Editors’ Introduction

  • Dimitrios Karmis
  • Wayne Norman


Two or more parties, be they individuals or communities, will often find cooperation mutually advantageous. It can be much better for all parties concerned, over the long run, than conflict and war. For this reason, there have been federative arrangements (broadly construed) throughout recorded history. Federal theory, however, is a much more recent human creation: there is little to speak of before the sixteenth century. The first real theories of federation were formulated in response to the rise of centralized modern states and to the theory of sovereignty that came to support them. The Holy Roman and Germanic Empires were weakening in Europe and power was being centralized in the hands of monarchs. As most students of the standard History of Ideas are well aware, the theory for these kinds of political entities—the precursors to modern “sovereign” nation-states—was first formulated by the Frenchman, Jean Bodin and the Englishman, Thomas Hobbes, in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. What many standard histories of ideas leave out, however, is that these theories of absolute state sovereignty were soon joined by theories of “shared federative sovereignty,” which took seriously the reality of ongoing political experiments like the Swiss and Dutch confederations. German jurist Johannes Althusius and German philosopher Samuel Pufendorf were among the pioneers of this alternative federalist approach.


Sixteenth Century Close Integration Political Entity Sovereign State International Peace 
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Copyright information

© Dimitrios Karmis and Wayne Norman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dimitrios Karmis
    • 1
  • Wayne Norman
    • 2
  1. 1.University of OttawaCanada
  2. 2.Université de MontréalCanada

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