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Political and Ecclesiological Contexts for the Early English Translations of Grotius’s De Veritate (1632-1686)

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Grotius’s attempt to find a compromise both between reason and revelation, and between free will and predestination, his philological approach to the reading of Scripture, his refusal to engage in doctrinal disputes, and his insistence on ethics as the core of Christian teaching, were increasingly important in shaping a powerful strand of thinking about the Anglican church from the Great Tew circle to post-Restoration latitudinarianism. The references to Grotius’s apologetic work which appeared in moderate Anglican writing should be understood by setting them in a broader context encompassing the settlement of Anglican Church, its religious doctrine, and its relations with civil authority. In order to recover the complexity of the political and ecclesiological context for the English translations of De Veritate, I will divide the period from 1632 to 1686 into three distinct phases: the initial phase goes back to the 1630s, when the members of the Great Tew circle at Oxford facilitated the circulation of the early translations and editions of De Veritate in England within the context of Caroline/Laudian religious policy. The second covers the 1650s, when a number of Grotius’s works were translated by the Anglican theologian Clement Barksdale in order to provide a new ideology for the post-Laudian Anglican Church. The third phase spans from the Restoration until 1686, when De Veritate converged in the complex political and intellectual background of ‘latitudinarianism’.

Affiliations: 1: Research Fellow, Folger Shakespeare Library, Email:, URL:


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