In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Thomas Hobbes

  • Introduction
  • Works of Reference
  • Journals and Resources
  • Essay Collections
  • Biographical Overviews
  • Hobbes and the Reformation
  • Hobbes and God
  • Hobbes and Trinitarianism
  • Thomas Hobbes and the New Science
  • Thomas Hobbes’s Scientific Cohorts
  • Natural Law
  • Hobbes, Humanism, and History
  • Hobbes and Rhetoric
  • Print Culture and Iconography
  • Hobbesian Politics in Context I: Civil War
  • Hobbesian Politics in Context II: Restoration
  • Hobbes, Popular Sovereignty and Democracy
  • Toleration and Heresy
  • Reception

Renaissance and Reformation Thomas Hobbes
Jeffrey Collins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0361


It is indicative of the immense influence of Thomas Hobbes that he has spawned three separate bibliographies in the Oxford bibliographic series. One of the great “system building” philosophers, Hobbes has become a canonical thinker within modern political thought, philosophy, and social science. The editors of the Oxford Bibliographies have wisely opted for a division of labor. The present effort will focus on studies of Hobbes within the historical context of early modernity (from the Renaissance through the 17th century). Methodologically, it will incline toward historical works. Generally excluded are the studies of Hobbes which atop a textual or analytical approach. Even with these limitations, the bibliography will necessarily be quite selective. Thomas Hobbes, partly because of his normative influence, has long been a dominant subject for historians critically applying historicist methods to the canon. Serious historical interest in Hobbes traces back to the 19th century, and the landmark biography of Leslie Stephen. Stephen was a student of the English utilitarians, who found Hobbes’s psychological theories and positivist account of law appealing. (Robert Molesworth, editor of the Latin and English complete works of Hobbes that were standard well into the 20th century, was a student of James Mill.) The first durable historical work on Hobbes, however, was produced by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, whose Hobbes: Leben und Lehre appeared in 1897. Tönnies discovered many Hobbesian manuscripts, and produced the first modern editions of Behemoth and The Elements of Law. This research informed (at times too closely) the longstanding, standard English language biography, Hobbes, published by the Scottish philosopher George Croom Robertson in 1886. German state theorists, following Tönnies, remained fascinated by Hobbes. In the fraught interwar context, this interest produced the still influential interpretations of Leo Strass and Carl Schmitt, which variously (and in the latter case, noxiously) located Hobbes within a mythology of modern “liberalism.” Hobbes was a primary subject of the “Cambridge School” of contextual intellectual history from its earliest days. First in the pioneering work of Quentin Skinner, and then in that of his students, Hobbes has been studied from multiple historical angles. Close knowledge of Hobbes’s biography, reception, scientific theories, religion, and politics has been fundamentally advanced over the past four decades. The pre-eminent historical scholar of Hobbes, certainly currently but arguably of all time, is Noel Malcolm. Malcolm is the general editor of the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes and editor of its most important volumes. His research articles are essential, and appear in virtually every section of this bibliography. The following bibliography attempts to reflect the insights and range of contextualist scholarship on Hobbes. A few classic works are included, but the bibliography is biased toward more recent work. Hobbes studies remains dominated by English language publication, but continental interest continues to grow, and some essential works in other European languages are included.

Works of Reference

Though they vary significantly in quality, Hobbes studies have generated a fairly large number of reference guides. The Oxford Handbook, Martinich and Hoekstra 2016, and the two Cambridge Companions, Sorell 1996 and Springborg 2007, are the most broadly valuable. They contain both useful introductory “state of the field” essays, some original research essays, and subject-specific guides to further reading. Lemetti 2012, Martinich 1995, and Zarka 1992 are, by contrast, pure reference works.

  • Lemetti, Juhana. Historical Dictionary of Hobbes’s Philosophy. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2012.

    Reference work containing a brief chronology of Hobbes’s life, and approximately five hundred entries on philosophical concepts and vocabulary from his writings. Also contains a useful bibliography.

  • MacDonald, Hugh, and Mary Hargreaves. Thomas Hobbes: A Bibliography. London: Bibliographic Society, 1952.

    Long standard and generally reliable. Much more, however, is now known of the print history of the editions of Leviathan, the translation of De Cive, and other matters of authorial attribution. For any individual work, the editorial introductions provided by the Clarendon editions should be consulted. Malcolm’s edition of Leviathan is particularly commended.

  • Martinich, A. P. A Hobbes Dictionary. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995.

    Part of Blackwell’s series of “Philosopher dictionaries. Useful entries on a raft of Hobbesian concepts large and small, by a historically minded philosopher and leading scholar of Hobbes’s religion.

  • Martinich, A. P., and Kinch Hoekstra, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Comprehensive collection of synthetic pieces, covering a wide topical ambit. Politics and religion are covered, but also Hobbes’s natural philosophy, historical writing, and other less well worked subfields of growing importance in recent years.

  • Sorell, Tom, ed. Cambridge Companion to Hobbes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

    Earliest of the coverage collections produced by Cambridge and Oxford. This volume includes a useful summary biography by Malcolm, and is otherwise particularly strong on questions of Hobbesian natural philosophy and psychological theories.

  • Springborg, Patricia, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’s Leviathan. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    Follow-up volume to Cambridge’s volume on Hobbes. The narrower focus on Leviathan allows for better coverage of issues such as the reception and iconography of Hobbes’s masterpiece.

  • Zarka, Y. C., ed. Hobbes et son vocabulaire: ètudes de lexicographie philosophique. Paris: Vrin, 1992.

    A conceptually oriented reference guide to Hobbes’s philosophical idioms edited by the Sorbonne political theorist responsible for the edition of Hobbes’s works produced by Vrin. Includes essays by distinguished contributors on familiar subjects such as Hobbes’s discussion of personhood and the state, as well as more technical subjects such as the metaphysical notion of conatus.

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