Manpower and state power

(Class leader: Erica Charters)

This course examines manpower as both a physical and political concept during the early modern period.  It traces how bodies changed alongside the development of methods to assess, discipline, and cultivate their vitality, linking the development of scientific methodologies to imperial and state formation.   The sessions cover the following:

Course objectives

The main aim of the course is to illuminate the relationship between bodies and state power in early modern Europe, showing the dynamism and flexibility of both.  This is accomplished through a comparison of approaches to manpower from a variety of historical disciplines: anthropometrics; economics; warfare; medicine; science and technology; state and imperial formation.  Course readings examine how bodies changed and grew over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as how they were measured, regulated, and exploited.  Methods of assessing population strength, as well as debates over medicine’s role in population growth, provide students with tangible examples of early modern political theory and practice.    The course will enable students to engage with theory on the modern state (e.g. Michel Foucault), to place military and medical history within the broader context of the formation of early modern states and empires, and to evaluate assumptions about scientific methodologies and political authority.  In doing so, the course exposes students to competing theories and evidence from different historical disciplines, encouraging reflections on historiography and methods.  

Course requirements

There will be eight course sessions spread over Hilary and Trinity terms. Sessions will be held in the seminar room of 47 Banbury Road on Wednesday mornings from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm. Students will be expected to make two presentations each during the course (to be assigned at the first session in week 1), and to submit a 3,500-word literature review (due at the beginning of Trinity Term).

Preparatory reading                     Sessions outline                    Bibliography                    Sample exam questions