History of European Ideas 41 (4):489-506 (2015)

SummarySeventeenth-century thinking on the relationship between trade and state power was routinely conducted using the concept of state interests, which enabled users to conceive a Europe of competing states that managed the balance of power through trade and war. Poor interest management could arise from ignorance, error, or the divergence between the private interests of rulers and a state's true interests. The stakes of pursuing or neglecting true interest were high: the survival and prosperity of the state. The dominance of ‘mercantilism’ as a historiographical category has obscured the role of interest in early modern thought. This paper examines the work of one of England's most prolific interest writers, Slingsby Bethel, to demonstrate the importance of reading interest writings without recourse to mercantilism. The two focuses are, first, how the rhetoric of counsel was used to defend an ordinary subject's presumption to comment on state affairs and, second, the capacity for interest writers to construe the rise and fall of state power in terms of good laws and statesmanship.
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2014.926659
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