Folger Institute


Programs, 2010-2011

What Was Political Thought in Sixteenth-Century England?

Spring Symposium

Although the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought has continually widened the scope of its inquiries, its larger framework has remained mostly verbal and textual. Center 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 will bring 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?

Session Leaders: This symposium is conceived as a series of conversations among all the participants, rather than a conference in the conventional sense. Paulina Kewes (Jesus College, Oxford), Eric Nelson (Harvard University), Aysha Pollnitz (Trinity College, Cambridge), Ethan Shagan (University of California, Berkeley), Kevin Sharpe (Queen Mary, University of London), and James Simpson (Harvard University) are among the session leaders who will start conversations on these and related questions. Applications to participate in the symposium are sought from scholars whose current research also engages these issues.

Schedule: All day, Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 April 2011.

Apply: 7 January 2011 for admission and grants-in-aid.

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