Enlightenment at court

BookEnlightenment at court

Enlightenment at court

Patrons, philosophes, and reformers in eighteenth-century Europe

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2022:08


August 8th, 2022





This is the first comprehensive analysis of the royal and princely courts of Europe as important places of Enlightenment. The households of European rulers remained central to politics and culture throughout the eighteenth century, and few writers, artists, musicians, or scholars could succeed without establishing connections to ruling houses, noble families, or powerful courtiers. 

Covering case studies from Spain and France to Russia, and from Scandinavia and Britain to the Holy Roman Empire, the contributions of this volume examine how Enlightenment figures were integrated into the princely courts of the Ancien Régime, and what kinds of relationships they had with courtiers. Dangers and opportunities presented by proximity to court are discussed as well as the question of what rulers and courtiers gained from their interactions with Enlightenment men and women of letters. The book focusses on four areas: firstly, the impact of courtly patronage on Enlightenment discourses and the work as well as careers of Enlightenment writers; secondly, the court as an audience to be catered for by Enlightenment writers; thirdly, the function of Enlightenment narratives and discourses for the image-making of rulers and courtiers; and fourthly, the role the interaction of courtiers and Enlightenment writers played for the formulation of reform policies.


Author Information

Thomas Biskup has been teaching and researching Early Modern History at Oxford, Wolfenbüttel, Princeton, and Hull. His main fields of research are the political culture of seventeenth- to nineteenth-century Europe, and the intersection of politics and science in the Atlantic world. Benjamin Marschke teaches European history at Cal Poly Humboldt, in California. He is currently working on a monograph about political ceremony, gender/sexuality, luxury/money/work ethic, and intellectual/academic culture in the early eighteenth century, focusing on King Frederick William I of Prussia (1713-1740). Andreas Pečar teaches Early Modern History at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. He is Chair of the ‘Enlightenment—Religion—Knowledge’ research cluster and President of the Historical Society of Saxony-Anhalt. Damien Tricoire teaches Early Modern History at the University of Trier. His main fields of research are religion and politics, colonial policy, knowledge and intellectual history in the 17th and 18th centuries. He is currently working on a monograph on Enlightenment history and leading an ERC-funded research project on the impact of aristocratic patronage on the public sphere and politics in 18th-century France.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of illustrations
Introduction: Court and Enlightenment
Thomas Biskup, Benjamin Marschke, Andreas Pečar, Damien Tricoire
Part one: Courtly Patronage
Diderot the Courtier? Philosophers and the World of the Court in Enlightenment Europe
Andreas Pečar & Damien Tricoire
Celebrity, Status, and Gender at the late Hanoverian Court:  The Careers of Charles Burney (1726-1814) and Frances Burney (1752-1840)
Clarissa Campbell Orr
Part two: Public sphere
“Hey France, Your Coffee is F***ing Off!” or How to interpret Unauthorized Literature in Late Ancien Régime France? Courtly Patronage and the So-Called “Mairobert corpus” (1774-1777)
Damien Tricoire
Music, Taste, and Enlightenment Discourse at the Prussian Court. The Marpurg-Agricola Controversy over the Relative Merits of the French and Italian Styles
Tal Soker
Part three: Self-representation
What Makes Enlightenment Princes Enlightened? The Representation of Franz of Anhalt-Dessau and Frederick August of Anhalt-Zerbst
Paul Beckus
Enlightenment in Courtly Garden Art—Enlightenment Ideas and Anti-Court Sociability in the Sanspareil Rock Garden of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth
Luise Maslow
Clemency in the Boudoir. Favoritism and Imperial Virtues at the Russian Court (1740s-1790s)
Alexei Evstratov
Fraternal Kingdom? Freemasonry at the Court of Gustav III of Sweden (1772-1792)
Andreas Önnerfors
Part four: Projects and reforms
Sovereignty and the Politics of Knowledge. Royal Society, Leibniz, Wolff, and Peter the Great’s Academy of Sciences
Kirill Ospovat
Continuity and Change in Courtly and Enlightenment Discourse on Education in Spain. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos and the Moral Regeneration of the Nobility
Gijs Versteegen
The King is Dead—Long Live the Enlightenment? Viennese Court Culture, Networks, and Enlightened Reforms in Periods of Transition (1765-1795)
Simon Karstens