16 September 2021, Workshop: ‘Commonwealthmen & Women: The Legacy of English Republicanism in Britain and Europe’, Newcastle University

English republican ideas which had taken shape during the Civil War period did not suddenly vanish with the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660. They lived on in many different ways, either in the later political thought of the men and women who had still experienced the upheavals of the 1640s and 1650s themselves or in the writings of new generations of Commonwealthmen and women who took the principles of popular sovereignty, the rule of law and religious liberty and adapted them for new political contexts and debates.

Republican ideas can be found in the exile writings of Edmund Ludlow, Henry Neville and Algernon Sidney as well as in Neville and Sidney’s political polemics from the time of the Exclusion Crisis and the Rye House Plot. But they are also present in the authors contributing to the Standing Army Debate of the 1690s who followed in their footsteps, such as John Toland, Robert Molesworth and Walter Moyle, identified by Caroline Robbins as the first generation of Commonwealthmen.

A second generation of Commonwealthmen, according to Robbins, was made up in particular of Nonconformists, including men like James Foster, Isaac Watts and Henry Grove, and of staunch Whigs and republicans of the Reign of George II; while the third generation included early radicals such as Joseph Priestley and Richard Price who supported the cause of the American colonists against George III for equal representation and ultimately Independence. Notable among this array of male writers and polemicists was the Commonwealthwoman Catharine Macaulay.

Since the appearance of The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman in 1959, the story of the English republican legacy has been re-told many times as that of a transatlantic tradition, while Robbins had already noted that there also existed a separate continental European tradition inspired by English ideas. Over the past decades, scholars have studied the impact of English republican ideas on revolutionary France as well as the reflection of both English revolutions of 1642-1660 and 1688-9 in German historiography and constitutional thought. 

Ongoing work also aims to establish the many channels through which English republican ideas were conveyed to continental readers, including through personal networks, translations and the newly emerging scholarly and literary journals.

Notable figures for the continental European dissemination of English republican ideas were John Toland as an editor and networker and the philanthropist Thomas Hollis. In close collaboration with Commonwealth publishers both were responsible for many new editions of key thinkers such as John Milton, James Harrington, Edmund Ludlow and Algernon Sidney in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and aided their distribution across the Continent, while the Toland and Hollis editions also became the basis for many European translations. 

This workshop sets out to explore the afterlife of English republican ideas in the British Isles and Europe by looking at the manifold ways in which they were transmitted, reshaped and employed in new contexts for new audiences to take a fresh look at their wider reach. 

For more information and to receive a Zoom link, please email: [email protected]

Draft Programme

Thursday, 16 September 2021 – via Zoom

10.00 Welcome and Introduction: Gaby Mahlberg

10.15-11.45 Panel 1, English Republicanism on the Continent, Chair: Katie East

Esther van Raamsdonk (Warwick), “John Milton in the United Provinces”

Thomas Munck (Glasgow), "Spinoza, English republicanism and the origins of visionary democracy:  revisiting a long-running debate in the light of self-censored texts" 

Gaby Mahlberg (Newcastle), “John Toland, the Acta Eruditorum and the reception of English Republican Ideas in Early Modern Germany”

11.45-12.45 Panel 2, Building the Commonwealth Tradition I, Chair: Katie East

Joseph Hone (Newcastle), “John Tutchin and Commonwealth Poetics”

Ashley Walsh (Cardiff), “The Eighteenth-Century Standing Army Debate in Britain”

12.45-14.00 Lunch break

14.00-1500 Panel 3, Building the Commonwealth Tradition II, Chair: Gaby Mahlberg

Rachel Hammersley (Newcastle), “The Persistence of English Republicanism: Land and Citizenship, 1656-1900”

Christopher Hamel (Rouen), “Liberty as self-government. Richard Price's republicanism”

15.00-16.00 Panel 4, Preserving the Commonwealth Tradition, Chair: Gaby Mahlberg

Max Skjönsberg (Liverpool), "Editing Catharine Macaulay's Political Writings"

Allen Reddick (Zurich), “The Hollis Collections in Europe”

16.00-17.00 Roundtable, Chairs: Katie East and Gaby Mahlberg

22 April 2021, Workshop: 'Ideas and Translation in Early Modern Europe', Newcastle University

This workshop addressed the significance of translation in the history of early modern political thought. Why were some texts translated while others were not? How did early modern translators go about their work? And what impact did translations have on the dissemination of ideas across physical and linguistic boundaries as well as over time?

In addition to those broader questions, a particular focus was on the specific issues that arise from the nature of political language itself. As political terminology is often deeply rooted in a particular political culture and a specific context, how well do ideas and concepts travel and to what extent might they change as they do so? For example, how was the conceptual language of classical Greek and Roman republicanism adapted to suit the political culture of mid-seventeenth-century England? How might sixteenth-century Huguenot resistance theories fit in? And how were ideas from the English Revolution in turn imported into late eighteenth-century France?

