The Causes of Tyranny as a Guide to Political Reform: St. Thomas More's History of King Richard III of England
Part One of this dissertation establishes a basis for interpreting Moreâ s History of King Richard III. Chapter One inquires into its genre, concluding it is a â rhetorical historyâ like the histories composed by Thucydides, Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, a genre similar to drama which aims to reveal fundamental moral and political truths by following classical rhetorical principles. Chapter Two investigates the relationship between the nine textually significant extant versions of this work, and concludes that they derive from a series of revised drafts. The English versions are shown to be preliminary drafts, with the Paris manuscript being the Latin version based on the latest draft. Chapter Three analyzes the changes between drafts and finds that More carefully revised his work and paid particular attention to concepts important in political philosophy. The four chapters of Part Two interpret the work's political teaching. Chapter Four introduces the major themeâ the causes of tyranny in the England depictedâ by contrasting tyranny with a good political order, â republic.â This chapter defines tyranny, distinguishes the tyrant Richard from the merely bad king Edward, notes the relationship between tyranny and faction, and describes the attributes of a republic and its members, â citizens.â It also discusses aligning public and private interests and avoiding conflicts of interest as principles of political reform. Chapter Five inquires into institutional causes of tyranny, discussing sanctuary and the dangers of imprudent rational critique, the strengths and weaknesses of England's criminal, civil, and constitutional law, and the weaknesses of hereditary kingship. Chapter Six inquires into moral causes, concentrating on individual failures of the virtue fides, including persons who are too trusting and those who are not trustworthy, discusses when it is appropriate to trust, and notes the importance of trustworthiness in political teaching. Chapter Seven inquires into nonhuman causesâ Divine Providence, fate, and fortuneâ and concludes that despite the limits these place on human power, a significant arena for choice and action remains. Humans have free will, and should choose to work for the real, but limited possibility of political reform. The Appendix includes a new literal translation of Richard III from Latin.