Quentin Skinner

Quentin Skinner is Regius Professor of History at Cambridge. He spoke about Milton and liberty at Cambridge in January as part of the 400th-anniversary celebrations of Milton’s birth.

After the appearance of Poems of Mr John Milton in 1645, Milton published no further works of poetry until Paradise Lost in 1667. During the intervening decades he devoted almost the whole of his literary energies to attacking the Stuart monarchy and defending the creation of the English commonwealth and, later, the Cromwellian Protectorate. As he repeatedly made clear, moreover, he took...

My starting point is one of the claims most widely accepted in current discussions about the theory of liberty. There is one overarching formula, we are told, under which all intelligible locutions about freedom can be subsumed. The prevalence of this belief appears to be due in large part to the influence of a single classic article, Gerald MacCallum’s ‘Negative and Positive...

Ferdinand Mount notes Macmillan’s failure to record that, in his speech at Bedford in July 1957, ‘he uttered the immortal phrase about most of us never having had it so good.’ But the phrase was not in the text of Macmillan’s speech, which may be why it failed to lodge in his mind. I was present at the meeting (I was then a sixth-former at Bedford School) and my recollection is that, after...

Why It Matters: Quentin Skinner’s Detachment

Ellen Meiksins Wood, 25 September 2008

Is it possible, Quentin Skinner asks, that an entire tradition of political thought, including the most influential conception of freedom in anglophone political theory in the past half-century,...

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A Mistrust of Thunder and Lightning: Hobbes

Jeremy Waldron, 20 January 2000

‘He that hath good thoughts, and cannot clearly express them, were as good to have thought nothing at all.’ The quotation is from a speech by Pericles in an English translation of The...

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Quentin Skinner’s short book is an extended version of his Inaugural Lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. There cannot have been a less contentious succession to that...

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Pocock’s Positions

Blair Worden, 4 November 1993

The front cover and title-page conceal the central fact of Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain, that it is a Festschrift for the historian of political thought J.G.A. Pocock. Publishers...

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Liberation Philosophy

Hilary Putnam, 20 March 1986

This volume is advertised as ‘confronting the current debate between philosophy and its history’. What it turns out to contain is a series of lectures with the general title...

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Grand Theories

W.G. Runciman, 17 October 1985

What is a ‘Grand’ as opposed to a ‘General’ theory, in the human sciences or anywhere else? Nobody talks about Keynes’s Grand Theory of Employment, Interest and...

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Machiavelli’s Bite

Stuart Hampshire, 1 October 1981

This is a short book, scarcely more than a long essay, on a subject vastly investigated and written about. Professor Skinner’s powers of compression and command of the evidence provide as...

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