Jean Bodin

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Jean Bodin
Born 1530
Died 1596
Era Renaissance philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Main interests Legal philosophy, political philosophy, economy
Notable ideas Quantity theory of money, absolute sovereignty

Jean Bodin (1530–1596) was a French jurist and political philosopher, member of the Parlement of Paris and professor of law in Toulouse. He is best known for his theory of sovereignty; he was also an influential writer on demonology.

Bodin lived during the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation and wrote against the background of religious conflict in France. He remained a nominal Catholic throughout his life but was critical of papal authority over governments, favouring the strong central control of a national monarchy as an antidote to factional strife. Toward the end of his life he wrote, but did not publish, a dialogue among different religions, including representatives of Judaism, Islam and natural theology, in which all agreed to coexist in concord.


Bodin was successively a monk, academic, professional lawyer, and political adviser. An excursion as a politician having proved a failure, he lived out his life as a provincial magistrate.

Early life

Bodin was born near Angers (perhaps the son of a master tailor), with modestly prosperous middle-class background. He received a decent education, apparently in the Carmelite monastery of Angers, where he became a novice monk. Some claims made about his early life remain obscure. There is some evidence of a visit to Geneva in 1547/48 in which he became involved in a heresy trial. The records of this episode, however, are murky and perhaps refer to another person.

Paris and Toulouse

He obtained release from his monastic vows in 1549 and went to Paris. He studied at the university, but also at the humanist-oriented Collège des trois langues (now the Collège de France); he was for two years a student under Guillaume Prévost, a little-known magister in philosophy. His education was not only influenced by an orthodox Scholastic approach but was also apparently in contact with Ramistic philosophy.

Later in the 1550s he studied Roman law at the University of Toulouse, under Arnaud du Ferrier, and taught there. His special subject at that time seems to have been comparative jurisprudence. Subsequently he worked on a Latin translation of Oppian of Apamea, under the continuing patronage of Gabriel Bouvery, Bishop of Angers. Bodin had a plan for a school on humanist principles in Toulouse, but failed to raise local support. He left in 1560.

The Wars of Religion and the politiques

From 1561 he was licensed as an attorney of the Parlement of Paris. His religious convictions on the outbreak of the wars of Wars of Religion in 1562 cannot be determined, but he affirmed formally his Catholic faith, taking an oath that year along with other members of the Parlement. He continued to pursue his interests in legal and political theory in Paris, publishing significant works on historiography and economics.

He was imprisoned in Paris in 1569/70 during the Third war of Religion, in what may have been a form of protective custody to escape the persecution of Catholic zealots who considered him a secret supporter of the Reformation.[citation needed] Stories placing Bodin again in Paris and in danger during the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 are late reports and unverifiable: his whereabouts at that time are unknown.

Bodin became a member of the discussion circles around the Prince François d'Alençon (or d'Anjou from 1576). He was the intelligent and ambitious youngest son of Henry II, and was in line for the throne in 1574, with the death of his brother Charles IX. He withdrew his claim, however, in favor of his older brother Henry III who had recently returned from his abortive effort to reign as the King of Poland. Alençon was a leader of the politiques faction of political pragmatists.

Under Henry III

After the failure of the hopes Prince François had had to ascend the throne, Bodin transferred his allegiance to the new king Henry III. In practical politics, however, he lost the king's favor in 1576–7, as delegate of the Third Estate at the Estates-General at Blois, and leader in his Estate of the February 1577 moves to prevent a new war against the Huguenots. He attempted to exert a moderating influence on the Catholic party, and also tried restrict the passage of supplemental taxation for the king. Bodin then retired from political life; he had married in February 1576. His wife, Françoise Trouillart, was the widow of Claude Bayard, and sister of Nicolas Trouillart who died in 1587; both were royal attorneys in the Provost of Laon and attorneys in the Bailiwick of Vermandois, and Bodin took over the charges.

