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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of the French political philosopher (1689-1755) whose work on liberty and republicanism, banned at home, influenced the US constitution.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe and New England in the eighteenth century, transforming political philosophy and influencing the American Constitution. He argued that an individual's liberty needed protection from the arm of power, checking that by another power; where judicial, executive and legislative power were concentrated in the hands of one figure, there could be no personal liberty.


Richard Bourke
Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of London

Rachel Hammersley
Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle University


Richard Whatmore
Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 14 Jun 2018 21:30


Richard Bourke at Queen Mary, University of London

Rachel Hammersley at Newcastle University

Richard Whatmore at the University of St Andrews

Montesquieu - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Montesquieu and the Separation of Powers – Online Library of Liberty

A Montesquieu Dictionary - École normale supérieure de Lyon

Montesquieu - Wikipedia



John Churton Collins, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau in England (first published 1886; Forgotten Books, 2018) 

Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler (ed.), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2006), especially ‘The comparative study of regimes and societies’ by Melvyn Richter and ‘The spirit of nations’ by Sylvana Tomaselli

Montesquieu (trans. C. J. Betts), Persian Letters (first published 1973; Penguin, 1993)

Montesquieu (trans. David Lowenthal), Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline (first published 1965; Hackett, 1999)

Montesquieu (ed. Anne Cohler, Basia Miller and Harold Stone), The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge University Press, 1989)

Melvyn Richter, The Political Theory of Montesquieu (Cambridge University Press, 1977)

Robert Shackleton, Montesquieu: A Critical Biography (Oxford University Press, 1961)

Judith N. Shklar, Montesquieu (Oxford University Press, 1987)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Richard Bourke
Interviewed Guest Rachel Hammersley
Interviewed Guest Richard Whatmore
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 14 Jun 2018 09:00
  • Thu 14 Jun 2018 21:30

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