Jacob Soll (born 1968) is a historian of early modern Europe who is researching the origins of the modern state. He is currently a professor at the University of Southern California and has won the 2005 Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009. In 2011 he was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship.
He has authored three books; Publishing "The Prince" (2005), The Information Master (2009) and The Reckoning (2014).
Early life and career
Soll was born in Madison, Wisconsin. His parents are David Soll, a molecular geneticist, and Beth Soll, née Bronfenbrenner, a modern dance choreographer. His grandfather is child psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner. Through his maternal Grandmother, Liese Bronfenbrenner, née Price, Soll is the great grandson of the English author and professor, Hereward Thimbleby Price, and a descendent of the Prym family of industrialists and academics from Aachen, Stolberg, Düren and Bonn, Germany. Early hometowns included Cambridge, Massachusetts, Iowa City and Paris, France. He earned a B.A. from the University of Iowa in 1991, a D.E.A. in 1993 from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and a Ph.D. in 1998 from Magdalene College, Cambridge. He has worked in Lisbon, Portugal as Bolseiro of the Biblioteca Nacionale de Lisboa and in Florence, Italy as a Fernand Braudel Fellow at the European University Institute. Prior to his appointment at USC, Soll was a professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden.
He studies the intellectual, political, cultural, and institutional history of 16th-18th century Western Europe, to explore how political thought and criticism develop in relation to government institutions. Soll's first book, Publishing "The Prince" (2005), examines the role of commentaries, editions, and translations of Machiavelli produced by the previously little-studied figure Amelot de La Houssaye (1634-1706), who became the most influential writer on secular politics during the reign of Louis XIV. Grounded in analysis of archival, manuscript, and early printed sources, Soll shows how Amelot and his publishers arranged prefaces, columns, and footnotes in a manner that transformed established works, imbuing books previously considered as supporting royal power with an alternate, even revolutionary, political message. Publishing "The Prince" was the winner of the American Philosophical Society's 2005 Barzun Prize.
In his second book, The Information Master (2009), he investigates the formation of a state-information gathering and classifying network by Louis XIV's chief minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, revealing that Colbert's passion for information was both a means of control and a medium for his own political advancement: his systematic and encyclopedic information collection served to strengthen and uphold Louis XIV's absolute rule. With these and other projects in progress including an intellectual and practical history of accounting and its role in governance in the modern world and a study of the composition of library catalogues during the Enlightenment.
- Publishing "The Prince". University of Michigan Press. 2005. ISBN 978-0-472-11473-3.
- The Information Master. University of Michigan Press. 2009. ISBN 978-0-472-11690-4.