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MONTESQUIEU'S CONTROVERSIAL CONTEXT: THE SPIRIT OF THE LAWS AS A MONARCHIST TRACT

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Abstract:

This article draws attention to the importance of early eighteenth-century debates about the nature of the French monarchy for our understanding of Montesquieu’s masterpiece The Spirit of the Laws. By contrasting and comparing Montesquieu’s views with those of, amongst others, Henri de Boulainvilliers and Gilbert-Charles Le Gendre, this article shows that The Spirit of the Laws defended an orthodox monarchist position. The evidence presented in this article therefore has important implications for the ongoing debate about Montesquieu’s place in the history of ideas, suggesting that The Spirit of the Laws was written to bolster rather than to undermine the regime under which he lived.

Keywords: Montesquieu; The Spirit of the Laws; despotism; monarchism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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