were, after all, the primary agencies of administration across Europe. It was from the pulpits that villagers were likely to learn of royal edicts. Imaginative sovereigns grasped well enough that no agents in their realm possessed a greater reach into the lives and hearts of subjects than the parish clergy. In the church-state disputes of the middle decades of the century, persuading the lower clergy to view public affairs from the crown's perspective became crucial. Hence the interests of Charles III of Spain and Joseph II in securing the 'correct' education of parish priests through seminary consolidation and reform. Where that policy failed to produce results, as it had in the Austrian Netherlands by the late 1780s, the obduracy of the clergy in stirring up the people against imperial plans could be a prime explanation for their failure.

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