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Professor David Armitage on "John Locke, Treaties and the Two Treatises of Government" - a webinar co-hosted by VUW History Programme and VUW Faculty of Law
Join the VUW History Programme and VUW Faculty of Law for a special webinar.

Speaker: Professor David Armitage (Harvard University).
Chair: Dr Valerie Wallace (VUW History)
Comment: Prof Mark Hickford & Prof Campbell McLachlan (VUW Law)

From the beginning of his public career almost to the end of his life, John Locke participated in a burgeoning contemporary culture of treaties. His lifetime almost exactly coincided with the emergence of a public culture of treaties in the late seventeenth century, exemplified by the proliferation of treaty collections, treaty prints and even treaty music. His early secretarial career involved him directly in treaty negotiations; his later administrative activities, especially in relation to English colonisation, regularly engaged him with treaty provisions. This paper argues that Locke's fifty-year interest in treaties and treaty-making can help to explain one of the enduring puzzles of his Second Treatise of Government: that is, why he separated the powers of government between the executive, the legislative and what he called, in a near-neologism, the "Federative," or "the Power of War and Peace, Leagues and Alliances, and all the Transactions, with all Persons and Communities without the Commonwealth". It concludes by inferring how Locke would have imagined that power, based on his decades-long knowledge and experience of the federative in practice.

DAVID ARMITAGE is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University and an Affiliated Faculty Member at Harvard Law School. A prize-winning writer and teacher, he is the author or editor of eighteen books, among them Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (Knopf, 2017), Foundations of Modern International Thought (Cambridge UP, 2013), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (Harvard UP, 2007) and The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000). He is currently completing an edition of John Locke's colonial writings for the Clarendon Press.

May 28, 2021 08:30 AM in Auckland, Wellington

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