For nearly half a century, Quentin Skinner has been the world's foremost interpreter of Thomas Hobbes. When the contextualist mode of intellectual history now known as the “Cambridge School” was first asserting itself in the 1960s, the life and writings of John Locke were the primary topic for pioneers such as Peter Laslett and John Dunn. At that time, Hobbes was still the plaything of philosophers and political scientists, virtually all of whom wrote in an ahistorical, textual-analytic manner. Hobbes had not been the subject of serious contextual research for decades, since the foundational writings of Ferdinand Tönnies. For Skinner, he was thus an ideal subject, providing a space for original research on a major figure, and an occasion for some polemically charged methodological manifestos. Both of these purposes animated his 1965 article “History and Ideology in the English Revolution,” and his 1966 article “The Ideological Context of Hobbes's Political Thought”. The latter of these remains to this day one of the most widely cited scholarly articles in the fifty-year run of Cambridge's Historical Journal. Among other results of these early efforts was the scholarly controversy during which Howard Warrender chided Skinner for having reduced the “classic texts in political philosophy” to mere “tracts for the times”.
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