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17:15 - 18:30 26 May 2010

Political Liberty: The Enlightenment Debate


Henry Wellcome Auditorium | Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL (link Map)
183 Euston Road | London | NW1 2BE | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Alumni | Public | Student
Admission: Free
Ticketing: Pre-booking essential

Speaker information

Professor Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary, University of London, Professor Skinner was previously the Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. His work has won him Fellowships of several academic Academies, including the British Academy, The American Academy and the Academia Europaea, and he has been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including degrees from Chicago, Harvard and Oxford. The author or co-author of more than 20 books, his works have been very widely translated, and his two-volume study, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, was named by the Times Literary Supplement in 1996 as one of the hundred most influential books published since the second world war. His scholarship has won him many prizes, including the Isaiah Berlin Prize of the Political Studies Association, the Lippincott and David Easton Awards of the American Political Science Association, in addition to the Wolfson Prize for History in 1979 and a Balzan Prize in 2006.

Jeremy Bentham announced in 1776 that he had made a 'discovery' about the concept of liberty. John Lind put forward a similar view in his official response to the Declaration of Independence, but Lind was persuaded (not least by Bentham himself) to accept that Bentham had been the first to articulate the argument. Bentham's view was primarily directed against the pamphlets of the common lawyer Richard Hey, while Lind's was more ambitiously directed against the pro-American writings of Richard Price.

This lecture will begin by examining the background to the theory that Lind denounced, and will then turn to examine the background of the rival theory that he and Bentham both espoused. As the latter discussion will unfold, a doubt about Bentham's claims to originality will begin to arise. The lecture will end by suggesting that the earliest articulation of the theory that he claimed as his own was in fact the work of Thomas Hobbes.


Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine Events Team
+44 (0)20 7679 8163 | hom-events@ucl.ac.uk

Jeremy Bentham