It has now become orthodoxy for historians to write about political texts as being part of discourses or languages. This approach has much merit. At the very least, the work of Quentin Skinner, J. G. A. Pocock and John Dunn has encouraged historians to use a broader range of sources, and to ground their analysis of political thought in a firm historical context. Beyond this, discourse analysis offers a means of establishing a causal relationship between political thought and political action. To echo Richard Ashcraft’s definition, political theory is not merely a product of its social context. It supplies the criteria according to which the actions appropriate for changing that context are rendered intelligible. For Skinner and Pocock, the governing paradigms of political discourses, as much as concrete institutions and social structures, have an influence on political actions. However, this approach also has some limitations. Even after the “linguistic turn,” the history of political thought is still predominantly concerned with the accurate recovery of the meaning of texts, not with the reception or dissemination of ideas. To realize the full impact of political texts, we need to uncover not only the author’s intentions in writing, but also the ways in which these works were read and used by their audience.