Bodin was in touch with William Waad in Paris, Lord Burghley's contact, at the time (1576) of publication of the Six livres. He later accompanied Prince François, by then Duke of Anjou, to England in 1581, in his second attempt to woo Elizabeth I of England. On this visit Bodin saw the English Parliament. He brushed off a request to secure better treatment for English Catholics, to the dismay of Robert Parsons, given that Edmund Campion was in prison at the time. Bodin saw some of Campion's trial, he is said also to have witnessed Campion's execution in December 1581, making the hanging the occasion for a public letter against the use of force in matters of religion. Bodin became a correspondent of Francis Walsingham; and Michel de Castelnau passed on to Mary, Queen of Scots a prophecy supposed to be Bodin's, on the death of Elizabeth, at the time of the Babington Plot.

Prince François became Duke of Brabant in 1582, however, and embarked on an adventurer's campaign to expand his territory. The disapproving Bodin accompanied him, and was trapped in the Prince's disastrous raid on Antwerp that ended the attempt, followed shortly by the Prince's death in 1584.

Last years

In the wars that followed the death of Henry III (1589), the Catholic League attempted to prevent the succession of the Protestant Henry of Navarre by placing another king on the throne. Bodin initially gave support to the powerful League; he felt it inevitable that they would score a quick victory.

He died, in Laon, during one of the many plague epidemics of the time.


Bodin generally wrote in French, with later Latin translations. Several of the works have been seen as influenced by Ramism, at least in terms of structure.

Bodin wrote in turn books on history, economics, politics, demonology, and natural philosophy; and also left a (later notorious) work in manuscript on religion (see under "Religious tolerance"). A modern edition of Bodin's works was begun in 1951 as Oeuvres philosophiques de Jean Bodin by Pierre Mesnard, but only one volume appeared.

Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem

In France, Bodin was noted as a historian for his Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem (1566) (Method for the easy knowledge of history). He wrote, "Of history, that is, the true narration of things, there are three kinds: human, natural and divine". This book was one of the most significant contributions to the ars historica of the period, and distinctively put an emphasis on the role of political knowledge in interpreting historical writings. He pointed out, equally, that the knowledge of historical legal systems could be useful for contemporary legislation.

The Methodus was a successful and influential manual on the writing of technical history. It answered by means of detailed historiographical advice the skeptical line on the possibility of historical knowledge advanced by Francesco Patrizzi. It also expanded the view of historical "data" found in earlier humanists, with the immediacy of its concerns for the social side of human life.

Bodin rejected the biblical Four Monarchies model, taking an unpopular position at the time, as well as the classical theory of a Golden Age for its naivety. He also dropped much of the rhetorical apparatus of the humanists.

Economic thought: the Reply to Malestroit

The Réponse de J. Bodin aux paradoxes de M. de Malestroit (1568) was a tract, provoked by theories of Jean de Malestroit, in which Bodin offered one of the earliest scholarly analyses of the phenomenon of inflation, unknown prior to the 16th century. The background to discussion in the 1560s was that by 1550 an increase in the money supply in Western Europe had brought general benefits. But there had also been appreciable inflation. Silver arriving via Spain from the South American mine of Potosí, together with other sources of silver and gold, from other new sources, was causing monetary change.

Bodin was after Martín de Azpilicueta, who had alluded to the issue in 1556 (something noticed also by Gomara in his unpublished Annals), an early observer that the rise in prices was due in large part to the influx of precious metals. Analysing the phenomenon, amongst other factors he pointed to the relationship between the amount of goods and the amount of money in circulation. The debates of the time laid the foundation for the "quantity theory of money". Bodin mentioned other factors: population increase, trade, the possibility of economic migration, and consumption that he saw as profligate.

The Theatrum

The Theatrum Universae Naturae is Bodin's statement of natural philosophy. It contains many particular and even idiosyncratic personal views: eclipses are related to political events. It argued against the certainty of the astronomical theory of stellar parallax, and the terrestrial origin of the "comet of 1573" (i.e. the supernova SN 1572). This work shows major Ramist influences. Consideration of the orderly majesty of God leads to encyclopedism about the universe and an analogue of a memory system.

Problems of Bodin became attached to some Renaissance editions of Aristotelian problemata in natural philosophy. Further, Damian Siffert compiled a Problemata Bodini, which was based on the Theatrum.

