University of Sussex
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The political thought of John Brown: religion, reform and international relations

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posted on 2023-06-15, 15:42 authored by Pervin Yigit
John Brown (1715-1766) has been portrayed by historians for generations as the archetypal Jeremiah. Depressed about the state of his country, he predicted the collapse of Britain in foreign war or by national bankruptcy. The main negative argument of the An Estimate of the Manners and the Principles of the Times (1757) was that effeminacy and luxury sprang from vast wealth and trade and would soon ruin the nation. In this thesis I contend that this idea does not capture the essence of Brown. John Brown‘s fascinated contemporaries not only because it was a cynical attack on contemporary commercial society. Actually, the Estimate is worthy of attention because Brown was a reformer of a particular kind. The central argument of this thesis is that in order to explore the Estimate as more than a political worry, as in fact a complicated and positive reform strategy, great attention needs to be paid to his politics and philosophy. None of the studies on Brown have taken his politics sufficiently seriously as a contribution to the reform philosophies of his time. This thesis is the first detailed study of the Estimate, its origins, arguments, reception and defence. The analysis of the Estimate can cast more light on the understanding of reform strategies during the enlightenment era and also their limits. This thesis indicates that Brown was less radical and more constructive than studies to date have imagined. In this thesis the extent of the impact of Brown‘s claims is measured, and the manner by which Brown‘s work served to highlight contrasting reform philosophies is emphasised. Therefore the aim of the thesis is to show the full extent of the reform plan Brown envisaged, unifying the moral, religious and political aspects of his thought.


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