Tag Archives: Thucydides

Reading Group: ‘Interpreting Literature, Law, and Constitution’ (ii)

Tuesday 17 November, 1.00 – 2.00 pm
Old Seminar Room, 71 South Street, School of History

All welcome.

“When, in the early modern period, “the waves ruled Britannia”, the examples of Greek maritime empire became standards against which British rights and obligations in the world could be measured”     (Christopher Warren)

In our second reading group this semester we will be exploring the ‘international thought’ of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in the context of his translation of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

Did Hobbes simply ’translate’ Thucydides (c.460-400BCE) from Greek into English, or was he also reshaping and restating Thucydidean ideas for an early modern audience? Why was Hobbes interested in the ancient Athenian constitution, the ‘way of life of the citizen-body’ and how did he relate this to Athenian imperialism? If we read Hobbes’ translation of Thucydides as ‘literature’, how might this challenge our understanding of Hobbes as a ‘realist’ or a ‘rationalist’, in terms of subsequent international relations theory? Can Thucydides, moreover, help us to unravel ‘the peculiar nature’ of Hobbes’ thought on natural law and the law of nations?


Christopher N. Warren, Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (Oxford, 2015). Chapter 5, “From Imperial History to International Law” [St Andrews University Library Ebook]


Further reading:

Malcolm, N., Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford, 2002), Chapter 13 “Hobbes’ Theory of International Relations” [St Andrews University Library Ebook]

Boucher, David, ‘Hobbes’s Contribution to International Thought, and the Contribution of International Thought to Hobbes,’ in History of European Ideas 41:1 (2015), pp. 29-48.