Commonwealth: the Social, Cultural, and Conceptual Contexts of an Early Modern Keyword

  1. Lookup NU author(s)
  2. Professor Jennifer Richards
Author(s)Early Modern Research Group
Publication type Article
JournalHistorical Journal
Year2011
Volume54
Issue3
Pages659-687
ISSN (print)0018-246X
ISSN (electronic)1469-5103
Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.
The article explores ‘commonwealth’ both as a term and a conceptual field across the early modern period, with a particular focus on the Anglophone world. The shifts of usage of ‘commonwealth’ are explored, from a term used to describe the polity, to one used to describe a particular, republican form of polity, through to its eclipse in the eighteenth century by other terms such as ‘nation’ and ‘state’. But the article also investigates the variety of usages during any one time, especially at moments of crisis, and the network of related terms that constituted ‘commonwealth’. That investigation requires, it is argued, not just a textual approach but one that embraces social custom and practice, as well as the study of literary and visual forms through which the keyword ‘commonwealth’ was constructed. The article emphasizes the importance of social context to language; the forms, metaphors and images used to describe and depict the polity; and to show how linguistic change could occur through the transmutation of elements of the conceptual field that endowed the keyword with its meaning.
PublisherCambridge University Press
URLhttp://dx.doi.prg/10.1017/S0018246X11000203
DOI10.1017/S0018246X11000203
Actions    Link to this publication
Share