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How far the sword? Militia tactics and politics in the Commonwealth of Oceana

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While there is a history of sorts clearly evident in the Preliminaries of James Harrington's Commonwealth of Oceana, one can hardly escape noticing the model qualities of the Commonwealth as it is proposed. Accepting this apparent dualism as an obstacle, Pocock has noted that Oceana cannot be understood as utopia unless first understood as history. Others would not necessarily agree. Yet, given that Harrington located his explanation for the dissolution of the government upon the failure of the nobility to maintain English arms in time of crisis, I argue that in seeking a solution he turned to a series of debates regarding the history of the contemporary alternative to those failed feudal armies, the English militia. Having identified a crisis of arms, Harrington found tactical models dealing with the organization of a militia -- both contemporary and ancient -- to be a perfect historical model for his own commowealth. Considered in this context, the utopian status of the Commonwealth's orders becomes questionable and the work appears much more historical throughout.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: College of Arts and Sciences, Mesa State College, Grand Junction, Colorado 81502, USA. Email:110331,[email protected]

Publication date: 1998-02-01

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