Les Six livres de la République

Bodin's best-known work was written in 1576. The discussion regarding the best form of government which took place in those years around the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572) gave the inspiration; Bodin attempted to embark on a middle path. Machiavelli would have granted the sovereign the right to act for the benefit of his state without moral consideration, and Protestant theorists advocated a popular government, or at least an elective monarchy. Bodin's classical definition of sovereignty is: “la puissance absolue et perpetuelle d'une Republique” (the absolute and perpetual power of a Republic). His main ideas about sovereignty are found in chapter VIII and X of Book I, including his statement "The sovereign Prince is only accountable to God".

The Six livres were an immediate success and were frequently reprinted. A revised and expanded Latin translation by the author appeared in 1586. With this work, Bodin became one of the founders of the pragmatic inter-confessional group known as the politiques, who ultimately succeeded in ending the Wars of Religion under King Henry IV, with the Edict of Nantes (1598). Against the monarchomachs who were assailing kingship in his time, such as Theodore Beza and François Hotman Bodin succeeded in writing a fundamental and influential treatise of social and political theory. In its reasoning against all types of mixed constitution and resistance theory, it was an effective counter-attack against the monarchomach position invoking “popular sovereignty”.

The structure of the earlier books has been described as Ramist in structure. Book VI contains astrological and numerological reasoning. Bodin invoked Pythagoras in discussing justice and in Book IV used ideas related to the Utopia of Thomas More The use of language derived from or replacing Niccolò Machiavelli's città (Latin civitas) as political unit (French cité or ville) is thoughtful; Bodin introduced republic (French république, Latin respublica) as a term for matters of public law (the contemporary English rendering was commonweal(th)). Bodin, although he referenced Tacitus, was not writing here in the tradition of classical republicanism. The Ottoman Empire is analysed as a “seigneurial monarchy”. The Republic of Venice is not accepted in the terms of Gasparo Contarini: it is called an aristocratic constitution, not a mixed one, with a concentric structure, and its apparent stability was not attributable to the form of government.

The ideas in the Six livres on the importance of climate in the shaping of a people's character were also influential, finding a prominent place in the work of Giovanni Botero (1544–1617) and later in Baron de Montesquieu's (1689–1755) climatic determinism. Based on the assumption that a country's climate shapes the character of its population, and hence to a large extent the most suitable form of government, Bodin postulated that a hereditary monarchy would be the ideal regime for a temperate nation such as France. This power should be "sovereign", i.e., not be subject to any other branch, though to some extent limited by institutions like the high courts (Parlement) and representative assemblies (États). Above all, the monarch is "responsible only to God", that is, must stand above confessional factions.

The work soon became widely known. Gaspar de Anastro made a Spanish translation in 1590.Richard Knolles put together an English translation (1606); this was based on the 1586 Latin version, but in places follows other versions. It appeared under the title The Six Bookes of a Common-weale.

Title page of De la démonomanie des sorciers (1580)

De la démonomanie des sorciers (Of the Demon-mania of the Sorcerers)

Bodin's major work on sorcery and the witchcraft persecutions was first issued in 1580, ten editions being published by 1604. In it he elaborates the influential concept of "pact witchcraft" based on a deal with the Devil.

The book relates histories of sorcerers, but does not mention Faust and his pact. It gave a report of a 1552 public exorcism in Paris, and of the case of Magdalena de la Cruz of Cordova, an abbess who had confessed to sexual relations with the Devil over three decades. Bodin cited Pierre Marner on werewolf accounts from Savoie. He denounced the works of Cornelius Agrippa, and the perceived traffic in "sorceries" carried out along the Spanish Road, running along eastern France for much of its length.

He wrote in extreme terms about procedures in sorcery trials, opposing the normal safeguards of justice. This advocacy of relaxation was aimed directly at the existing standards laid down by the Parlement of Paris (physical or written evidence, confessions not obtained by torture, unimpeachable witnesses). He asserted that not even one witch could be erroneously condemned if the correct procedures were followed, because rumours concerning sorcerers were almost always true. Bodin's attitude has been called a populationist strategy typical of mercantilism.[vague]

The book was influential in the debate over witchcraft; it was translated into German by Johann Fischart (1581), and in the same year into Latin by François Du Jon as De magorum dæmonomania libri IV. It was quoted by Jean de Léry, writing about the Tupinamba people of what is now Brazil.

The book would inspire the title and thematic concerns of John Crowley's novel Dæmonomania.


Law and politics

Bodin was best known for his analysis of sovereignty, which he took to be indivisible, and to involve full legislative powers (though with qualifications and caveats). With François Hotman and François Baudouin, on the other hand, Bodin also supported the force of customary law, stating that Roman law alone was not adequate.

He hedged the absolutist nature of his theory of sovereignty, which was an analytical concept; if later his ideas were used in a different, normative fashion, that was not overtly the reason in Bodin. Sovereignty could be looked at as a “bundle of attributes”; in that light the legislative role took centre stage, and other “marks of sovereignty” could be discussed further, as separate issues. He was a politique in theory, which was the moderate position of the period in French politics; but drew from it the conclusion that only passive resistance to authority was justified.

Bodin's work on political theory saw the introduction of the modern concept of “state” but was in the fact on the cusp of usage (with that of Corasius), with the older meaning of a monarch “maintaining his state” not having dropped away.Public office belonged to the commonwealth, and its holders had a personal responsibility for their actions. Politics is autonomous, and the sovereign is subject to divine and natural law, but not to any church; the obligation is to secure justice and religious worship in the state.

Bodin studied the balance of liberty and authority. He had no doctrine of separation of powers and argued in a traditional way about royal prerogative and its proper, limited sphere. His doctrine was one of balance as harmony, with numerous qualifications; as such it could be used in different manners, and was. The key was that the central point of power should be above faction. Rose sees Bodin’s politics as ultimately theocratic, and misunderstood by the absolutists who followed him.

Where Aristotle argued for six types of state, Bodin allowed only monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. He wrote, however, that the form of state (constitution) was to be distinguished from the form of government (administration). Bodin had a low opinion of democracy.

Families were the basic unit and model for the state; on the other hand John Milton found in Bodin an ally on the topic of divorce. Respect for individual liberty and possessions were the hallmark of the orderly state, a view Bodin shared with Hotman and George Buchanan. He argued against slavery.

On change and progress

He praised printing as outshining any achievement of the ancients. The idea that the Protestant Reformation was driven by economic and political forces is attributed to him. He is identified as the first person to realize the rapid rate of change of early modern Europe.

In physics, he is credited as the first modern writer to use the concept of physical laws to define change, but his idea of nature included the action of spirits. In politics, he adhered to the ideas of his time in considering a political revolution in the nature of an astronomical cycle: a changement (French) or simply a change (as translated 1606) in English; from Polybius Bodin took the idea of anacyclosis, or cyclic change of constitution. Bodin's theory was that governments had begun as monarchical, had then been democratic, before becoming aristocratic.

Religious tolerance

Public position

In 1576 Bodin was engaged in French politics, and then argued against the use of compulsion in matters of religion, if unsuccessfully. Wars, he considered, should be subject to statecraft, and matters of religion did not touch the state.

Bodin argued that a state might contain several religions; this was a very unusual position for his time, if shared by Michel de l'Hôpital and William the Silent. It was attacked by Pedro de Rivadeneira and Juan de Mariana, from the conventional opposing position of a state obligation to root out religious dissent. He argued in the Six livres that the Trial of the Knights Templar was an example of unjustified persecution, similar to that of the Jews and medieval fraternities.

Private position in the Colloquium

In 1588 Bodin completed in manuscript a Latin work Colloquium heptaplomeres de rerum sublimium arcanis abditis (Colloquium of the Seven). It is a conversation about the nature of truth between seven educated men, each with a distinct religious or philosophical orientation - a natural philosopher, a Calvinist, a Muslim, a Roman Catholic, a Lutheran, a Jew, and a skeptic. Because of this work, Bodin is often identified as one of the first proponents of religious tolerance in the western world. Truth, in Bodin's view, commanded universal agreement; and the Abrahamic religions agreed on the Old Testament (Tanakh).Vera religio (true religion) would command loyalty to the point of death; his conception of it was influenced by Philo and Maimonides. His views on free will are also bound up with his studies in Jewish philosophy. Some modern scholars have contested his authorship of the text. The "Colloquium of the Seven regarding the hidden secrets of the sublime things" offers a peaceful discussion with seven representatives of various religions and worldviews, who in the end agree on the fundamental underlying similarity of their beliefs.

