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The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

Donald S. Lutz*
Affiliation:
University of Houston

Abstract

Drawing upon a comprehensive list of political writings by Americans published between 1760 and 1805, the study uses a citation count drawn from these 916 items as a surrogate measure of the relative influence of European writers upon American political thought during the era. Contrary to the general tendencies in the recent literature, the results here indicate that there was no one European writer, or one tradition of writers, that dominated American political thought. There is evidence for moving beyond the Whig-Enlightenment dichotomy as the basis for textual analysis, and for expanding the set of individual European authors considered to have had an important effect on American thinking. Montesquieu, Blackstone, and Hume are most in need of upgrading in this regard. The patterns of influence apparently varied over the time period from 1760 to 1805, and future research on the relative influence of European thinkers must be more sensitive to this possibility.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1984

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