Cover image for John Locke : selected correspondence
John Locke : selected correspondence
Locke, John, 1632-1704.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Correspondence. Selections.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxxvi, 378 pages : map ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B1296 .A4 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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John Locke (1632-1704) was a prolific correspondent and left behind him over 3,600 letters, a collection almost unmatched in pre-modern times. A man of insatiable curiosity and wide social connections, his letters open up the cultural, social, intellectual, and political worlds of the laterStuart age. Spanning half a century, they mark the transition from the era of revolutionary Puritanism to the dawn of the Enlightenment. Locke is chiefly known as a philosopher, a theorist of empiricism in his Essay Concerning Philosophyrstanding, a theorist of liberalism in his Two Treatises ofGovernment, and a theorist of religious toleration in his Letter concerning Toleration. But his interests extended further still, to education, medicine, finance, theology, empire, and the natural world. He was a Fellow of the early Royal Society. He received letters from scholars in Paris andAmsterdam, from colonial administrators in Virginia, from aristocrats and shopkeepers, from children, from tenants, from politicians, from philosophic women, from astronomers, chemists, and physicists. He is one of the first people whose correspondence is as far flung as North America, India, andChina. A friend of Anglican archbishops and of freethinking anticlericals, of Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle, of William Molyneux the 'virtuoso' of Dublin, of Jean LeClerc of Amsterdam, and of Damaris Masham, Locke stood in the midst of the 'Republic of Letters'. This book brings together 245 ofthe most important and revealing letters. Half of them are letters written by Locke (twelve per cent of the total number surviving), the other half are letters written to him. If Locke's place is already secure among those who explore philosophy and political ideas, these letters will give Locke anew presence among those who are interested in the social and cultural worlds of seventeenth-century Britain.

Author Notes

John Locke's works of political and social philosophy, written in the 17th century, have strongly influenced intellectuals ever since - including the founders of the United States of America.

Born in 1632 in Wrington, England, Locke studied at Christ Church, Oxford, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in the late 1650's. He also studied medicine and earned a medical license. His studies led to an interest in contemporary philosophers influenced by science, such as Rene Descartes. Locke read widely among them while teaching at Christ Church over the next few years.

In 1667, Locke became personal physician and adviser to Anthony Ashley Cooper, who later was appointed Earl of Shaftesbury. Through Shaftesbury's patronage, Locke earned some government posts and entered London's intellectual circles, all the while writing philosophy. He was one of the best-known European thinkers of his time when he died in 1704.

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke established the philosophy of empiricism, which holds that the mind at birth is a blank tablet. Experience, Locke believed, would engrave itself upon the tablet as one grew. He felt humans should create theories according to experience and test them with experiments. This philosophy helped establish the scientific method.

Locke codified the principals of liberalism in "Two Treatises of Government" (1690). He emphasized that the state must preserve its citizens' natural rights to life, liberty and property. When the state does not, Locke argued, citizens are justified in rebelling. His view of liberalism comprised limited government, featuring elected representation and legislative checks and balances. While a Christian, Locke believed in absolute separation of church and state, and he urged toleration of those whose religious views differed from the majorities.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Note on the text
1 Revolutionary England, 1656-1660
2 Restoration Oxford and the Embassy to Cleves, 1660-1666
3 Lord Ashley's Servant and the 'New World', 1667-1675
4 France, 1675-1679
5 Popery and Arbitrary Power, 1679-1683
6 Exile in Holland, 1683-1688
7 The Glorious Revolution, 1688-1689
8 Government and the Law of Nature, 1690-1692
9 Philosophy and Correction, 1692-1694
10 Civility and Superstition, 1694-1695
11 Coinage and Commerce, 1695-1696
12 Reasonable Christianity, 1696-1697
13 Divinity and Ireland, 1697-1698
14 Manners and Americans, 1699-1701
15 Politics Revived, 1701-1703
16 Recessional, 1703-1704
Biographical register of correspondents
Further reading
Checklist of letters selected