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Downing3--critique - 1 Questions about Downing's The...

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1 Questions about Downing’s, The Military Revolution and Political Change 1 Introduction 2 Before you began reading Downing, I listed some major reasons why we were going to read Downing’s book: 3 First, to gain some general historical knowledge of European history: 4 After all, Europe is the region where both modern democracy and modern capitalism had their roots. 5 Second, to build up some detailed historical knowledge about at least six European countries so that we might draw on our knowledge of these countries when making evaluations of various hypotheses about the relationship between democracy, capitalism, socialism, and dictatorship. 6 My thoughts today draw on a book by Rosenberg and Birdzell, titled How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World . 7 What does this book tell us? 8 Recall that Downing’s book has its own three main arguments: 9 The first part of his argument is that because of particular institutions and power relations that developed during the medieval period, much of Europe had a substantial predisposition toward a kind of ”medieval constitutionalism”, which included citizenship, representation, and the rule of law. 10 In contrast, Russia, China, Japan, and elsewhere had no counterparts of this medieval constitutionalism. 11 Downing even emphasizes that we should avoid explaining European history solely by reference to processes beginning with economic modernization: (12) As Downing put it (p.239): ”Parliament predates capitalism.” 13 The second part of Downing’s argument is that incessant warfare in early modern Europe led to military modernization (except in Poland!). 14 The third part of Downing’s argument is that how a country was able to handle the problem of the resource accumulation needed for military modernization and warfare was critical to the nature of the government which a country developed: 15 Countries faced with heavy and protracted warfare that required extensive domestic resource mobilization suffered the destruction of their medieval constitutionalism and the rise of a military-bureaucratic form of absolutist government: (16) Brandenburg-Prussia (17) France (to a somewhat lesser degree) 18 Where war was light, or where war needs could be met without mobilizing high proportions of national resources (e.g., from foreign resources, alliances, geographic
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2 advantages, or commercial wealth), the conflicts with medieval constitutionalism were much
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