Carnegie Mellon University

Institutional Paradigms of Early Centralized Monarchy in Renaissance France


Project led by:
Christophe Combemale

Project Adviser:
John Modell

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Project Description

In this project, I consider the reign of King Francis I of France, from 1515 until 1547, and the contemporary dynamics of power centralization toward absolute monarchy through the lens of a novel theory of state and social evolution. The period I have selected acts as a case study for the evaluation of the functionality and robustness of the institutional theory of historical analysis I developed over the course of my studies at Carnegie Mellon.

In brief, the theory understands society as a forum for the organization of individual and, when it achieves a sufficient scale, local community interests according to institutions that mediate interaction and define the sphere of opportunity and action for both the body public and narrower aggregations of people and power. The institutions in question may be expressed explicitly, as when constructed agencies such as the state develop and impose laws, or implicitly, as in the case of culture or similar social convention which arises from the internalization of longstanding accords into traditions and norms. Importantly, the state may encompass subordinate agencies, which serve to project the interests of particular social segments with the will but not the power to assume the role of the state, or at least the will and the power to affect its operation. These distinct interests interact with the state either through formal fora provided by explicit institutions or through the application of their separate power in conditions where the state’s operation may be diverted in their favor.

My institutional theory of historical analysis provides observations on the efficacy and the context of the policies which transformed the French monarchy under Francis I in the 16th century. It incorporates the domestic and foreign pressures affecting France during the period into an understanding of the catalysts in the decidedly uncertain movement of the monarchy toward centralization and the rudiments of absolutism. Domestically as well as internationally, Francis’s reign entailed the navigation of the complex landscape of explicit and implicit institutions which underwrote the organization of rival and parallel interests in the noble, clerical and merchant classes. My project’s principal objective will be to evaluate the theory through the results of its application to the case study of Francis I.

Student Bio

Honors Department: History

Hometown: Brussels, Belgium

Major(s): BA, Ethics, History and Public Policy

Future Plans: I intend to pursue studies in Public Policy, culminating in a career in policy analysis or consulting informed by an appreciation for the intersection of public and private sector concerns and the perspective provided by my background in history.

Hobbies: I play Dungeons and Dragons and enjoy writing speculative fiction exploring the development of hypothetical governments and societies under imagined conditions.

Fun / Interesting Fact: My international experience has made me trilingual; I am a native French and English as well as a fluent Spanish speaker.