John Robertson

John Robertson has been Professor of the History of Political Thought at the University of Cambridge since 2010, and a Fellow of Clare College. His most recent books include The Case for the Enlightenment. Scotland and Naples 1680-1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2005), and The Enlightenment. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 2015).

Posts by John Robertson:

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

The sacred and the social

Carlyle Lectures PosterIn these Carlyle Lectures, given at the University of Oxford in January and February 2016, I suggested that between 1650 and 1800 sacred history offered a fertile resource to political philosophers interested in exploring the concepts of “society” and “sociability.” The lectures thus brought together two stories which early modern intellectual historians have tended to keep separate. One is the study of sacred history, in particular of its foundation text, the Bible, which entered a new phase in the Renaissance, and reached a peak of intensity and originality in the seventeenth century. Over this period a succession of scholars from Erasmus to Richard Simon transformed understanding of both the text and the context of the Bible by study of its composition and authorship, and of its chronologies and historical and geographical content. The excitement of that early modern scholarship has recently been captured by Anthony Grafton and a growing number of younger historians, including Scott Mandelbrote and Dmitri Levitin. In turn, their work has enabled me to appreciate what the political philosophers who are my subjects saw in sacred history.

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