Professor of History, University of St Andrews
Guy Rowlands’ research interests lie principally in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century military, naval, financial and French history.
His first book, The Dynastic State and the Army under Louis XIV. Royal Service and Private Interest, 1661 to 1701 (Cambridge University Press, 2002), used political, social, cultural and military approaches to examine how Louis XIV and his ministers were able to increase the size of the French army five-fold over a period of 30 years, and it stressed the importance of integrating the multiple private interests of noble families into calculations of how to organise the state. This book was co-winner of the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize in 2003.
His recent work has been on early eighteenth-century financial history. His second book, entitled The Financial Decline of a Great Power. War, Influence, and Money in Louis XIV's France (Oxford University Press, 2012), places military paymasters and suppliers at the centre of an explanation of how and why the French state’s financial situation deteriorated dramatically during the War of the Spanish Succession. Louis XIV bequeathed a legacy of debt generated in this war to his successors that made an ultimate breakdown of government much more likely. The book focusses, as no book on early modern state finances has done before, on the full range of state financial activity – taxation, borrowing, monetary policy, the appropriations system and expenditure – to explain how things went so badly wrong.
His third book, Dangerous and Dishonest Men: the International Bankers of Louis XIV’s France (Palgrave, 2014), follows up the previous study by looking at the extraordinary but damaging role played by foreign exchange and international bankers in France’s eighteenth-century troubles. At the start of the eighteenth century Louis XIV needed to remit huge sums of money abroad to support his armies during the War of the Spanish Succession. This book explains how international bankers moved French money across Europe, and how the foreign exchange system was so overloaded by the demands of war that a massive banking crash resulted.
Prof. Rowlands is currently in negotiation with a major press for the production of a work of grand synthesis on “War and the State in the Early Modern European World”. He is planning a bid to funding councils for a major project on the emerging western European states, military power and the civilian contractors who serviced and supplied their armed forces in the period 1660-1730. In recent decades the defence establishments of the NATO powers have employed civilian contractors for logistical tasks on a very large scale once again, but there seems to be a real lack of appreciation that so many of these arrangements have been tried before, and particularly so once the state started to emerge in a recognisably modern form after the mid-seventeenth century. As part of this he is already working on another book on arms, artillery and absolute monarchy in Louis XIV’s France.
In the longer term he is working towards a comprehensive, international history of logistics from the mid-17th century to the present day. Prof. Rowlands also has extensive interests in European international and transnational relations between the 1660s and the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789), and he maintains an interest in Jacobitism on the continent between 1688 and 1720.
Versailles, the new ten-part drama serial about Louis XIV of France, is to begin showing on UK television on BBC Two on June 1. Made by French group Canal Plus to mark the tercentenary of the legendary Sun Kings death in...