english republican ideas and networks

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James Harrington (1611-1677) is widely considered one of the most important republican thinkers of seventeenth-century England. His economic interpretation of political change was not only adopted by thinkers and politicians of his own time and the Neo-Harringtonians of the next generation; Harringtonian ideas also had their place in the American and French Revolutions and beyond. It is not least to Harrington and his foremost scholar J.G.A. Pocock we owe the persistent interest in early modern English republicanism that has boomed over the past thirty to forty years. The latter’s Machiavellian Moment and Quentin Skinner’s two volumes on The Foundations of Modern Political Thought have uncovered the impact of Machiavelli and other civic humanists on early modern English politics. We have learnt to understand republicanism as ‘a language, not a programme’, and explored the neo-Roman concept of political liberty. Yet, interest in English republicanism is no longer confined to the history of ideas. It is studied by political and social historians and literary scholars alike. Patrick Collinson’s work on the ‘monarchical republic’ of Elizabethan England has inspired much new research into a native English brand of republicanism based on political participation and self-government, while intellectual historians and literary scholars have explored the relationship between classical humanist and republican writing in Tudor and Stuart England. Both approaches have contributed to a new strand of literature on republicanism which questions the regicide of 1649 as a political watershed; and a focus on ‘commonwealth principles’ has replaced an older constitutional approach that defines the ‘republic’ as a state not headed by a monarch. Recently, some scholars have come to emphasise the significance of religion in English republican discourse, while others have built bridges between the theoretical and literary works produced by republican thinkers. One area that yet remains to be fully explored is the European dimension of English republican thought: While the Greek and Roman roots of English republicanism have been well acknowledged and the impact of Renaissance political thought has been studied successfully, more work needs to be done on the exchange of ideas generated by contemporary networks of seventeenth-century English republicans and the legacy of their ideas in Europe in the centuries that followed. This transfer and exchange of ideas raises a number of questions. How did ideas travel in early modern Europe? What was the role of personal friendships, or political and business connections in the transmission of ideas? How did ideas circulate in letters or in manuscript form? Which role did printers, publishers and booksellers play in the process? And how were works adapted and transformed when they crossed national boundaries? The 2011 conference organized by the Chair of English Literature and the Centre of Early Modern Studies at the University of Potsdam succeeded to bring together leading scholars from different countries and disciplines to discuss the significance of English republican ideas in Europe and their transmission through personal networks on the continent. Two volumes comprising select contributions to the conference have been edited by Gaby Mahlberg and Dirk Wiemann for the Ashgate ‘Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750’ series. 
 
Keynote speakers:
J. C. Davis (University of East Anglia)
Blair Worden (University of Oxford)
 
Speakers:
Marco Barducci (Università di Firenze)
Hans Blom (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam)
Luc Borot (Maison Francais d’Oxford)
Ian Campbell (University College Dublin)
Justin Champion (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Cesare Cuttica (University of Sussex)
Iwan D’Aprile (Universität Potsdam)
Martin Dzelzainis (University of Leicester)
Rachel Foxley (University of Reading)
Rachel Hammersley (University of Newcastle)
Thérèse-Marie Jallais (Université F. Rabelais, Tours)
Günther Lottes (Universität Potsdam)
Pierre Lurbe (Université de Montpellier)
Gaby Mahlberg (University of Northumbria)
Anette Pankratz (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
Agniezka Pufelska (Universität Potsdam)
Sami Savonius-Wroth (University of Helsinki)
Peter Schröder (University College London)
Gerold Sedlmayr (Technische Universität Dortmund)
Marc Somos (Harvard University)
Ted Vallance (University of Roehampton)
Stefano Villani (University of Maryland)
Dirk Vanderbeke (Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena)
Arthur Weststeijn (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
Dirk Wiemann (Universität Potsdam)
 
 

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