This book offers a new paradigm of the history of the German nobility in the early modern period. It shows that, contrary to the prevailing view, the nobility was not in a period of crisis that facilitated the rise of the state. Rather, the nobility underwent a process of social stratification in the wake of the growth of the state. This process led to the formation of an elite of wealthy noble families on whose cooperation the state depended. This alliance, and not a presumed partnership between rulers and bourgeoisie, was the driving force in early modern Germany.