Bodin's theory, as based in considerations of harmony, resembles that of Sebastian Castellio. He has been seen as a scriptural relativist, and deist, with Montaigne and Pierre Charron; also in the group of learned Christian Hebraists with John Selden, Carlo Giuseppe Imbonati, and Gerhard Vossius. By reputation, at least, Bodin was cited as an unbeliever, deist or atheist by Christian writers who associated him with perceived free-thinking and sceptical tradition of Machiavelli and Pietro Pomponazzi, Lucilio Vanini, Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza: Pierre-Daniel Huet,Nathaniel Falck,Claude-François Houtteville.Pierre Bayle attributed to Bodin a maxim about the intellectual consequences of the non-existence of God (a precursor of Voltaire's, but based on a traditional commonplace of French thinkers).Wilhelm Dilthey later wrote that the protagonists in the Colloquium anticipate those of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Nathan der Weise.

The Colloquium was one of the major and most popular manuscripts in clandestine circulation in the early modern period, with more than 100 copies catalogued. it had an extensive covert circulation, after coming into intellectual fashion. The 1910 Encyclopædia Britannica states "It is curious that Leibniz, who originally regarded the Colloquium as the work of a professed enemy of Christianity, subsequently described it as a most valuable production". Its dissemination increased after 1700, even if its content was by then dated. It was interpreted in the 18th century as containing arguments for natural religion[disambiguation needed], as if the views expressed by Toralba (the proponent of natural religion) were Bodin's; wrongly, according to Rose, whose reconstruction of Bodin's religious views is a long way from belief in a detached deity.Grotius had a manuscript. Gottfried Leibniz, who criticized the Colloquium to Jacob Thomasius and Hermann Conring, some years later did editorial work on the manuscript. Henry Oldenburg wanted to copy it, for transmission to John Milton and possibly John Dury, or for some other connection in 1659. In 1662 Conring was seeking a copy for a princely library. It was not to be published in full until 1857, by Ludwig Noack, from manuscripts collected by Heinrich Christian von Seckenberg.

Personal religious convictions

Bodin was influenced by philosophic Judaism to believe in the annihilation of the wicked 'post exacta supplicia'.

Cultural and universal history and geography

Bodin was a polymath, concerned with universal history which he approached as a jurist. He belonged to an identifiable French school of antiquarian and cultural history, with Lancelot Voisin de La Popelinière, Louis Le Caron, Louis Le Roy, Étienne Pasquier and Nicolas Vignier.

Historical disciples included Jacques Auguste de Thou and William Camden. The genre thus founded, drawing social conclusions, identified itself as "civil history", and was influenced particularly by Polybius. The Methodus has been called the first book to advance "a theory of universal history based on a purely secular study of the growth of civilisation". Bodin's secular attitude to history therefore goes some way to explain his perceived relationship to Machiavelli. While Bodin's common ground with Machiavelli is not so large, and indeed Bodin opposed the Godless vision of the world in Machiavelli, they are often enough paired, for example by A. C. Crombie as philosophical historians with contemporary concerns; Crombie also links Bodin with Francis Bacon, as rational and critical historians. Both Bodin and Machiavelli treat religion as situated historically.

Bodin drew largely on Johann Boemus, and also classical authors, as well as accounts from Leo Africanus and Francisco Álvares. He showed little interest, however, in the New World. In terms of theories of cultural diffusion he influenced Nathanael Carpenter, and many subsequently, with his “south-eastern origin” theory of the transmission from peoples of the Middle East to Greece and Rome (and hence to Northern Europe). Another follower was Peter Heylyn in his Microcosmus (1621). In anthropology Bodin showed indications of polygenism as theory of human origins. In clearer terms, on the other hand, he believed that mankind was unifying, the drivers being trade, and the indications of the respublica mundana (world commonwealth) and international law as developing. This was within a scheme of Vaticinium Eliae or three periods of 2000 years for universal history, to which he had little commitment, though indicating its connection with the three climate regions and their predominance.

