• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Montesquieu, Charles-Louis De (1689–1755)

The French jurist and philosopher Charles-Louis de Montesquieu was a leading figure in the Enlightenment and in the rise of courts and lawyers as central phenomena of liberal societies. His most important work,The Spirit of Laws (1748), broadened the rationalist liberalism of Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and John Locke (1632–1704) by restoring the intellectual moderation of the first great comparativist, Aristotle (384–322 BCE). This sowed seeds for new disciplines of economics, sociology, comparative law, and sociology of law.

The Spirit of Laws helped spread liberal constitutionalism in Europe and beyond by combining theoretical insight with practical analysis of an encyclopedic range of topics. It became the leading philosophical source for the U.S. Constitution and deeply influenced the jurist William Blackstone (1723–1780) and the penal reformer Cesare Beccaria ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles