Researching the Political Landscape in Early Modern England

Kurtis Anderson_Head Shot

by Kurtis Anderson 14C

I am currently working with the theory of Sir Robert Filmer (1585-1653), the preeminent theorist of the divine right of kings in Early Modern England. This most antiquarian interest came to me upon reading John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, a common book read by nearly every student of political theory. While students and professors alike spend so much time understanding the works of Locke, very few if any even try to understand his opponent’s. If Locke was willing to write nearly a thousand pages against Filmer’s pamphlet length book numbering less than one hundred pages, would it not be valuable to understand why?

My research thus far has led me to the conclusion that it is not Filmer’s originality that made him such a threat to those who desired to resist the monarchy. Instead, Filmer’s ability to codify the theory of the divine right of kings through a succinct synthesis of the voluminous works of other writers into a few pamphlet sized books, easily digestible by the literate public, is what made him invaluable to his own, royalist, cause. His work made divine right theory a competent competitor in the intellectual war being waged across the violent seventeenth-century in England.

Looking back, I am pleased with the thesis I have laid out for my project. However, even getting to this point has been a tough slog through countless dusty old books and even a trip across an ocean to dive into medieval archives in the United Kingdom. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to receive a fellowship at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.  The resources the Center provides, including office space and printing, have aided me in completing my own succinct synthesis of giant tomes and stacks of notes into a presentable thesis. Moreover, the Center has provided me with an invaluable intellectual community within which to thrive.

The four of us, Fiona, James, Abby, and me, have had the pleasure of moving into the new office space acquired by the Fox Center. These offices are spacious and comfortable. More importantly, they have provided a sanctuary in which to get work done without the constant distractions of the library or a dorm room. In the past two months, we have formed good friendships and supported each other through the difficulties of academic research and writing while celebrating our strides forward. Outside of the office, the weekly high tea has proved an excellent time to socialize with the other fellows and to glean invaluable knowledge from the Center’s numerous senior academics.

As the semester continues, I expect the fellowship to become increasingly vital to my success, and I look forward to further interaction with staff and stronger friendships with the fellows at the Center.

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