This class involves close examinations of works by important and influential political thinkers from the 16th to early 19th centuries.

These writers reflected on historical changes and events in their day – including the disunity of Italy, the Protestant Reformation, the English civil war, the Glorious Revolution, the rise of bourgeois society, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars – and formulated complex and sophisticated accounts of human society, sometimes to provide for social and political stability, sometimes to promote freedom and justice. We shall trace the development of their ideas, from philosophical and literary investigations into human nature and contractual theories of society to considerations on political life in relation to philosophy of history.