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Liaisons dangereuses

, 376 pages

13 halftones, 3 line drawings

May 2006
List price:$41.00
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Liaisons dangereuses

Sex, Law, and Diplomacy in the Age of Frederick the Great

Liaisons dangereuses examines the local and international repercussions of a notorious episode in eighteenth-century Hamburg. Historian Mary Lindemann recounts the mysterious circumstances surrounding the violent death of a counterfeit Milanese count, Joseph Visconti, at the hands of an erstwhile Prussian lieutenant, the Baron von Kesslitz.

Reconstructing the drama from the perspectives of four principal players—the count, the baron, an Italian/French courtesan, Anna Maria Romellini, and Antoine Ventura de Sanpelayo, the Spanish consul in Hamburg—Lindemann explores the historical currents that swept these individuals together and the effects of their encounter on Hamburg's public, its government, and its diplomatic and economic relationships with European courts and states. Lindemann profiles each person involved in the crime, exploring their lives as unique sets of circumstances while analyzing them as eighteenth-century types.

What actually took place on that fateful night in October 1775? All Hamburg buzzed with rumors, but it is impossible to determine without doubt the motives of those involved, or even to know what really happened. Nevertheless, the case that developed around the killing of Visconti provides fascinating insights into the diplomatic, cultural, legal, social, and political history of the last third of the eighteenth century.

Mary Lindemann is a professor of history at the University of Miami. She is the author of Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

"Lindemann has creatively used the real-life murder of Count Joseph Visconti... to examine 18th-century European life and politics."

"Full of wonderfully illuminating insights."

"Lindemann has written a rich and rewarding work, one that demonstrates how well she has mastered her craft."

"Lindemann has produced an excellent work, one that scholars can ponder and undergraduates can enjoy."

"A lively and notably readable study that is both a fascinating, if ultimately unsolvable, detective story and multilayered exploration of later eighteenth-century Europe."

"Aside from the scholarly value of the work, readers will derive great pleasure from Lindemann's gifts as a raconteur. She visualizes every moment of her narrative in a way that makes Hamburg as attractive and mysterious a mental destination for us as Venice or Istanbul."

"Microhistory is here at its best when spreading its investigative net to related, yet more remote, thematic layers."

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