|About the Book|
William Godwin was an important figure in the intellectual landscape of the late-18th and early-19th centuries. The husband of Mary Wollstonecraft and the father-in-law of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Godwin became famous as the author of An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) and Caleb Williams (1794), both of which were widely read in the 1790s. Godwin remained active as a novelist, historian and political theorist until his death in 1836. Today he is best known as the founder of philosophical anarchism. Godwin worked on his History of the Commonwealth of England for ten years, using many primary sources including the Journals of both the Houses of Parliament. He was writing at a time when there had been little serious investigation of the intellectual, religious and political history of England between 1640 and 1660. Unlike many historians of this period, Godwin engaged in thorough and well-informed analysis rather than mere manipulation of crude stereotypes. He was sympathetic to the English Republicans and related their political ideas to their religious beliefs and their moral philosophies. His work forms an important episode in the emerging historiography of the English Civil Wars in general and of the English Republic in particular, providing important interpretative lines on key figures such as Oliver Cromwell, John Milton and Sir Henry Vane. This history is also important in relation to Godwins political philosophy, providing interesting insights into how the theories of the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice may be applied in practice. This volume features a new introduction by John Morrow.