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Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe

Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe

(p.31) Chapter Two Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe
Sovereignty and the Responsibility to Protect
Luke Glanville
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the emergence of sovereignty in early modern Europe. It argues that, from its earliest articulations by political theorists such as Bodin and Hobbes, the idea of “absolute” sovereign authority was conceived to entail responsibilities. Sovereigns may not have been responsible to the people but they were certainly responsible for the people and answerable to God. Moreover, rulers were also understood to be accountable to neighbouring princes for the performance of sovereign responsibilities. Grotius was one of many theorists who justified war to hold to account sovereign princes who violated natural law by acting tyrannically and oppressing their own people. It was in this period also that an international society of states began to tentatively emerge. The chapter argues that, at important moments such as the Peace of Westphalia, mutual recognition of authority claims paved the way for the construction of not only rights but responsibilities of legitimate statehood, including responsibilities for the toleration of religious minorities.

Keywords:   Absolute Sovereignty, Bodin, Early Modern Europe, Grotius, Hobbes, Natural Law, Westphalia

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