Semester of Graduation

May 2021

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

The idea of happiness has primarily been presented in historical scholarship as belonging to two unique temporal periods: classical antiquity and modernity. These foci, however, do not appropriately encapsulate the extent or depth to which the idea of happiness has been conceptualized; stuck between them are almost two millennium of intellectual history that possesses their own unique descriptions and conceptions of the idea – within the Western tradition alone. This paper looks at the isle of Britain between the years 1660-85 – the era of the Restoration and the reign of Charles II – and discusses how the idea of happiness was described, discussed, and thought about among English intelligentsia. Beginning with Dissenters and religious nonconformists, then moving to institutional Anglicans, the Cambridge Platonists and John Norris in particular, and finally the early political writings of John Locke, this paper shows how the idea of happiness evolved from a primarily religious concept to a synthesis of Protestant soteriology, classical thinking, and early Enlightenment methodology and reason. Tying in the political, social, religious, and intellectual context of Restoration England, this paper shows how an idea, and even a historical process such as secularization, evolves slowly over time, and that the Enlightenment may not be the triumphant defeat of religion that we may first assume it to be.

Committee Chair

Victor L. Stater

Available for download on Friday, March 10, 2028

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