19 December 2019

BOOK: Rachel HAMMERSLEY, James Harrington – An Intellectual Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). ISBN 9780198809852, £70.00

(Source: OUP)

Oxford University Press is publishing a new intellectual biography of the 17th century political thinker James Harrington.


Despite not being an active participant in the English Civil War, seventeenth-century political thinker James Harrington exercised an important influence on the ideas and politics of that crucial period of history. In The Commonwealth of Oceana he sought to explain why civil war had broken out in 1642, to put the case for commonwealth government, and to offer a detailed constitutional blueprint for a new and successful English government. In this intellectual biography of Harrington, Rachel Hammersley sets a fresh analysis of this and Harrington's other writings against the background of his life and the turbulent period in which he lived.

In doing so, this study seeks to move beyond the conventional view of Harrington as primarily a republican thinker, offering a broader and more comprehensive account of him which addresses the complexity of his republicanism as well as exploring his contributions to economic, historical, religious, philosophical, and scientific debates; his experimentation with vocabulary and literary form; and the relationship between his life and thought. Harrington is presented as an innovative political thinker, committed to democracy, social mobility, and meritocracy. Ultimately, this broader examination of Harrington's life and work opens a window on political, economic, religious, and scientific issues which serve to complicate understandings of the English Revolution, and sheds fresh light on the relevance of seventeenth-century ideas to the modern world.


Rachel Hammersley, Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History, University of Newcastle

Rachel Hammersley is a Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle University. She has published on the translation and dissemination of English republican ideas in France and on notions of republicanism, democracy, and revolution during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has a passion for communicating knowledge of history and past ideas not just to academic audiences, but also a wider readership.


Section One: Harrington the Man
1: The Family Man
2: The Supporter of Parliament
3: The Agent of Monarchy
Section Two: Harrington the Republican
4: The Republican
5: The Atypical Republican
Section Three: Harrington the Innovator
6: Innovation in Substance: 'Empire Follows the Balance of Property'
7: Innovation in Substance: Democracy
8: Innovation in Style
Section Four: Harrington the Controversialist
9: Political Controversy
10: Historical Controversy
11: Religious Controversy
12: Philosophical and Scientific Controversy
Section Five: Harrington the Man of Action
13: Engaging with Politicians
14: The Rota Club
15: Life After 1660

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