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Empire and the Historiography of European Political Thought: Marsiglio of Padua, Nicholas of Cusa, and the Medieval/Modern Divide

John Pocock's The First Decline and Fall (2003) presents a novel argument for drawing a clear distinction between medieval and early modern varieties of political thinking and writing that implicitly challenges the current historiographical trend that "softens" the dividing line between the two. The present paper critically examines Pocock's claim, which is based on the appearance of the theme of the historicity of the Roman Empire (imperial decline and fall) in early modern (and especially Florentine) political theory. In particular, the works of Marsiglio of Padua and Nicholas of Cusa are surveyed to demonstrate that Pocock's thesis, while useful, fails to capture fully the historical complexity of the medieval / modern divide in European thought.

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