What Was Political Thought in Sixteenth-Century England? (symposium)

Jump to: navigation, search

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2011 symposium conceived as a series of conversations among all the participants, rather than a conference in the conventional sense. Annabel Brett, Euan K. Cameron, Bradin Cormack, Alan Cromartie, Brendan Kane, Krista Kesselring, Chris Kyle, Natalie Mears, Eric Nelson, Aysha Pollnitz, Ethan Shagan, Kevin Sharpe, W. James Simpson, R. Malcolm Smuts and David Womersley, were among the session leaders who started conversations on the following questions.

Although the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought programs have continually widened the scope of the Center's inquiries, its larger framework has remained mostly verbal and textual. Programs have mostly presumed that the subject-matter is rooted in discussion, exchange, and argument that have led to “thought” and justification—that is, to political thinking couched in formal genres and in which the possibility of dialogue and response remains central. This symposium brought together several dozen scholars to investigate the category of the political in the period and to ask what forms of thinking (and acting, including social practices) can be coherently and productively encompassed within the rubric of “political thought.” Perhaps even more important is the question of how, if at all, sixteenth-century actors would have regarded the term “political thought.” Was there a variety of activities of reasoning and talking that they would have recognized as “political thought”? In what media would they have encountered political thinking, and in what arenas would they have engaged in such activities?