Alexandra Thomas

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: Northwestern University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Early Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: In Praise of Dracula: Giovanni Botero, Reason of State, and the Ottoman Empire.
  • My dissertation, "In Praise of Dracula: Giovanni Botero, Reason of State, and the Ottoman Empire," is an examination of the work of Botero, a champion of the Counter Reformation. I explore how Botero's work relates to Machiavelli's political thought and the chaotic world of 16th-century Europe. Although Botero defined reason of state as the means to "found, preserve, and extend a state" in a world of a multitude of European states that were perpetually at war with each other, he did not formulate his ideas on the concept predominantly in response to that internal European squabbling. Instead, I demonstrate that it was in fact a response to not only Machiavelli, but the perception of the most famous external threat to all of Europe- the Ottoman Empire. Under the guise of restoring morality to politics in a post-Machiavellian world, Botero used fear of the menacing Other (the Ottoman Turks), and not internal European warfare, to craft what would become the standard model of statecraft in early modern Europe, and thus, the West. Botero was so focused on the Ottoman threat that, in one of his final works, he wished for the rise of "another Dracula" to lead Europe.
    My objective for the dissertation is to determine how Botero's published works and his personal and professional networks reveal both the outline and the importance of "the Turkish threat" in his reconstruction of the Catholic statecraft. Is it possible to engage in politics and still be moral? Botero certainly argued that it was. The binding of morality, politics and the rising power of an absolutist state had longstanding effects on our world: states became nations; nations acquired their own moral code based on self-importance and survival; means and ends completely lacking in humanity were justified simply because the State and its existence became the ultimate end. The internal justification for the modern nation state rests in part on how the idea of reason of state was set up against an external enemy. My project will provide an original investigation into later Renaissance political thinkers around the turn of the seventeenth century, through the lens of Christian morality, the rise of the state, anti-Islamic rhetoric, utopianism and universalism, the relationship between Church and State, and tensions between East and West.