Lasting voice of political reason


November 26, 1999

Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne's edition is the first careful and scholarly translation of Hobbe's De Cive into English. Tuck's introduction is characteristically fresh and supple, with an enviable range of reference and an expository ease and vividness that bring out the excitement and importance of Hobbes's work splendidly.

De Cive was first printed in Latin, virtually for private circulation, in 1642. It became a bestseller when reissued in Holland five years later and was better known outside Britain than Leviathan well into this century.

It lacks some of the refinements of his theory that Hobbes incorporated into the latter, but it is a wonderful book, and in many ways a better introduction to Hobbes's vision of politics today, since it focuses so much more on the menaces of the political legacy of the ancient world, and so much less on those posed by Christianity.

Because of this educational utility, and because of its very unsatisfactory scholarly presentation in previous modern editions, De Cive is one of the most valuable of all the Cambridge texts in the History of Political Thought. It packs in a remarkable amount of practical help to the reader without a hint of condescension. There could hardly be a better place to begin to grapple with the least comfortably dead of all the great political philosophers.

John Dunn is professor of political theory, University of Cambridge.

Hobbes: On the Citizen. First Edition

Editor - Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne
ISBN - 0 521 43204 9 and 0 521 43780 6
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £35.00 and £12.95
Pages - 250

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