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The civic humanist portrait of Machiavelli's English successors

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Abstract:

Because a thorough investigation of Machiavelli's thought and the thought of those who explicitly drew on it can be achieved only through the kind of Herculean labours displayed by Pocock in his Machiavellian Moment, I propose here to examine only two works by admirers of Machiavelli: Harrington's Oceana, which imports the Italian Renaissance to England's shores, and John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon's Cato's Letters, which prepares its departure for America.

I argue that a re-examination of these critical links in the civic humanist chain does not bear out the civic humanist interpretation of Machiavelli's influence. Further, because Pocock, at times, asserts that what is crucial for establishing Machiavelli's participation in this tradition is not, in fact, what Machiavelli said, but how others read him, I believe that this examination begins to raise significant questions about the validity of Pocock's portrait of a Machiavellian civic humanist tradition.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Skidmore College, New York.

Publication date: January 1, 1994

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