Erik Thomson

This chapter focuses on the entrepreneur Jean Hoeufft who remitted subsidies not only to the United Provinces and Sweden but also to many of France’s other allies during most of the Thirty Years’ War, including Hesse-Cassel and Transylvania. It deals with Hoeufft’s role as the organizer of subsidy payments from the king of France to his allies and argues that French foreign policy would not have functioned without him. Hoeufft came to occupy a quasi-diplomatic status, possessing commissions of different sorts from France, Sweden, and the United Provinces. The chapter details the different structure of the payments, detailing how the French paid much more to remit the Swedish subsidies than the Dutch ones. Hoeufft’s credit came to be viewed as necessary to the alliance, enabling him to secure payment from the notoriously unreliable French. For Hoeufft, the Cardinals’ foreign policy, and particularly the payment of subsidies, enabled his entrepreneurial strategy, allowing his family to profit from occupying a unique position in European commerce and politics while advancing the Calvinist cause.

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789
Economies of allegiance

French subsidies played a central role in European politics from Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy in 1494 until the French Revolution. French kings attempted to frustrate what they viewed as a Habsburg bid to pursue universal monarchy. During the seventeenth century, the French monarchy would embrace the payment of subsidies on a different scale than previously, using alliances in which subsidies played a prominent role to pursue crucial aspects of royal policy. Louis XIII made alliances promising subsidies to support the United Provinces’ resumed war against the king of Spain, and for the Danish, Swedish, and various German princes to fight against the Holy Roman Emperor. Louis XIV continued some of these subsidies and used subsidies as a tool in order to implement his own politics. When Louis XIV appeared to Dutch and some English statesmen as aspiring to Universal monarchy, the Dutch and particularly the English used the tool of subsidies to frustrate the French monarch. During the eighteenth century, principally the French and the British, but also the Austrians, used subsidies to procure allies and attempt to maintain the balance of power. The subsidy system prompted significant debates about the legal, political, and moral implications, and was sometimes a source of political conflict between competing power groupings within states. The book argues that participation in the French system of subsidies neither necessarily accelerated nor necessarily retarded state development; but such participation could undoubtedly change political dynamics, the creation of institutions, and the form of states that would emerge.

Open Access (free)
Svante Norrhem and Erik Thomson

The chapter introduces the concept of subsidies and gives an overall view of the various uses of subsidies in the early modern period. Subsidies were ubiquitous features of diplomatic and military history throughout the early modern period, although such payments could assume a wide variety of names and forms. The early modern era also saw numerous variations of subsidy alliances. The most frequent as well as important subsidizers – in terms of sums – were France, Spain, the United Provinces, and England. On the receiving end, Sweden, Denmark, the Swiss confederation, the United Provinces, and a number of German and northern Italian states stand out. The reason why subsidies deserve more attention is that they highlight the manner in which resources were shared among sovereignties, and the manner in which diplomacy rested upon allies promising to share money and grant access to resources as a prominent part of diplomacy, military provisioning, and the construction of early modern states.

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789