Fall Term 1993
Laszlo Kontler
Istvan Hont
King's College, Cambridge University
for the Department of History

Course Description

The course is intended as an overview of some of the major political theories from the Renaissance through the Reformation to the Age of Enlightenment. This includes a survey of the attitudes to some important concepts (the state, political society, liberty, sovereignty, etc.) in the main "paradigms" or schools of early modern political thought (republicanism, utopia, natural law, etc.), combined with an attempt to assess the level of interference between theory and practice. After an introduction into the main methods that historians have used for these purposes, ideas will be put into the context of the socio-political circumstances among which they emerged. Is political philosophy a "sterile" intellectual pursuit, working with universal categories and aiming at eternal consequences? Or, conversely, can all political thought be reduced to pamphleteering, i.e., the rationalization of solutions to actual political conflicts? Examining some central chapters in the history of political thought in the early modern period - the age in which it is held to have risen as an independent discipline - may prove especially helpful in striking a balance between these two extreme positions.

Topics and literature *
NOTE: This is not a week by week breakdown, but a division into thematic units, some of which definitely take more than one meeting to discuss. The reading list is neither absolutely mandatory, nor exclusive. It may and will be altered and supplemented according to the individual tastes and interests of participants.

Books to be used as background material for several topics:
Quentin Skinner: The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. 2 vols. Cambridge University Press, 1978.
J. W. Allen: A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century. London, 1960.
John Plamenatz: Man and Society. Longman, 1992.
J. H. Burns: The Cambridge History of Modern Political Thought 1450-1750. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Anthony Pagden (ed.): The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
+ the political histories of the countries of Western Europe cca. 1500-1780, available in the CEU Library

l. Some methodological issues. "Pure" intellectual history, Begriffsgeschichte and the "Cambridge school"
Anthony Pagden: introductory article in: The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe. Ed. A. Pagden, Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Melvin Richter: "Reconstructing the History of Political Languages: Pocock, Skinner, and the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe", History and Theory, 1990/1.
Keith Michael Baker: Inventing the French Revolution. Ch. 1: "On the problem of the ideological origins of the French Revolution". Cambridge University Press, 1990.

2. Machiavelli and the Italian city state. Republic or despotism?
Machiavelli: The Prince
Quentin Skinner: Machiavelli. Oxford University Press, 1981.
J. G. A. Pocock: The Machiavellian Moment. Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton University Press, 1975.

3. The realism of Utopia: Thomas More and the "Northern Renaissance"
Thomas More: Utopia
J. C. Davis: Utopia and the Ideal Society. A Study of English Utopian Writing 1500-1700. Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Frank & Fritzie Manuel: Utopian Thought in the Western World. Blackwell, 1979.

4. The problem of confessional diversity and Jean Bodin's theory of sovereignty Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority
Jean Bodin: The Six Books of the Republic

5. Varieties of natural law in the period of the English Civil War
Hobbes: Leviathan
Andrew Sharp (ed.):Political Ideas of the English Civil Wars 1641-49. Longman, 1983.
Richard Tuck: Hobbes. Oxford University Press, 1989.

6. Locke and the seventeenth century traditions of English political thought Locke: Two Treatises of Government (with P. Laslett's Introduction)
John Dunn: Locke. Oxford University Press, 1984.
Richard Ashcraft: Revolutionary Politics and Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Princeton University Press, 1986.

7. Montesquieu: a theory of constitutions in an absolute monarchy
Montesquieu: Selected Political Writings (Hackett)
Judith Shklar: Montesquieu. Oxford University Press, 1987.
Maurice Cranston: Philosophers and Pamphleteers. Oxford University Press, 1986.

8. The criticism of civilization and what follows from it: Rousseau, Home, Smith
Rousseau: The Basic Political Writings (Hackett)
Hume: Essays Moral, Political and Literary
Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations (Book III)
Ronald Meek: Social Science and the Ignoble Savage. Cambridge University Press, 1976.

CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: May, 1996


Back to the History Syllabi List Back to the Syllabi Collection

Back to the CRC Homepage Back to the CEU Homepage