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Hobbes in France, Gallican Histories, and Leviathan's Supreme Pastor

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2022

Amy Chandran*
Department of Government, Harvard University
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Few of the recent treatments exploring Leviathan's dramatic expansion of ecclesiological considerations have delved into the political circumstances that furnished Hobbes's immediate Parisian surroundings, as he penned the work during the 1640s. This paper examines French ecclesial debates that were triggered by the publication of a polemical collection of texts narrating the “rights and liberties of the Gallican church.” Many of the tracts included had been written during the accession crisis of the late sixteenth century, and advocated a sacralized view of kingship in order to exclude papal jurisdictional claims in France. This paper argues that innovations in Leviathan's sacred history mirror tropes employed by Gallican writers, so that Hobbes can be seen as adopting a parallel strategy in establishing Leviathan's Supreme Pastor. This explication suggests that Hobbes composed Leviathan to appropriate, rather than eliminate, claims associated with “spiritual” power for the civil sovereign, as critical to the exercise of sovereignty.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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137 L:XXXIX:732–34.

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