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Disarming the Europeans. Regulating Private Arms, 1400-2000.

The Carlsberg Foundation 'Semper Ardens' Monographs

What

The project aims at a monograph entitled 'Disarming the Europeans. Regulation of Private Arms, 1400-2000'. The main point is that comprehensive control is a creation of twentieth-century democracies, sometimes explicitly to secure constitutional rule. Earlier monarchic or aristocratic political systems were less ambitious and much less politically motivated. Owning weapons was very rarely regulated at all, and bearing weapons not much. This is more or less the opposite of what is typically assumed. These assumptions are not based on historical research, however. They can be traced back to American, and partly British, eighteenth century political ideas.

Why

Very little research has been done on the subject, perhaps because Europeans tend to regard comprehensive weapons control as natural and falsely presume that it is ancient. Globally, however, weapons control is far from being the norm, and the history of weapons control in Europe is different from what is assumed. Weapons are dangerous objects and they are tools for power. Private arms play a role in important debates, both among scholars and the general public. What are the essential attributes of the state? And of democracy? How do we preserve and improve public safety? Knowing how weapons have been regulated across a number of different societies can contribute to better understanding in all these fields.

How

The monograph will integrate the existing research - mainly on Britain and modern Germany - with new analysis of primary sources, mainly legislation. Each chapter will focus on a specific type of society and polity: the medieval and early modern self-governing city; the princely territory; bureaucratic royal rule; modern democracies; modern quasi-democratic states.

SSR

Weapons control is a major political issue in large parts of the world today. Establishing a new, knowledge-based account of the European development may contribute to a more qualified discussion and wiser policies.