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Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective
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Book description

This collaborative volume offers the first historical reconstruction of the concept of popular sovereignty from antiquity to the twentieth century. First formulated between the late sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, the various early modern conceptions of the doctrine were heavily indebted to Roman reflection on forms of government and Athenian ideas of popular power. This study, edited by Richard Bourke and Quentin Skinner, traces successive transformations of the doctrine, rather than narrating a linear development. It examines critical moments in the career of popular sovereignty, spanning antiquity, medieval Europe, the early modern wars of religion, the revolutions of the eighteenth century and their aftermath, decolonisation and mass democracy. Featuring original work by an international team of scholars, the book offers a reconsideration of one of the formative principles of contemporary politics by exploring its descent from classical city-states to the advent of the modern state.

Reviews

‘Popular sovereignty is the most fundamental, most widespread and least understood principle of political legitimacy in the world today. As the first comprehensive scholarly treatment of the subject over the longue durée, Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective will become a pivotal work in the history of political thought.'

David Armitage - Harvard University, Massachusetts

‘Although the idea of popular sovereignty is central to modern political thought, its historical evolution and conceptual transformations have received little sustained scholarly attention. The erudite and insightful chapters in Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective trace its emergence and development across time and space, from the ancient Mediterranean world to the present, and from Europe to the United States and India. It is a major scholarly achievement, and is sure to become a standard reference point for those working on the topic in political theory, intellectual history, philosophy and law.'

Duncan Bell - University of Cambridge

'Can popular sovereignty be more than an ideology we impose on the people we call our fellow citizens - and the past? The essays in Richard Bourke and Quentin Skinner’s collection all address this question. Some of the authors consider it soluble. They think that a people can be supreme, even though only a few ever rule …'

Ben Slingo Source: The Times Literary Supplement

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