1790s political thought

It’s pretty obvious why it was a rich period, but there really hasn’t been another decade like it, has there?

Sieyès: What Is The Third Estate? (1789)
Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790)
Paine: Rights of Man, part one (1791)
Burke: A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)
Paine: Rights of Man, part two (1792)
Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
Kant: Essay on ‘Theory and Practice’ (1793)
Godwin: Political Justice (1793)
Condorcet: The Sketch (written 1793, published 1795)
Kant: ‘Towards Perpetual Peace’ (1795)
Fichte: Foundations of Natural Right (1796)
Burke: Letters on a Regicide Peace  (1796)
Bentham’s writings on the Poor Law (1795-7)
Paine: Agrarian Justice (1797)
Kant: The Doctrine of Right (1797)
Babeuf’s defence speech (1797)
Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)
Fichte: The Closed Commercial State (1800)

And in addition to texts like this, Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation was published in 1789 (though written much earlier) and Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments was republished with important new additions for the 6th posthumous edition in 1790.

6 Comments


  1. Hey, give us another revolution of that magnitude in its effects and we’ll give you another hot decade for social and political theory.

    Quote | Posted 26 July, 2012, 2:12 am

  2. but there really hasn’t been another decade like it, has there?

    I reckon your case would be stronger if you cut the list in half.

    Quote | Posted 27 July, 2012, 3:33 pm

  3. To strip it down to a Top Ten, or to cut it off after Thermidor?

    Quote | Posted 27 July, 2012, 3:35 pm

  4. Well, you might shave a couple of years off your twelve-year decde, but obviously not all the items on your list have been of equal influence or anything close to it. And I reckon I could compose a list from the Sixties (or perhaps better, the Seventies) that might compete. But I don’t know that I could come up with six similarly fundamental works as those of Burke, Wollstencraft, Paine, Kant, Godwin and Malthus.

    Quote | Posted 27 July, 2012, 4:16 pm

  5. Michael Pollak: we’ll be digesting the intellectual legacy of 1989-1999 for at least the next fortnight.

    Quote | Posted 29 July, 2012, 8:19 am

  6. Quite a decade indeed. The first important political works of the German Romantics were also authored during that period:

    Schlegel, Versuch über den Begriff des Republikanismus (1797)
    Novalis, Die Christenheit oder Europa (1799)

    The Athenaeumsfragmente were also published in the late 1790s.

    Also, some other notable German works from the decade:

    Wilhelm von Humboldt, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen (written in 1792, though published in 1851)

    Friedrich Schiller, Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (1794)

    Johann Gottfried Herder, Briefe zur Beförderung der Humanität (1793-7)

    Quote | Posted 13 August, 2012, 9:51 pm

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