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York University

 AS/POLS 3020 3.0 M (W)

Utopia, Power and Sovereignty
Winter 2013 

Course Director: Marcello Musto

Lecture Time: Wed 19:00 – 22:00

Class Location: VH 3000

Office Location: Ross Building, N 813
Office Hour: Wed 18:00-19:00

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 416 – 736 2100, Ext. 20241

Course Syllabus

This course will examine, drawing on an interdisciplinary approach, the major developments in European political thought of the Sixteenth century. The first two lectures will offer an overview of the historical, productive and social characteristics of the principal European countries of the time, analyzing, in particular, the colonization of the Americas and its effects, structural changes of economy, and demographic, cultural and religious trends.

The central part of the course will concentrate on theories related to the rise of the modern state. The formation of the modern state will be analyzed through the works written in the midst of the most important political and cultural occurrences of the century: the Italian Renaissance, the Protestant reformation, and the French Wars of Religion. These three events resulted in: I) the development of a firm distinction between morality and politics, with the primacy of the latter (Machiavelli and Botero); II) the elaboration of a doctrine of the State in service of the "true religion" (Luther, Calvin, the Monarchomachs, Suarez); and III) the making of a theory of sovereignty as a remedy to the upheavals of the epoch (Bodin).

        In addition to these authors, special attention will be given to the voices of protest of some of the major Christian humanists, social reformers and political philosophers of the period, in particular More, Campanella, Bacon and de las Casas.

Course Requirements

Class Participation:

This course is taught in weekly lectures lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes. Attendance and informed participation (students are expected complete the assignment readings on time) at all classes is strongly required.

Midterm Examination:

A Midterm Exam will be held on February 27 at the regular class time and place. The exam will last 75 minutes and it will consist of answering 3 questions drawn from the readings assigned until that date.

Final Paper:

The final paper has to be related to the authors and the writings read during the course (papers with a critical analysis of the authors included in the readings, or with a comparison among their different conceptions, are the most welcome).

The Final Paper should:

-       be approximately 4.000 words, including footnotes and bibliography (roughly 15 pages double spaced 12 pt. 'Times New Roman' font);

 -       be clearly structured (divided in at least 3/4 sections), and written with rigorous evidence;

 -       be argued with documentation from a critical sources (1-2 books and/or articles per page is a good rule of thumb). These sources may include some of the assigned readings, but must also evidence original research.

 -       have references from hard copy books with the indication of page numbers. Papers with references from internet - unless they are truly necessary - will be penalized.

Final papers will be due 10 April, in hard copy and by email. Late assignment will be penalized.

Warning: the paper must be entirely your own work. No plagiarism.

Access to Readings:

Many of the required readings are available on-line (more information on them could be found at Giovanni Botero, The Reason of State (Routledge 1956) is on reserve at Scott library; while the following books have been ordered for the bookstore:

Euan Cameron (ed.), The Sixteenth Century (Oxford 2006).

P. Bondanella - M. Musa (eds), The Portable Machiavelli (Penguin).

Martin Luther- John Calvin, On Secular Authority (Cambridge University Press).

Thomas More, Utopia (Penguin).

Jean Bodin, On Sovereignty: Six Books Of The Commonwealth (CreateSpace).

Useful Links on the XVI Century:



Inventions and technological and scientific discoveries:


Life in the XVI Century:

A Chronology of Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation in the Sixteenth Century:

Recommended Books on European History:

Course Evaluation

Class Participation


Mid Term Exam


Final paper


Mid-term class participation marks will be available, if necessary, by email the week of March the 4th.

Schedule of Classes and Readings

Jan 9         Introduction to the Course

Jan 16       The Socio-historical Origins of European Modern Thought

Euan Cameron (ed.), The Sixteenth Century, pp. 19-57, 89-115 ('Introduction' by Euan Cameron and Chapters: 1. 'The Economy' by Tom Scott, and 3. 'Society' by Christopher Black).

Jan 23       The Primacy of Politics

Peter Bondanella - Mark Musa, Introduction: An Essay on Machiavelli, pp. 9-40.

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince [1532], pp. 77-166.

Jan 30       The Protestant Reformation

Harro Höpfl, Introduction, and Glossary, pp. vii-xxiii and xxxii-xxxviii.

Martin Luther, On Secular Authority [1523], pp. 3-43.


Feb 6         The Clerical State

Harro Höpfl, Glossary, pp. xxxviii-xliii,.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion [1536] (Book Fourth, chapters: 2 'Comparison between the false church and the true', 11 'Of the jurisdiction of the church, and the abuses of it, as exemplified in the papacy', and 20 'Of civil government') [The latter is included in Martin Luther- John Calvin, On Secular Authority, Cambridge University Press, pp. 47-86].

Feb 13       Utopianism I

 Paul Turner, Introduction, pp. xi-xxiv.

Thomas More, Utopia [1516], pp. 1-117.

Feb 27       Utopianism II

Tommaso Campanella, The city of the sun [1602].

Francis Bacon, The new atlantis [1626].

Mar 6         The Colonization and its Effects                                       

Bartolomé De las Casas, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies [1552].

Mar 13      The Monarchomachs and the right to resistance

Stephen Junius Brutus, A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants [1579].

Francisco Suarez, Defense of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith against the Errors of Anglicanism [1613] (Book 3, chapters: 1, 2, 5, 22 and 23).

Mar 20      The Birth of the Modern Concept of Sovereignty

M. J. Tooley, Introduction, pp. 9-42.

Jean Bodin, The Six Books of the Commonwealth [1576] (Book I, pp. 43-90, except chapter IX-XVII: pp. 76-79; Book III, pp. 117-147, Book VI, pp. 221-251).

Mar 27      The Science of the State

Giovanni Botero, The Reason of State [1589] (Books I, II, III, IV and VII).

Apr 3         Political Theory in the XVI Century: Overview and Comparison

The reading for this week is a text by choice (it will be distributed in March). Goal of the final class is to review and critically compare the theories related to the rise of the modern state learned during the course.