Offering an approach to the history of the modern state, this text concentrates on the 18th century and on two cases, those of Britain and Germany. These two countries have always been test-cases for historians and social scientists looking at the development of the modern state because they have been seen as presenting the two main alternatives in the state-building process. Using a comparative study of the British and German states, including Prussia, it deconstructs certain cliches about them and forces one to rethink how to study states in the early modern era. The volume is less concerned with the theory of the state or the formal constitutional conditions under which governments operate than with their actual modus operandi.