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Louis XIV and Colbert Reconsidered: Politics of Glory and the Birth of Continental Commercial Policy

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, December 4, 2019. 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Board Room
Workshop: 
History of Political Thought
Meeting Description: 

Jacob Soll's paper reexamines the famous cultural of politics of Louis XIV and Colbert. It will show that Colbert designed many of the monuments to Louis’ glory to promote commercial culture in France, to build international confidence in French commerce. Rather than simply glory, Colbert was building a system of economic trust and verification. This project was the basis of the Encyclopédie, and thus provides a new origins story of the Enlightenment—one remarkably in line, in some ways, with Voltaire’s view of Louis’ reign. Colbert’s project had pan-European influence and was central to British commercial development. It is one way of explaining the origins of economic culture in Europe.

Jacob Soll is university professor (one of only 22 at USC), and professor of Philosophy, history and accounting at the University of Southern California, where he is director of the Martens Economic History Forum. He received a BA from the University of Iowa, a DEA from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and a PhD from Magdalene College, Cambridge University. He has taught at Cambridge University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy. Soll has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society, for his first book Publishing "The Prince" (2005), which examines how Machiavelli's work was popularized and influenced modern political thought, two NEH Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the $500,000 MacArthur “Genius Prize” Fellowship. His most recent book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (2014), presents a sweeping history of accounting and politics, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how accounting can be used to build kingdoms, empires, and entire civilizations, but also undermine them. An international best-seller, The Reckoning has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide, notably in Japan (where it was number 1 on the national best-seller list of non-fiction), Taiwan, Korea, the UK, Greece, and Portugal. Soll is a regular contributor to the New York TimesPolitico, the Boston GlobeThe New RepublicPBSSalon.com, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and is regularly featured on international prime-time television. He has spent the last several years directly involved with policy questions concerning the Greek debt crisis and EU economic policy, and has recently worked with the the Portuguese government and the Prime Minister of Spain. He also regularly works with Asian business leaders and is on the Board of the Kazarian Foundation for Public Financial Management. An award-winning Renaissance and Enlightenment intellectual historian, Professor Soll was also was named one of the Top Accounting Power 50 2015 by The Accountant magazine, the oldest publication in the profession. Mixing historical scholarship with policy studies, he is now a noted independent public spokesperson for government transparency, international financial standards, and professional accounting ethics.

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