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Ramgotra, Manjeet (2022) 'Time, modernity and space: Montesquieu’s and Constant’s ancient/modern binaries.' History of European Ideas, 48 (3). pp. 263-279.

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This article explores how our thinking about time shapes epistemological and ontological understandings of the world. It considers the idea of modernity as constituted by the ancient/modern binary through an examination of Montesquieu’s and Benjamin Constant’s development of this binary in relation to their understandings of commerce, the law of nations and conquest, political rule and freedom in the context of European colonial empire. Modernity demarcates a break in (historical) time between a past and a present that extends into a future. This rupture plays a role in distinctions between modern European and pre-modern non-European societies. The ancient/modern binary underpins conceptions of collective and individual liberty. It associates modernity with individual liberty, progress, reason and science. I analyse how this binary operated across space to categorise various societies as not modern, pre-modern or less developed according to levels of scientific, technological, political and economic progress in Montesquieu’s thought and through Constant’s silences. This article develops an innovative reading of the ancient/modern binary in French political thought.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Montesquieu, Constant, modernity, commerce, liberty, ancient/modern
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
D History General and Old World
ISSN: 01916599
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 14:14

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