MA in the History of Political Thoughtand Intellectual History

Early-modern theories of the state

Quentin Skinner (QMUL)

Some early-modern political theorists locate the authority to make laws and exercise political control in the figure of the ruler or prince. The seminar will begin by examining the most celebrated example, Machiavelli's The Prince (1513). Others locate these powers in the body of the republic or people. Thomas More's Utopia (1516) and Machiavelli's Discourses (c1519) offer contrasting examples, and the next four sessions of the seminar will focus on these texts. The second half of the course will then turn to Hobbes's contrasting claim in Leviathan (1651) that these powers lie instead with the fictional person of the state. The main aim of the seminar will thus be to engage in a close reading of four classic texts of early-modern political thought.