The political thought of this period is amorphous and difficult to assess. It is by no means clear what was most influential and representative. There is a temptation to concentrate on theoretical writings, on what was obviously ‘political thought’ and on works that were radical in intention and tone, or that might seem to prefigure or even act as a spur to later developments, especially the Revolution and progressive nineteenth-century thought. However, it is important to remember that much political thinking was expressed in ethical, religious and judicial terms, indeed can best be understood as an aspect of these spheres of intellectual activity, rather than as a consciously independent intellectual tradition. Much about political reflection was traditional, and any concentration on new or radical elements within it may distort it. In addition, it is far from obvious whose views should be regarded as important. Rather than examining the ideas of theorists and intellectuals, it is possibly more appropriate to consider those of the men and women who wielded power, whose views are likely to have been a mixture of received opinions. These too are not always easy to assess. If some monarchs, such as Frederick the Great, wrote a certain amount of reflective material, most did not, and it is by no means clear whether what was produced was a faithful representation of their views or was written for effect.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Ideology, Politics and Reform
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number