Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, DM 397
Ph.D., New York University, 2011
My current research addresses a basic, but fundamental question: How did the actual experience of building an overseas empire transform early modern English political thought? Though English imperial agents attempted to order the empire in accordance with their political beliefs, the realities of colonization – encounters with Indians, the ravages of an unfamiliar environment, the unruliness of settlers – constantly challenged contemporaries’ preconceptions and thwarted their well-laid plans. The process of trying to bring colonial reality into line with political theory was therefore reciprocal: with every challenge raised by colonial experience, English imperial agents were forced to reevaluate their preconceived notions, subtly alter calcified conventions, and, in some cases, to jettison unworkable orthodoxies in favor of more flexible ideas.
Focusing primarily on early colonial Virginia, I trace the reciprocal development of England’s early empire and its modes of political thought through the two dominant strands of contemporary political discourse: humanism and constitutionalism. My research suggests that the politics and debates surrounding the colonization of early Virginia transformed the languages of English politics in three fundamental ways. The first was an expansion in the notion of the political community. The second was a shift in the understanding of the relationship between individual interest and the common good. And the third was the abstraction of sovereignty from the person of the monarch to the fictive person of the Hobbesian state that was simultaneously constituted by, and held absolute power over, the new transatlantic English political community.
Professional website: http://fiu.academia.edu/AaronSlater