In 1759, at the height of the Seven Years’ War, when Great Britain was suffering a series of military reversals, Montagu considered his country’s plight in an historical context formed by the study of five ancient republics: Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Carthage, and Rome. Montagu’s focus on the ancient republics gives his contribution a distinctive twist to the chorus of voices lamenting Britain’s decline, and his analysis exerted influence in three momentous eighteenth-century crises: the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, and the French Revolution. This is the first modern edition of Montagu’s work.
Edward Wortley Montagu (1713 –1776) was the son of a wealthy British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. He was a student of oriental languages at the University of Leiden, which apparently proved useful during the peace negotiations at Aix-la-Chapelle which concluded the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748.
David Womersley is Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. His most recent book is an edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (CUP, 2012).