The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh

By Francis Bacon | Go to book overview

INTERPRETIVE ESSAY

BY JERRY WEINBERGER

In the Introduction to this volume I recounted briefly the changing reputation of Bacon History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh. Once considered the most important picture of a significant moment in English history, written by one of the greatest minds in human history, and once praised or condemned for its Machiavellian account of politics, the History shared the general decline in Bacon's reputation beginning in the late nineteenth century. Condemned as derivative and historically inaccurate, the History became as little read and appreciated as Bacon's theoretical writings, which had lost their reputation as foundation stones of the scientific project and the modern world. But as the twentieth century gave rise to doubts about modern science and its relation to moral progress, Bacon's theoretical writings were again accorded respect as important sources of insight into the character of the modern age--its faith in reason, its commitment to equality and democracy, its dependency on the conquest and transformation of nature. No longer a mere propagandist who failed to understand the real theoretical foundations of modern science, Bacon again joined the ranks of those early modern thinkers with much to tell us about the justification of our life and times.

Just as Bacon's theoretical works now serve to illuminate the modern project for the conquest of nature, so too the History is a window to the spirit of modern politics and government. Along with the works of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke, the History affords a fresh and critical view of political and moral principles we now take for granted: secularism, utilitarianism, republicanism, constitutionalism, and democracy. It

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The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Note on the Text and Sources 19
  • Note on the Annotation 21
  • The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh 23
  • Interpretive Essay 213
  • Index 253
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