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Ferdinand I’s Creditors from the Bohemian Lands (1526–1545)
Josef ČížekRead full article in PDF


The article explores the issue of credit as one of the instruments used by Ferdinand I in his interior policy during the first half of his reign (1526–1545). It discusses the methods used by the sovereign in dealing with the recognition of debts of his predecessors towards his supporters and his antagonists. The research focuses on the client networks that originated from the financial ties between Ferdinand I and representatives of Bohemian nobility. The article defines the main types of creditors who provided loans to the sovereign in the first half of 16th century and uncovers also their motivation for doing so.

Hungarian Estates as Participants of the Bohemian Coronation in 1743.
A Case Study of Maria Theresia’s Government Strategy

Zsolt KökényesiRead full article in PDF


The purpose of this paper is the presentation of a regal gesture and the answer given in response from the side of the estates. Maria Theresa formally invited the Hungarian aristocrats and noblemen to her coronation as rex foemina in Prague in 1743, and this invitation was accepted by many representatives of the estates. This gesture is not unknown to Czech and Hungarian historians, but its symbolical meaning has not been fully appreciated. It is not discussed in Hungarian syntheses of the period and the international research ignores this topic. But the regal invitation to the coronation and its acceptance by the estates are acts that are important in a different way than the crowning ceremony and the events of the festivities. The reciprocal symbolical gestures can be interpreted as parts of the political communication between Maria Theresa and the Estates of the Kingdom of Hungary. The paper explores, first of all, the military, political and ceremonial circumstances of the coronation itself, and shows in which way the ceremony was adjusted to the intention of crowning Maria Theresia as a King. Then it analyses the invitation as a symbolical gesture, and the circle of the invited guests. After that, it explores the travel diaries of Hungarian brothers György and László Radvánszky, which makes it possible to explore their reactions to the coronation. Finally, this event is interpreted as a part of the Habsburg-Hungarian relations and as an element of the new government strategy of Maria Theresa, who sought to win over Hungarian noblemen.

Beyond a Genealogy of Human Rights
Introduction to a Discussion Forum

Ivo CermanRead full article in PDF


The introductory essay explains the motivation for this discussion forum. After the success of Samuel Moyn’s slim book on Utopian human rights, the American historians of human rights began to turn a blind eye to the whole period before the 1970s, including the Age of Enlightenment. The focus is now more on persons and events of the Utopian decade, and not on the history of human rights. „On the Spirit of Rights“ is a recent monograph by an influential American historian, which may help reverse the tide. There follows a brief summary of the argument of the book and an introduction to the participants in the discussion. In his discussion of enlightenment authors, Edelstein focuses on the question whether they recognized natural rights after the social contract. He calls such an approach the „preservation regime“ and identifies the physiocrats as authors of such a solution.

The Role of Physiocracy in the Birth of Human Rights
Thérence Carvalho: Read full article in PDF


The article supports Dan Edelstein’s claim that the origins of the conception of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen may be seen in the political and legal philosophy of the physiocrats. Carvalho only regrets that Edelstein discussed some marginal figures of the movement, while ignoring the substantial contribution by its principal representatives. Le Trosne is one of those ignored, even though he was a lawyer and his writings are relevant to the question. Carvalho also regrets that Edelstein did not draw on some recent French works on intellectual history which helped to rehabilitate the physiocrats as political and legal theorists. The works of Anthony Mergey and Éric Gojosso are indispensable for this topic. Carvalho explores the role of the rights to freedom, property and security in physiocratic thought but also recalls the correlative duties. He approves of the thesis that physiocratic thought had an influence on the Declaration. Finally, Carvalho extends the geographical scope of the enquiry by a note on physiocratic achievements in the field of human rights with the examples of Poland and Sweden.

How to do Things with Rights?
On Circulation of Ideas between Great Britain and France

Emmanuelle de Champs – Read full article in PDF


Based on Dan Edelstein’s fascinating theses, Emmanuelle de Champs explores the status of eighteenth-century declarations as performative documents and the ways in which ideas of rights circulated between the French and the English-speaking worlds. She agrees that the impulses of the Declaration of 1789 were elaborated during the Revolution and even during the 19th century, but recalls that their normative status in their own age was questioned. Emmanuelle de Champs explores critiques which grew from the Tory heritage of England, where she includes Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke or Samuel Johnson. In the critical responses to the French Declaration, Bentham basically treated rights as fictious entities which should not be backed by any legal sanctions. These thinkers questioned what Dan Edelstein calls the ‘preservation regime of human rights’. Emmanuelle de Champs approvingly follows Edelstein’s attempt to show how the idea was disseminated in France before 1789, but asks whether it would not be better to follow not only the Encyclopédie and Diderot but also the periodical press. She suggests that this was also the channel through which British republican ideas were disseminated in France.

