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Catharine Macaulay's Republican Conception of Social and Political Liberty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Early online date20 Feb 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Feb 2017


King's Authors


Catharine Macaulay was one of the most significant republican writers of her generation. Although there has been a revival of interest in Macaulay amongst feminists and intellectual historians, neo-republican writers have yet to examine the theoretical content of her work in any depth. Since she anticipates and addresses a number of themes that still preoccupy republicans, this neglect represents a serious loss to the discipline. I examine Macaulay’s conception of freedom, showing how she uses the often misunderstood notion of virtue to reconcile the individual and collective elements inherent in the republican model. In her own analysis of the deep-rooted social obstacles that stand in the way of women becoming free, Macaulay identifies a serious problem that confronts all republicans, namely how to secure freedom in the face of entrenched structural imbalances that systematically disadvantage certain classes of person. In the end, I conclude that Macaulay herself cannot overcome the issues she raises. This in no way diminishes the importance of her work since her diagnosis is as relevant today as in her own time.

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