30 Jun, 2016 320 Political science

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the idea of Sovereignty, the authority of a state to govern itself and the relationship between the sovereign and the people. These ideas of external and internal sovereignty were imagined in various ways in ancient Greece and Rome, and given a name in 16th Century France by the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin in his Six Books of the Commonwealth, where he said (in an early English translation) ‘Maiestie or Soveraigntie is the most high, absolute, and perpetuall power over the citisens and subiects in a Commonweale: which the Latins cal Maiestatem, the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion politeuma; the Italians Segnoria, and the Hebrewes tomech shevet, that is to say, The greatest power to command.’ Shakespeare also explored the concept through Richard II and the king’s two bodies, Hobbes developed it in the 17th Century, and the idea of popular sovereignty was tested in the Revolutionary era in America and France.

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  • Melissa Lane 10 episodes
    Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University
  • Richard Bourke 3 episodes
    Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London
  • Tim Stanton No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York

Reading list

  • On Sovereignty
    Jean Bodin (ed. Julian H. Franklin) (Cambridge University Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective
    Richard Bourke and Quentin Skinner (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • Sovereignty: God, State and Self
    Jean Bethke Elshtain (Basic Books, 2008) Google Books →
  • Sovereignty
    F. H. Hinsley (Cambridge University Press, 1986) Google Books →
  • Leviathan
    Thomas Hobbes (ed. Richard Tuck) (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good
    Bertrand de Jouvenel (University of Chicago Press, 1957) Google Books →
  • Political Theology: Four chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty
    Carl Schmitt (ed. George Schwab) (University of Chicago Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Sleeping Sovereign: The Invention of Modern Democracy
    Richard Tuck (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 320.1 (Political theories)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1576, the French political philosopher Jean Baudin set out his ideas about the nature of sovereignty in what became a landmark work, the Six Books of the Commonwealth.