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A Monopoly of Violence

Contrary to the claims of a number of mid-20th-century historians of the Tudor age, the Tudors and their servants did not invent the modern state.  The honor of, or blame for, that achievement properly belongs to the late 17th-century, the age of William III and the period following the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, when a series of new financial institutions—the National Debt, the Bank of England, modern fiscal and administrative measures—allowed a new and increasingly autonomous creature, the state, to spring into being.

What historian P.G.M. Dickson called the “Financial Revolution” of the late-17th and 18th centuries allowed the “state”—specifically, the permanent political and administrative organs of the British government—to emerge independent of the person and family of the monarch.  It also allowed these organs to finance war (which created further demands and excuses for more state functions) and even to subsidize the military power of foreign states, which the British did for Frederick the Great and other allies throughout the dynastic conflicts of the century.  And the financial revolution allowed for the emergence of a permanent bureaucracy independent of both the monarch and dynasty and the leading political figures who served the monarch, a corps of administrators who owed allegiance not to the king or queen personally or dynastically but to...

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