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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Mary Lindemann

Second Committee Member

Michael Miller

Third Committee Member

Peter Wallace

Fourth Committee Member

Hermann Beck

Fifth Committee Member

Karl Gunther


Following France’s annexation after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Alsace evolved a political culture in between that of the putatively “absolute” France and the decentralized Holy Roman Empire. This dissertation analyzes the interaction of French and German political cultures and practices in Alsace from the Peace of Westphalia to the French Revolution through a case study of the Alsatian territories ruled by the dukes of Pfalz-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, a rising dynasty that inherited the Duchy of Pfalz-Zweibrücken in 1733, and their administrations. It illustrates the contingent nature of political change and state building in early modern Europe, strips the state of the teleological trappings placed on it by later historians, and restores the early modern state to its proper historical context. The dissertation has two primary arguments. First, both newcomers, the French monarchy and the dukes of Pfalz-Zweibrücken shared power in a successful bid to develop and maintain political legitimacy. The relative authority of the two powers varied considerably depending on the specific territory; the final division of power therefore did too. In France, French monarchy served as the political center. The individual rulers of the Holy Roman Empire ruled a plethora of different principalities, free cities, and ecclesiastical states. In Alsace, the French monarchy and the dukes of Pfalz-Zweibrücken formed two separate political centers. Second, my dissertation takes advantage of recent historiography on the early modern state to argue for the critical role of seigneurial officials in building and embodying the state. As they executed their tasks in face-to-face encounters with subjects, they bound together the ducal government that appointed them, the French administration that approved them, and the local communities that accepted them into an indissoluble whole. In short, they were the crucial mediators of authority for both state centers. I call this process state building through the middle. This study therefore demonstrates the how and the why of early modern state building, the limitations of focusing on the view from above, and the critical position of subjects and officials in the middle.


Alsace; Germany; France; Early Modern; State Building; Authority