Book of the week: “Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV.” Giora Sternberg


From the publisher: The first study to address social status in Louis XIV’s court as a key tool for defining and redefining identities, relations, and power. Offers perspectives on members of the court, rather than the usual perspective of the Sun King himself Draws from a wide variety of printed and manuscript sources. Who preceded whom? Who wore what? Which form of address should one use? One of the most striking aspects of the early modern period is the crucial significance that contemporaries ascribed to such questions. In this hierarchical world, status symbols did not simply mirror a pre-defined social and political order; rather, they operated as a key tool for defining and redefining identities, relations, and power. Centuries later, scholars face the twofold challenge of evaluating status interaction in an era where its open pursuit is no longer as widespread and legitimate, and of deciphering its highly sophisticated and often implicit codes.

Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV addresses this challenge by investigating status interaction – in dress as in address, in high ceremony and in everyday life – at one of its most important historical arenas: aristocratic society at the time of Louis XIV. By recovering actual practices on the ground based on a wide array of printed and manuscript sources, it transcends the simplistic view of a court revolving around the Sun King and reveals instead the multiple perspectives of contesting actors, stakes, and strategies. Demonstrating the wide-ranging implications of the phenomenon, macro-political as well as micro-political, this study provides a novel framework for understanding early modern action and agency. Readership: Scholars and students of the early modern period, of Louis XIV and his court, and of social and political interaction in an historical context.

Oxford University Press, 224 pages. ISBN: 978-0-19-964034-8.