Montesquieu’s America

  • Rolando Minuti
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 224)


On the whole, Montesquieu did not devote as much attention to the Americas, at least not in quantitative terms, as he did to other areas outside of Europe, such as the Far East in general – and China in particular, or to ancient and modern European history. When viewed in relation to the scope of the contemporary debate about America and the amount of available documentation, this has often led to “accusations” of weakness and inadequacies in Montesquieu’s discourse. However, we must not forget that his method was not typical of the scholar aiming at systematically gathering and accurately verifying all the available knowledge on various open issues. Rather, it was a philosophical approach which, as we know, started from the statement of problems that invest relationships of laws with the conditions that justify them, and aimed at proposing a system for checking political, social and civic diversities. Hence, it is a method that requires a huge amount of reading but at the same time demands selectivity in order to build a system which is orderly, coherent and, above all, useful from the standpoint of political action. «Il fallait beaucoup lire – Montesquieu wrote in an enlightening passage of his Pensées -, et il fallait faire très peu d’usage de ce qu’on avait lu».

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolando Minuti
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Storia, Archeologia, Geografia, Arte e Spettacolo (SAGAS)University of FirenzeFlorenceItaly

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