J.G.A. Pocock

J.G.A. Pocock has written several books about the history of political thought and about history as a kind of political thought.

Rangatiratanga: Maori

J.G.A. Pocock, 8 September 2011

To explain why Judith Binney – who died in New Zealand in February – is a major figure in contemporary historiography it is necessary to explain why the history of her country has become a field of which contemporary historians do well to take notice. They have not always done so. New Zealand has been considered a safe, dull Anglo-democracy, with a welfare state 75 years old and...

The Ironist: Gibbon under Fire

J.G.A. Pocock, 14 November 2002

Since two pioneering studies appeared in 1954, Arnaldo Momigliano’s ‘Gibbon’s Contribution to Historical Method’, and Giuseppe Giarrizzo’s Edward Gibbon e la cultura europea del Settecento, the historian of the Roman Empire has himself become the object of serious historical study. It can still be maintained that his work is, in D.R. Woolf’s words,...

Removal from the Wings

J.G.A. Pocock, 20 March 1997

For a people accustomed to govern itself, history is the past of its sovereignty, modified by such other pasts as appear relevant. What is such a people to do when the historical conditions which have defined its sovereignty are radically changed, and the future of sovereignty itself appears uncertain? A possible answer is that it may set about rewriting its history in the light of these new questions, emphasising the precariousness of its historical autonomy, and asking whether sovereignty has in fact been exercised and if so, by whom. Since autonomy is in question, it may even ask whether it has been one people or several. The uncertainties of the present stimulate enquiry into the past, and the outcome may vary between an angry nationalism, a whining defeatism, or a recognition that as autonomy, sovereignty and history become precarious, their value can be re-assessed or re-asserted; the texture of thought toughens as the questions grow more difficult.

Was He One of Them?

J.G.A. Pocock, 23 February 1995

David Womersley’s massive and elegant edition of Gibbon is the better timed because it comes a century after the edition scholars have been obliged to use as the nearest to a critical text. It was in 1896 that J.B. Bury brought out the first volume of his edition, which he reissued in 1909 and which until now has been considered standard. We can therefore look back from Womersley to Bury, across a century of upheavals in both historiography and history, and wonder, Neoclassically, what will have become of both text and new edition when the next fin de siècle is on its way out. If there are readers then, and if they are reading Gibbon, they may not be Euro-Americans and may be integrating the Decline and Fall into histories of their own – if, again, they are so fortunate as to possess histories.’

The devil has two horns

J.G.A. Pocock, 24 February 1994

Conor Cruise O’Brien’s majestic study takes rise from two lines of Yeats:

Europe, what Europe? J.G.A. Pocock

Colin Kidd, 6 November 2008

Few areas of the humanities have undergone such a remarkable transformation over the past half-century as the history of political thought. Students were once introduced to it by way of its...

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Tall, silver-haired and bearded, with a mesmerising voice and beguiling manner of delivery, John Pocock has long struck me as the Gandalf of the historical profession. The range, altitude and...

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No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was published on 1 November 1790. By then, Burke had long ceased to be the dominant intellectual influence in the Whig Party. He hoped the...

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Tory History

Alan Ryan, 23 January 1986

Demolish a much-loved building, and you are left with rubble. Demolish a much-loved piece of political theory, and you find it rising from its own ashes, somewhat changed in appearance, but...

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Writing to rule

Claude Rawson, 18 September 1980

Was there such a thing as ‘Neo-Classicism’, outside the special sense of the term which art historians apply to a later period than the one over which students of literature lose so...

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