The “south-eastern” theory depended for its explanation on Bodin's climate theory and astrology: it was given in the Methodus, and developed in Book VI of the Six Livres. He made an identification of peoples and geographical sectors with planetary influences, in Book V of the Six Livres. His astrological theory is combined with the Hippocratic tradition; but not in the conventional way of Ptolemy. It has been suggested that he took them from a follower of Cardano, Auger Ferrier.


Bodin's conception of sovereignty was widely adopted in Europe. In a form simplified and adapted by others, such as the French jurists Charles Loyseau (1564–1627) and Cardin Le Bret (1558–1655), it played an important role in the development of absolutism.

In France

Influentially, Bodin defended an orderly Gallican monarchy against Huguenots, and any external interference. These general ideas became political orthodoxy, in the reign of Henry IV of France, tending to the beginnings of absolutism. Bodin had numerous followers as political theorist, including Pierre Grégoire, in whom with François Grimaudet legislative authority starts to become closer to the divine right of kings, and William Barclay.Pierre Charron in La Sagesse of 1601 uses the idea of state from Bodin but with fewer limitations on royal power; Charron in this work argued for a secular neo-stoicism, putting together ideas of Montaigne and Lipsius with those of Bodin. Charles Loyseau in the years 1608-10 published absolutist works with the emphasis on orderliness in society, going much beyond Bodin’s writing of thirty years earlier, a trend that continued into the 17th century.

As a demonologist, his work was taken to be authoritative and based on experience as witch-hunting practitioner. As historian, he was prominently cited by Lenglet du Fresnoy in his 1713 Methode pour etudier l’Histoire.Montesquieu read Bodin closely; the modern sociology hinted at in Bodin, arising from the relationship between the state apparatus on the one hand, and society on the other, is developed in Montesquieu.

In Germany

Bodin's rejection of the Four Monarchies model was unpopular, given the German investment in the Holy Roman Emperor as fourth monarch, the attitude of Johannes Sleidanus. The need to accommodate the existing structure of the Empire with Bodin as theorist of sovereignty led to a controversy running over nearly half a century; starting with Henning Arnisaeus, it continued unresolved to 1626 and the time of Christopher Besoldus. He drew a line under it, by adopting the concept of composite polyarchy, which held sway subsequently. Leibniz rejected Bodin’s view of sovereignty, stating that it might amount only to territorial control, and the consequence drawn by writers in Bodin’s tradition that federalism was chimeric.

In England

Generally the English took great interest in the French Wars of Religion; their literature came into commonplace use in English political debate, and Amyas Paulet made immediate efforts to find the Six livres for Edward Dyer. Shortly Bodin's works were known in England: to Philip Sidney, Walter Ralegh, and to Gabriel Harvey who reported they were fashionable in Oxford. His ideas on inflation were familiar by 1581. Somerville makes the point that not all those who discussed sovereignty in England at this period necessarily took their views from Bodin: the ideas were up in the air at the time, and some such as Hadrian à Saravia and Christopher Lever had their own reasoning to similar conclusions.Richard Hooker had access to the works, but doesn't reference them.John Donne cited Bodin in his Biathanatos.

Bodin's view of parallelism of French and English monarchies was accepted by Ralegh.Roger Twysden dissented, to the extent that the English monarchy had in his view never fitted Bodin's definition of sovereignty.Richard Beacon in Solon His Follie (1594), directed towards English colonisation in Ireland, used text derived from the Six livres, as well as much theory from Machiavelli; he also argued against Bodin the proposition that France was a mixed monarchy. Bodin influenced the controversial definitions of John Cowell, in his 1607 book The Interpreter, that caused a furore in Parliament during 1610.Edward Coke took from Bodin on sovereignty; and like him opposed the concept of mixed monarchy.

While Bodin's ideas on authority fitted with the theory of divine right of kings, his main concern was not with the choice of the sovereign. But that meant they could cut both ways, being cited by parliamentarians as well as royalists. Henry Parker in 1642 asserted the sovereignty of Parliament by Bodinian reasoning.James Whitelocke used Bodin's thought in discussing the King-in-Parliament. The royalist Robert Filmer borrowed largely from Bodin for his argument in his Patriarcha. John Locke in arguing decades later against Filmer in Two Treatises of Government didn't go behind his work to attack Bodin; but his ally James Tyrrell did, as did Algernon Sidney. Another royalist user of Bodin was Michael Hudson. John Milton used Bodin's theory in defending his anti-democratic plan for a Grand Council, after Oliver Cromwell's death.

