Johann Peter Süssmilch: From Divine Law to Human Intervention

By Justus Nipperdey


The research of Johann Peter Süssmilch’s demographic theories has tended to concentrate on the enlarged second edition of his Divine Order of 1761/2. While the differences to the original edition of 1741 have been noticed, they have not been systematically analysed and explained. This article charts the development of Süssmilch’s thought in relation to the changing German cameralist discourse of the time. Both Süssmilch’s original project as its further development cannot be understood without closely correlating it to the German discourses on population and economy. Süssmilch influenced the cameralist discourse by providing a new mode of argument in favour of population politics. However, this had not been the goal of the theologian who had deliberately avoided any political interpretation of his findings in 1741. It was in the following two decades that Süssmilch became interested in the possibilities of changing demographic behaviour by political means. During the 1750s he started to engage in political arguments that peaked in the second edition of the Divine Order that was as much a book on the laws governing population as on population politics.


  • Süssmilch
  • cameralism
  • Germany
  • eighteenth century
  • history of demographic thought
  • population politics
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