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Recovering Europe's Parliamentary Culture, 1500-1700: A New Approach to Representative Institutions

About the Project

Representative assemblies, common in late medieval Europe, faced transformative change between 1500 and 1700. Parliaments, States, Estates, Diets, and Cortes varied tremendously in their organization, customs, and functions. Yet they shared a transnational inheritance of ideas and methods that added up to a common European tradition. Intensive study has gone into individual pre-democratic representative institutions, and their political and constitutional histories have been exhaustively documented. But very little has been done to investigate them collectively, to scrutinize them as cultural phenomena in their own right, or to study them in comparative perspective.

Recovering Europe’s Parliamentary Culture, 1500-1700 takes a new approach. It explores the culture of Europe’s Parliaments, States, Sejm, Estates, Diets, and Cortes, asking how it was expressed in images, language, writing, and symbolic practices. It draws on literature, history, political philosophy, the reception of the classical tradition, art and material culture to investigate the literary, political, and visual discourses and shared experiences of representative politics across early modern Europe.

We are currently conducting a pilot project funded by a major grant from Oxford University’s John Fell Fund and led by Professor Paulina Kewes. The project compares the period’s three most robust national assemblies – the English Parliament, the Polish Sejm, and the Dutch States-General.

Project Team

Our second pilot project is funded by the Heritage Priority Research Area at the Jagiellonian University and is titled ‘A New Comparative Approach to Political Assemblies in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania and the Kingdoms of the British Isles’.

Project Team

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See also our Blog series hosted by the Centre for Intellectual History, University of Oxford.

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