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Against Throne and Altar
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Book description

Modern republicanism - distinguished from its classical counterpart by its commercial character and jealous distrust of those in power, by its use of representative institutions, and by its employment of a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances - owes an immense debt to the republican experiment conducted in England between 1649, when Charles I was executed, and 1660, when Charles II was crowned. Though abortive, this experiment left a legacy in the political science articulated both by its champions, John Milton, Marchamont Nedham, and James Harrington, and by its sometime opponent and ultimate supporter, Thomas Hobbes. This volume examines these four thinkers, situates them with regard to the novel species of republicanism first championed in the early 1500s by Niccolò Machiavelli, and examines the debt that he and they owed the Epicurean tradition in philosophy and the political science crafted by the Arab philosophers Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroës.


‘This is a truly revelatory new interpretation of the thinkers who laid the foundations of Anglo-American republicanism. Deeply learned and vivaciously written, the work brims with provocative and penetrating insights, highlighting a capaciously synoptic historical vision. A masterwork of a master historian of thought.’

Thomas Pangle - University of Texas, Austin

‘A fascinating intellectual history filled with intrigue relating to religious apostasy and political innovation informed by Paul Rahe’s vast erudition. An impressive and important achievement.’

Vickie Sullivan - Tufts University

‘This is a superb study of political theory in the English Commonwealth period. It illuminates connections between and among thinkers and ideas hitherto largely unexplored. Moreover, the analysis of Machiavelli, Milton, Nedham and a number of less familiar figures sheds new light on longstanding questions by presenting an account of a body of English Civil War era political thought that is more skeptical, more rigorous, more philosophically worldly, and frankly more interesting than we have come to expect. This book will change the way we look at the intellectual roots of modern republicanism in the Anglo-American tradition.’

Lee Ward - Campion College at the University of Regina

'This erudite work presents a novel interpretation of Machiavelli's republicanism, and then seeks to trace its influence on the thought of several seventeenth-century English writers. … Rahe's book surveys an enormous swath of intellectual history and political thought … and relates much of it in novel, complex and challenging ways. … a seminal contribution'

Source: The Journal of the Review of Politics

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