Yassar asks the kind of question academics both love and hate: “What is exactly the thesis of your book?” We love it because, well, we like to talk about our work. We hate it because, well, we kind of also don’t like talking about our work–particularly when much of our discussion depends on arcane disciplinary debates.

So, as a temporary evasion, I’ve decided to post the penultimate introductory chapter of my book manuscript, clumsily entitled “Religions Contention, Imperial Rule, and International Relations in Early Modern Europe.” Comments are welcome. You can download it here (PDF). The usual warnings apply: this is full of disciplinary jargon and other fun stuff. Yassar’s question can be answered by only reading the first eleven or so pages.

While you’re at it, consider buying Patrick Jackson’s new book, Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West or ‘on the lighter side of IR’ edited volume on Harry Potter and International Relations.

Yes, I’ve plugged these books before. Cut me some slack.

Patrick and I both had the strange experience of starting historical international-relations projects in the middle 1990s–his on the political consequences of discourses of “western civilization,” mine on the conjunction of empire and religious conflict in early modern Europe–that, at the time, seemed far less relevant than they do now. I never, for example, would have expected to land at Georgetown University, a place still known for its policy orientation (even if we have an excellent and improving program in academic international relations). Yet by the time I started to seriously look for a job, in 2001, suddenly the “lessons” of how transnational religious networks, empires, and political change came together had a certain urgency.

At some point I’m actually going to finish a post called “Further Back to the Future” that deals with some of these issues in light of current developments. As has been the case with my still unfinished final post in the “Balance of Power” series I started a long time ago, however, it may be a long time in gestation.

There’s also a spinoff from my book on the dynamics of empires, called “What’s at stake in the American Empire Debate,” that, fingers crossed, may be forthcoming within the next month. Or my co-author and I will be very sad and have to submit it to another, less prestigious journal….

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