Ideas of monarchical reform

Fénelon, Jacobitism and the political works of the Chevalier Ramsay

Andrew Mansfield
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Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743) was a Scottish Jacobite émigré who spent most of his adult life in France. His political works predominantly relied on a mixture of British and French doctrines to stimulate a Jacobite restoration to the British throne. Ambitious and controversial, Ramsay believed that key reforms and a growing empire would make Britain the ‘capital of the universe.’ His position as an intellectual conduit between the two kingdoms enables an extensive assessment of the political thought in Britain and France. Examining a number of important thinkers from the 1660s to the 1730s, this work stresses the significance of seventeenth century ideology on the following century. Crucially, the monograph explores the exchange of ideas between the two countries in the early Enlightenment. A time when Britain had rejected the absolutist pretensions of James II in the Glorious Revolution (1688) to protect mixed sovereignty and a key role for Parliament. This enshrinement of liberty and mixed government struck a chord in France with theorists opposed to Louis XIV’s form of centralised sovereignty. Following Louis XIV’s death in 1715, greater support for monarchical reform became evident in French political theory. Aided by the viewpoints and methodology of intellectual conduits such as Ramsay, shared perspectives emerged in the two countries on the future of monarchy.

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‘A highly engaging and significant study in the history of ideas.'
John Callow, University of Suffolk
The Seventeenth Century
November 2015

‘Mansfield's work on Ramsay constitutes not only one of the rare contributions to understanding the Chevalier's oeuvre but also a deft analysis of the complex strands of political thought in Britain and France in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. All the while, most significantly, Mansfield keeps in view-through the figure of Ramsay, in which he sees 'a true mélange of French and British political theory'-the intellectual exchanges between these nations, thus significantly adding to the currently renewed interest in the subject pursued by Rachel Hammersley, among others.'
Minchul Kim, School of History, University of St Andrews, UK
History of European Ideas
March 2016

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