Leviathan by Hobbes

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  • Intro

    Published in 1651, in the midst of England’s Civil War, Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan helped shape western political thinking. Hobbes proposed that the natural state of humankind is one of anarchy, with the strong dominating the weak. Life for most, he said, was ‘solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short’. Therefore, our one natural right is of self-preservation. In order to remove basic fear between people, Hobbes suggested that people would create social ‘contracts’, in which individuals give up all rights, but live under the absolute power of a sovereign protector. He did not believe in divine right, but that the protector was there by specific agreement with his/her subjects.

     

    The famous cover engraving provided the Leviathan with a striking image: a crowned giant emerges from the landscape, clutching a sword (a symbol of earthly power) and a crosier (a symbol of Church power).

     

    Shelfmark: Egerton 1910

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