Reason of State, Propaganda, and the Thirty Years' War: An Unknown Translation by Thomas Hobbes ; Noel Malcolm

By Noel Malcolm | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS book presents a hitherto unnoticed manuscript translation, by Thomas Hobbes, of a Latin propaganda pamphlet produced by the Habsburg side during the Thirty Years’ War. The text of the translation is reproduced, with explanatory notes; the text of the original Latin is also given, to enable readers to make a closer study of Hobbes’s practice as a translator; and in six introductory chapters I set out not only my reasons for identifying this anonymous manuscript as a translation by Hobbes, but also my thoughts on the background to the translation, the nature of the text itself, and the possible significance of this discovery for the study of Hobbes. On this last point I have tried not to over-state my case. The original pamphlet was not written by Hobbes, and it is very likely that the task of translating it was simply imposed on him by one or other of his patrons. Nevertheless, the fact that Hobbes must have attended very closely to this particular text is of some real interest where his intellectual biography is concerned—especially since the translation took place in the early part of his career, for which very little biographical evidence is available. That this pamphlet was regarded as worthy of such attention by one of his patrons also tells us something about the political interests of the circles in which Hobbes moved; that topic too is explored in one of the introductory chapters here. And the text itself is an unusually fascinating specimen of early seventeenth-century propaganda literature—a cynical, ingenious, and extremely well-informed piece of writing which should be of interest to historians of the Thirty Years’ War, and of the polemical practices of the period, even without its Hobbesian connections. Hobbes’s translation is therefore quite heavily annotated here, since the notes are intended to satisfy a number of different requirements: in addition to recording errors and omissions in the translation, they not only identify persons, places, and events, but also indicate (where possible) the degree to which the pamphlet’s claims were based on accurate information, or were distorted for propagandistic purposes. Finally, since the last few pages of Hobbes’s translation are missing, I have supplied my own translation of that part of the text, so that readers may consider—as Hobbes himself must have done—the claims and arguments of the entire work.

-vii-

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