Some terms might have been difficult to translate because the concepts they described in one language did not necessarily exist in another, or because superficially equivalent terms had very different connotations in different contexts. Thus, a concept like ‘democracy’ might be problematic despite its morphological similarity across languages.

A typical problem might be the translation of a political text from one language into another between two systems that did not share the same institutions or parties. For example, how would a late seventeenth-century German translator from the English convey the workings of parliamentary processes for the educated reader in a German princedom? How would the same translator explain party conflict between Whigs and Tories?

Would terms like ‘royalist’ and ‘parliamentarian’, ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ mean the same things to different people in early modern Europe, and why might they not? Are there terms that were simply ‘untranslatable’? And, if so, what might these ‘untranslatables’ reveal about either the culture of origin or the target culture?

In order to tackle these questions, this workshop looked closely at early modern printed texts in a variety of European languages as well as engaging with different theoretical and methodological approaches in the history of political thought which might be useful in this context, including the literature of the linguistic turn and of German conceptual history.

Presentations included:

Gaby Mahlberg (Newcastle), ‘Working with Translations in the History of Political Thought’

Thomas Munck (Glasgow), 'Understanding what you read: dictionaries and encyclopedias as works of reference in early modern Europe.'

Nick Mithen (Newcastle), ‘Translating the well-ordered mind: English, Latin, and Italian editions of the Port Royal Logique, ou l'art de penser (1662)’

André Krischer (Münster), ‘“Entdeckte Engeländische Verrätherey“. English State Trials in German prints of the later 17th century’

Laura Kirkley (Newcastle), ‘How Feminism Travels: Mary Wollstonecraft's Translational Afterlife’

Tom Ashby (EUI, Florence), ‘Giuseppa Barbapiccola, I principi della filosofia (1722), and the 18th Century Translators Dictionary’  

22 June 2023, Workshop: ‘Translating English republicanism in the European Enlightenment’, Newcastle University

This workshop addresses the significance of translation for the dissemination of English republican ideas in the European Enlightenment. The contribution of English republican ideas by thinkers such as John Milton, Marchamont Nedham, James Harrington, Edmund Ludlow and Algernon Sidney to the European Enlightenment has been a matter of much debate. A good measure of their impact might therefore be the availability on the Continent of translations of English republican works both into Latin and into a range of European vernaculars. To these should be added partial translations and extracts in learned journals as well as adaptations and imitations of English republican texts. However, the assessment of their reception might be less straightforward than it seems. On the one hand, individuals might have read works in languages other than their own, as was the case with Latin up until the seventeenth century and French for a long time afterwards. On the other hand, the mere availability of a translation does not prove readership. It is therefore necessary to take a closer look at contemporary public discourse, reviews of English republican works in learned journals, references to English republican thinkers and their ideas in works of history, philosophy and law as well as in plays, poetry and literature. Finally, in order to fully understand the significance of translations for the dissemination of ideas, we also need to know more about their genesis, their conception and their distribution and, in particular, about the many individuals and networks who made them happen: from the (often anonymous) translators down to the editors, printers and those selling and distributing English republican works.

Papers might discuss (but are not confined to):

  • the Enlightenment legacy of English republican ideas
  • translations of individual English republican works and their reception
  • cultures and theories of translation in the Enlightenment
  • contemporary translation practice and practitioners
  • contemporary translation networks
  • multilingualism in the Enlightenment

If you are interested in attending, please email [email protected] .

Provisional schedule

10.00-10.15 Welcome and Introduction

10.15-11.15 Panel 1

Felix Waldmann (Cambridge), ‘Locke’s Two Treatises: German Readers and Interpreters in the Eighteenth Century’

Elias Buchetmann (Rostock), ‘Paine’s Rights of Man in Germany’

11.15-11.45 Coffee

11.45-12.45 Panel 2

Ann Thomson (EUI), ‘The Huguenot Connection Revisited’

Thomas Munck (Glasgow), ‘Paine in France’

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.00 Panel 3

Ariel Hessayon (Goldsmiths), ‘Winstanley and Serrarius’

Gaby Mahlberg (Newcastle), ‘Cato’s Letters in eighteenth-century Germany’

15.00-15.30 Coffee

15.30-16.30 Panel 4

Christopher Hamel (Rouen), ‘Sidney/ Milton in French’

Tom Ashby (Fondazione Einaudi/EUI), ‘Algernon Sidney’s Discourses in eighteenth-century Italy’

Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq (Paris), 'The journey of Harrington's ideas in eighteenth-century France'

16.30-17.00 Roundtable