The Wealth of Republics, Monarchies and Nations after the Seven Years' War

The Seven Years' War (1756-63) is sometimes referred to as the first "global war," not only because the conflict extended into Europe's overseas empires, but also because the scale of destruction was so tremendous that it warranted comparison with WWI. We propose a panel on Swiss and international intellectual history during the 1760s, concerning efforts to imagine a world where the competitive pursuit of riches would be prevented from descending into another military conflagration. Our panel will challenge the notion that the Enlightenment was a period of blind faith in human perfectibility. Against this, we will explore how hopes for a reformed future arose from a sophisticated understanding of the volatile nature of international economic competition.

One of the aims of our panel is to present the an ongoing FNS research project that focusses on Vaudois thinkers in the Economic Society of Bern. The project reveals how Polish reformers sought out Vaudois members of the Society who were leading theorists of how agrarian republics could develop into manufacturing economies. The publications that resulted from this collaboration were translated into German, Italian and English and were avidly read throughout Europe and in the United States. By examining the Vaudois-Polish nexus of the Economic Society of Bern, our panel will seek to understand how the unusually rich intellectual life of the Vaud – and Switzerland more generally – made it an international reference point for political economists such as the Physiocrats and Adam Smith, as well as statesmen (and women) in Poland, Saxony, Russia, Denmark, and beyond.

Auguste BERTHOLET's paper will uncover the history of one of the most important publications of the Economic Society of Bern, the Essais sur l’esprit de la législation (1765). This text arose from a prize-essay competition established by the Polish counts Mniszech, who, on the recommendation of Emer de Vattel, had been sent to Bern to be educated by the secretary of the Vaudois chapter of the Economic Society, Elie Bertrand. Of the 25 essays submitted, four were chosen for publication, by Jean Bertrand, Benjamin Carrard, Gabriel Seigneux de Correvon and Michel Pagan. These thinkers were responsible for disseminating economic theory internationally through translation projects (including Mandeville's Fable of the Bees) and in their own original analyses of global commerce and agrarian and political reform.

Radek SZYMANSKI's paper will discuss the Grand Tour that the Mniszechs took with their tutor Bertrand. From 1762 to 1766, the counts travelled throughout Switzerland and Europe. Under Bertrand's guidance, they composed detailed comparative empirical analyses of the different economic models they encountered, in order to develop a framework for reforming Poland's stagnant economy. As Poland struggled to preserve its independence on the eve of the Partitions (1772-1795), the Mniszechs returned home to lead projects for serf emancipation and economic modernization in the new Commission of National Education.