LEVIATHAN OR, THE MATTER, FORME, AND POWER OF A COMMON-WEALTH, ECCLESIASTICALL AND CIVILL
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
London: Printed for A. Crooke, 1651
Thomas Hobbes lived during a momentous period in English history. His Leviathan, a product of those troubled times, was one of the most important and controversial works of the seventeenth century. The English civil war, and the general conflict between royalists and republicans spurred Hobbes to write this, his greatest work. Banned as heretical and seditious and ordered to be burnt by the English Licensers almost immediately after this first edition was printed, Leviathan was reprinted in numerous spurious editions. In 1703 it was placed on the Index. For all that, the work was extremely influential, affecting, for instance, the early writings of Spinoza. Thomas Hobbes, writing during the period of the Puritan Revolution (1640’s), rejected the prevalent theory of divine right of kings and supported the idea of a social contract. He believed that the power of the sovereign was subject to certain limits. However, he defended absolutism, unpopular even in his day, as a necessary antidote to anarchy. The individual, then, except to save his own life, should always submit to the State. Later emphasis on the rights of the individual led to a decline in Hobbes’s influence. Even so, Leviathan was a major influence on the framers of the United States Constitution.