms. Yet it also illustrates the capability of the ancient estate systems of conceptual innovation once the modernization process gained speed during the late Enlightenment. Some noteworthy conceptual redescriptions of ‘the power of the people’ and ‘democracy’ can be found also in the period preceding the French Revolution. However, it was the Revolution that forced the political elites to modernize their conceptions of ‘democracy’ and adopt at least some ideas of ‘popular sovereignty’.


The related subprojects concern:

(i) the conceptual construction of national, cultural and political identities in Sweden, Prussia, England and France, approached through case studies on various estates such as the clergy (project Enlightened Loyalties, 1750-1800 (2005-2007));

(ii) the contextualisation of Swedish (Finnish) thought on the political and national community within 18th-century Europe. After completing the monograph, the applicant intends to write a popularising book titled "Toinen Ruotsi, pikku Preussi" [The Second Sweden, a Little Prussia], exploring the political, cultural and intellectual impact of Sweden and Prussia on Finland between the 16th and 21st centuries;

(iii) the interaction between the languages of politics and science.