Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Smith, Thomas

Born: 1513
Died: 1577
  • Kate AughtersonEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_629-1


Smith’s political philosophy of a mixed monarchical government, in which Parliament and citizens had an active ruling function, expressed most famously in his De Republica Anglorum (published after his death in 1583) emerged both from his intellectual involvement in the crucible of late Henrician Reformation political and theological debate and his practical experience of political office during the reigns of both Edward VI and Elizabeth I. In that work, as well as through the privately circulated A Discourse of the Commonweal of England, Smith first articulates what later becomes a commonplace account of English political stability: that the political structures of the English state echo and represent the social structure, in which there is a balance between Commons, Lords, and monarch, between center and regions, all subject to the law. His political embassy in France enabled him to contrast the developing English model of “mixed government” with the more oligarchic French practice. Nevertheless, this open political model continued to exclude men who did not own land, and all women: his inclusive social and political model uses the patriarchal family as exemplum.

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Primary Literature

  1. A Letter sent by I.B. gentleman unto his very friend Master R.C.Esquire, wherein is conteined a large discourse of the peopling and inhabiting the cuntrie called the Ardes, and other adiacent in the north of Ireland and taken in hand by Sir Thomas Smith, one of the queens majesties privie counsel (1571).Google Scholar
  2. Archer, Ian. ‘Sir Thomas Smith’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. http://www.oxforddnb.com/
  3. Bacon, Francis. ‘Of plantations’, Essays 1612. London: John Beale.Google Scholar
  4. Smith, John. 1561. Dialogue Concerning the Queen’s Marriage. Additional MSS. Vol. 48047.Google Scholar
  5. Smith, John. 1583. De Republica Anglorum. and ed. Mary Dewar, 1982. London/Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Smith, John. 1969. A Discourse of the Commonweal of England, ed. M. Dewar. Richmond. (Originally published, 1581).Google Scholar
  7. Smith, John. ‘Letter to Burleigh’. British Library, Lansdowne MS 19/81, fo.178.Google Scholar
  8. Smith, John. ‘Letter to Sir Francis Walsingham’. British Library, Harl. Ms.260/188.Google Scholar
  9. Strype, John. 1689. The life of the learned Sir Thomas Smith. London: A Roper.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Archer, Ian. 2004. Smith, Sir Thomas (1513–1577). In Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press Online.Google Scholar
  2. Dewar, Mary. 1964. Sir Thomas Smith: A Tudor intellectual in office. London: Athlone Press.Google Scholar
  3. McLaren, Anne. 1999. Reading Sir Thomas SmIth’s De Republica Anglorum as Protestant Apologetic. The Historical Journal 42 (iv): 911–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrightonBrightonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • David A. Lines
    • 1
  1. 1.Italian Studies, School of Modern Languages and CulturesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK