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John Selden and the Western Political Tradition

John Selden and the Western Political Tradition


  • Date Published: January 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108978125

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About the Authors
  • Legal and political theorist, common lawyer and parliamentary leader, historian and polyglot, John Selden (1584–1654) was a formidable figure in Renaissance England, whose real importance and influence are now being recognized once again. John Selden and the Western Political Tradition highlights his important role in the development of such early modern political ideas as modern natural law and natural rights, national identity and tradition, the political integration of church and state, and the effect of Jewish ideas on Western political thought. Selden's political ideas are analysed in the context of his contemporaries Grotius, Hobbes and Filmer. The book demonstrates how these ideas informed and influenced more familiar works of later thinkers like Burke.

    • Proposes a new interpretation of Selden as an important thinker of the Anglo American constitutional tradition
    • Offers, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of Selden's ideas on religion and society
    • Presents in full the role of Selden's immersion in Jewish thought on his political ideas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Ofir Haivry's book on John Selden is a work of stunning erudition and towering insight. Haivry's treatment of Selden's knowledge and use of the Jewish legal tradition in his jurisprudence, especially, revives Selden as a vital source for how political discourse in modern secular states can be nurtured, even inspired, by universally valid natural law principles that have been transmitted, developed, and applied by the Jewish tradition. Like Selden himself, Haivry appreciates that this great tradition both predates modern secular states and it has not been superseded by them.' David Novak, University of Toronto

    'John Selden was known to be the most learned person in England. His remarkably wide-ranging corpus of work should be of interest to historians and philosophers of law, constitutional theorists, biblical scholars and historians of religion, and political and social theorists. Many of the problems that Selden wrestled with remain our own. All of this calls out for an examination of the broader significance and coherence of Selden's work. Haivry's book is a noteworthy contribution in providing just that.' Steven Grosby, Clemson University, South Carolina

    'For the first time, thanks to Ofir Haivry's crisply written and lucid book, one can understand why John Selden was so respected in his own day, and one can fully appreciate the character and importance of his contribution to the development of political, social, and legal thought. This volume is a real eye-opener. It clarifies, as never before, why the common-law mindset remained dominant in England throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.' Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College, Michigan

    'Based upon a vast first-hand knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, Ofir Haivry's impressive inquiry into John Selden's life, works, thought, and fortune, has the rarest merit of combining two virtues: philological scrupulousness, and philosophical sensitiveness. Haivry's deep understanding of Selden's thought helps us see that he was not only a brilliant jurist and a learned antiquarian like so many scholars of his time, but also a genuine philosopher, with a peculiar gnoseology rooted in some aspects of Aristotle, as well as an original political theorist: maybe the only one who has seriously engaged in reconciling natural law, given to all men, and common law, historically emerging as national tradition. Particularly rewarding did I find Haivry's pages on the universal philosophy of morals Selden draws from the Hebrew tradition.' Professor Sergio Caruso, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy

    'This book offers a fresh reassessment of John Selden's position and role in the western political tradition. … Ofir Haivry's well-researched, convincing book has reconstructed John Selden's political theory in a coherent, comprehensive manner, accurately reassessed his contributions to the English constitutional tradition and, thus, appropriately repositioned his work within the western political tradition.' Diego Lucci, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

    'The book displays a complete mastery of the subject matter and historical context. It deserves a wide readership not only for anyone seeking to know more about Selden, but anyone interested in the seventeenth century.' Benjamin B. Saunders, Australian Journal of Politics and History

    'Haivry is a clear guide to their coherence and the creative and comprehensive quality of his political action, thinking, and writing. The conclusion of the book offers a concise summary of Selden's political thought and its relevance for today. Time spent considering Haivry's John Selden, will be amply rewarded.' Stephen Varvis, Fides et Historia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108978125
    • length: 532 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 31 mm
    • weight: 0.806kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: 'Glory of the English nation' – the life, works and ideas of John Selden
    2. Selden and the early modern crisis of knowledge and obligation
    3. Selden and the early modern dispute about the foundations of political order
    4. Law 'fitted to the genius of the nation': Selden's theory of national tradition in law and politics
    5. Selden and the 'universal philosophy of morals' drawn from the Hebrew tradition
    6. A 'single sword': Selden's theory of religion and state
    7. Conclusion: John Selden and the tradition of historical constitutionalism

  • Author

    Ofir Haivry, The Herzl Institute, Jerusalem
    Ofir Haivry is the co-founder and currently Vice-President of The Herzl Institute, Jerusalem, a research institute and training centre in the fields of Jewish political thought, Jewish philosophy and political Hebraism. He is also Director of the Herzl Institute's National Strategy Initiative. Haivry was founding Editor-in-Chief of the Shalem Press and of its flagship publication, Azure magazine. He serves on several high-profile public councils and committees in Israel, including Israel's Council for Higher Education and Israel's Council for Archaeology.

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