European Contexts for English Republicanism

By Anker, Victoria | The Seventeenth Century, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

European Contexts for English Republicanism


Anker, Victoria, The Seventeenth Century


European contexts for English republicanism, edited by Gaby Mahlberg and Dirk Wiemann, Farnham & Burlington, VT, Ashgate, 2013, xiii + 273 pp., £65.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-4094-5556-1

This edited collection offers new insights into the "articulation and reception of English republicanism" (2) on the continent, following the English regicide of 1649. As part of Ashgate's "Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750" series, the collection explicitly seeks to move beyond the transatlantic connection, most notably established by J.G.A. Pocock (whose influence is duly acknowledged), to illuminate an Anglo-European affair. The collection of 13 essays, divided into 3 sections, explores a broad geographical and chronological expanse of late seventeenth-century United Provinces to nineteenth-century Prussia to persuasively reveal the impact and influence of English republican ideas.

The first seven chapters focus on republicanism in England and its influence on and influences from late seventeenth-century Europe, primarily Germany and the United Provinces. Blair Worden makes a strong case against the misappropriation of the words "republican" and "republicanism" by recent historians arguing that the widespread use of such terms only emerged with the agitation of the 1790s (13). In tracing the use of the noun, "republicanism" from the sixteenth through to the eighteenth century, Worden successfully cautions against the de-contextualization of such a label whilst providing an informative context for the remaining essays in the collection. The other six chaptersinSection1appeartobe grouped in pairs so as to offer two different perspectives of the same subject. Thus Dirk Wiemann focuses on German reactions to the regicide through the dramatic works of Andreas Gryphius whilst Rachel Foxley demonstrates Marchamont Nedham's selective use of German works in shaping his own "versatile political argumentation" (51). Marco Barducci argues that a prominent feature of James Harrington's writings from The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) onwards was his "praise for the Jewish commonwealth" (63) whilst Mark Somos interprets Oceana (1656) "as a secularizing work" (81). Finally, Arthur Weststeijn argues that English and Dutch ideas and experiences of republicanism "were largely dissimilar" (106) whilst Hans Blom emphasizes the "intellectual debt" of Dutch republicans to the English (122). This adjacent comparative approach is an interesting editorial decision; however, questions remain because a synthesis of these ideas is never presented.

The Wansleben Manuscript (1665) of Harrington's work forms the focus of the three essays in Section 2. Thérèse-Marie Jallais, whose chance discovery of the manuscript prompted in part the present volume, opens the section with a brief description of the manuscript and its archival history. Jallais' chapter addresses the silence in recent historio- graphical developments regarding the relation between religion and politics in late seventeenth-century Italy and France. …

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