Sir John Eliot summarized work of Arnisaeus as critic of Bodin, and wrote in the Tower of London following Bodin that a lawful king, as opposed to a tyrant, "will not do what he may do", in his De iure majestatis.Robert Bruce Cotton quoted Bodin on the value of money;Robert Burton on politics in the Anatomy of Melancholy.

Richard Knolles in the introduction to his 1606 translation commended the book as written by a man experienced in public affairs.William Loe complained, in preaching to Parliament in 1621, that Bodin with Lipsius and Machiavelli was too much studied, to the neglect of Scripture.Richard Baxter on the other hand regarded the reading of Bodin, Hugo Grotius and Francisco Suárez as a suitable training in politics, for lawyers.

Bodin's views on witchcraft were taken up in England by the witch-hunter Brian Darcy in the early 1580s, who argued for burning rather than hanging as a method of execution, and followed some of Bodin's suggestions in interrogating Ursula Kemp. They were also radically opposed by Reginald Scott in his sceptical work Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). Later Francis Hutchinson was his detractor, criticising his methodology.

In Italy

In Italy Bodin was seen as a secular historian like Machiavelli. At the time of the Venetian Interdict, Venetians agreed with the legislative definition of sovereignty. In particular Paolo Sarpi argued that Venice's limited size in territorial terms was not the relevant point for the actions it could undertake on its own authority.

Later Giambattista Vico was to take Bodin’s cultural history approach noticeably further.

The Papacy

Works of Bodin were soon placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum for various reasons, including discussion of Fortune (against free will), and reason of state. The Methodus went on the Index in 1590;Robert Bellarmine as censor found it of some merit in its learning, but the author to be a heretic or atheist, critical of the papacy and much too sympathetic to Charles Du Moulin in particular. Other works followed in 1593. All his work was placed on the Index in 1628; the prohibition on the Theatrum continued into the 20th century. Venetian theologians were described as followers of Machiavelli and Bodin by Giovanni Amato.

Bodin mentioned on the title page of Fabio Albergati's Discorsi politici, in 1602. Albergati wrote against Bodin from 1595, comparing his political theories unfavourably with those of Aristotle.

Bellarmine's Tractatus de potestate summi pontificis in temporalibus reiterated, against Bodin's sovereignty theory, an indirect form of the traditional papal deposing power to release subjects from the duty of obedience to tyrants.Jakob Keller, in an apologetical work on behalf of limited justifications for tyrannicide, treated Bodin as a serious opponent on the argument that subjects can only resist a tyrant passively, with views on the Empire that were offensive.

In Spain

On 1583 Bodin was placed on the Quiroga Index. Against tyrannicide, Bodin's thought was out of step of conventional thinking in Spain at the time. It was recognized, in an unpublished dialogue imagined between Bodin and a jurist of Castile, that the government of Spain was harder than that of France, the other major European power, because of the more complex structure of the kingdom.

Bodin's view of witchcraft was hardly known in Spain until the 18th century.


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  2. ^ Jean Bodin entry by Mario Turchetti in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006-12-12
  3. Robert Alan Schneider, Public life in Toulouse, 1463-1789: from municipal republic to cosmopolitan city (1989), pp. 56–7; Google Books.
  4. Kuntz, p. xxi; Google Books.
  5. Kuntz, Introduction p. xxii. Google Books.
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  7. (French) Jacobsen, p. 47, p. PA47, at Google Books
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  14. John Bossy, Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story (2001), p. 110 and note.
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  16. Trevor-Roper, p. 114.
  18. Denys Hay, Annalists and Historians, pp. 129-31.
  19. Hay, p. 170.
  20. Lawrence Manley, Convention, 1500-1750 (1980), p. 214; Google Books.
  21. Trevor-Roper, p. 137.
  22. Breisach, p. 182.
  23. Holt, p. 194.
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