Louis XIV, the seventeenth-century French king, has been justifiably and, it seems, forever established in the popular imagination as the quintessential absolutist monarch. He dispensed favors and offices in exchange for loyalty and subservience, a policy that effectively subdued a potentially fractious and adversarial nobility. He delegated responsibilities to trusted subjects for specific tasks: military planning, public works, court functions, tax collection, security (police), and fiscal administration. These were the embryonic “ministries” of the early modern bureaucratic state. Despite these significant innovations, the Sun King’s governing framework was not his invention. A precursor, and perhaps model, was the Florentine grand-ducal state established more than a century earlier, in the 1530s, by Cosimo I...


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