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The Commonwealth of Oceana   By: (1611-1677)

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In "The Commonwealth of Oceana" by James Harrington, readers are treated to a thought-provoking exploration of political theory and governance. Originally published in 1656, this timeless work offers insightful ideas that resonate even in today's modern society.

Harrington's book presents a fictionalized account of the ideal commonwealth, Oceana. Through a series of dialogues and debates, the author examines various political systems and their potential consequences. The central theme of the book revolves around the concept of a balanced republic, where power is distributed among different classes and a well-structured constitution governs all.

What makes Harrington's work particularly fascinating is his ability to blend historical and theoretical aspects seamlessly. Drawing from ancient Greek and Roman political philosophy, as well as contemporary events of his time, the author constructs a coherent argument for the implementation of his proposed political system. With meticulous attention to detail and logical precision, Harrington effectively demonstrates the advantages of his vision of a commonwealth.

One of the key strengths of the book lies in its ambitious scope. Harrington dives deep into the nuances of political organization, offering readers a detailed analysis of the various components of a successful republic. The author's comprehensive vision leaves no stone unturned, covering topics such as property rights, inheritance laws, popular sovereignty, and the role of the military. By addressing these complex subjects, Harrington manages to provide readers with a holistic understanding of his proposed commonwealth.

Furthermore, Harrington's prose is highly engaging and accessible, considering the book's weighty subject matter. Instead of dry academic writing, the author adopts a conversational style, allowing readers to easily follow the intricate arguments presented. This approach not only makes the book more enjoyable to read but also makes the complex ideas discussed within it more accessible to a wider audience.

Despite its many merits, "The Commonwealth of Oceana" does have its limitations. Some readers may find that the book's dense scholarly style requires considerable patience and concentration. Additionally, the historical context within which Harrington is writing might make it challenging for modern readers to fully connect with his ideas. Nevertheless, diligent readers who are interested in political philosophy and history will find this book to be an enriching experience.

In conclusion, "The Commonwealth of Oceana" by James Harrington remains a significant work in political theory, featuring an ingenious blend of historical analysis and theoretical propositions. Although some may find its scholarly style and historical setting challenging, the book offers valuable insights into the creation of a well-structured commonwealth. Harrington's meticulous examination of various political systems and his persuasive arguments make this book a compelling read for anyone interested in the principles of governance.

First Page:

OCEANA

By James Harrington

INTRODUCTION TO OCEANA

JAMES HARRINGTON, eldest son of Sir Sapcotes Harrington of Exton, in Rutlandshire, was born in the reign of James I, in January, 1661, five years before the death of Shakespeare. He was two or three years younger than John Milton. His great grandfather was Sir James Harrington, who married Lucy, daughter of Sir William Sidney, lived with her to their golden wedding day, and had eighteen children, through whom he counted himself, before his death, patriarch in a family that in his own time produced eight dukes, three marquises, seventy earls, twenty seven viscounts, and thirty six barons, sixteen of them all being Knights of the Garter. James Harrington's ideal of a commonwealth was the design, therefore, of a man in many ways connected with the chief nobility of England.

Sir Sapcotes Harrington married twice, and had by each of his wives two sons and two daughters. James Harrington was eldest son by the first marriage, which was to Jane, daughter of Sir William Samuel of Upton, in Northamptonshire. James Harrington's brother became a merchant; of his half brothers, one went to sea, the other became a captain in the army.

As a child, James Harrington was studious, and so sedate that it was said playfully of him he rather kept his parents and teachers in awe than needed correction; but in after life his quick wit made him full of playfulness in conversation... Continue reading book >>




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