On the Spirit of Rights and Abolitionism
Olivier GrenouilleauRead full article in PDF


The article examines the thesis that abolitionism in France was encouraged by Roman law and free-market ideology. Grenouilleau stresses that abolitionism was much more than we usually think. It was not only an effort to reform or renounce the participation of one’s country in the slave trade, but an effort to eradicate the slave trade and slavery everywhere. In an effort to identify its history, he distinguishes between its possible sources (i.e. retrospective deduction) and its real developments (i.e. real-time reconstruction). The essential factor was the convergence of a conservative „theological“ movement with a secular „liberal“ one, in which free-market arguments might have been deployed merely as a tactical device. While Grenouilleau agrees that sentimentalism may not be seen as the source of abolitionism, he argues that it was essential to the dissemination of its message. In the long-term perspective, the 18th century appears to be a turning- point closing the long period of casuistry and starting the era of abolitionism. It included even countries such as Brazil which abolished slavery only in 1888. The reasons for this turning-point seem to be mainly moral ones.

On Rights without Natural Law
Ivo Cerman : Read full article in PDF


Whereas Dan Edelstein’s interpretation may hold true for France, its general statements may mislead readers into disregarding the significance of systematic natural law for the formulation of human rights. The contemporary American historians of human rights also tend to attribute the main role to feelings, and not to legal theories. For this reason, the contribution first seeks to prove that systematic thinking of natural law theorists was necessary for the conception of the idea of „equal and universal human rights“. The argument goes on to prove that France was an anomaly, lying outside the core area of natural law (i.e. countries where natural law was institutionalized in university chairs). The preservation regime developed by the physiocrats was a part of their physicist way of thinking about human society, not a logical solution to the legal relationship between the citizen and public power. Even other libertarian thinkers in Germany and Italy were actually speaking about economics rather than about real law. The physiocrats found the solution in proper education, not in law. The article surveys how natural law thinkers were trying to solve the dilemma implicit in the relation between individual citizen and public power, and how they regulated the relations between individual citizens. While the relation to public power required logical legal thinkers to make sovereign power unaccountable to anyone, the reciprocal rights at the level of individuals were usually recognized, but sometimes in the form of general legal permissions and not in the form of a list of rights. The British-American tradition of common law often seems to be more liberal, but its chaotic nature actually helped to conceal the existence of slavery and the disadvantaged status of slaves.

Spirit of Rights. Response to Comments
Dan EdelsteinRead full article in PDF


Dan Edelstein responds to the comments by Thérence Carvalho, Olivier Grenouilleau, Emmanuelle de Champs and Ivo Cerman. He sums up the argument of his book and stresses that it was not only about 18th century and physiocracy. He explains that the book was motivated by his efforts to bridge the gap which appeared in US historiography, where an older trend stressed natural law, while a second newer trend focuses only on natural rights and the twentieth century. Edelstein follows the view that natural rights and natural law are two sides of the same coin. He defends the importance of Roman Law and Montesquieu for the critique of slavery. In the responses Edelstein underscores the religious grounding of natural law, the importance of medieval thinkers and the merits of the Catholic Church for renewing the interest in natural law at the end of the nineteenth century. Even though we like the result of this religious thinking, we do not like the metaphysical foundation on which it stands.

Editing a Historical Document: Joseph II’s Tableau Général (1768)
Antal Szántay Read full article in PDF


The Tableau général de la Monarchie is probably the longest but rarely quoted early memorandum of Joseph II. It is kept in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv in Vienna. I am preparing a full-text edition of the source with detailed notes and analysis in a separate publication. In this research report, I provide a short preliminary introduction to the source, covering the historiography, the problem of accurate datation, and the context, as well as an outline of the contents. The document is also outstanding because Joseph II formulated here probably the most detailed views on foreign affairs. At the same time – surprisingly, in this case – he is a docile follower of Kaunitz.


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