The honorable burden of public office: The rise of English civic humanism in the sixteenth century

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Joseph M. Levine


Public office, English, Civic humanism, Sixteenth century

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | European History | History


Arguing against current historiography, I contend that humanism remained viable in England throughout the sixteenth century in the form of civic humanism. I expose the interaction between humanist education and political, cultural, and intellectual life. I trace the connection between English humanism and practical politics in the lives and careers of six eminent Elizabethans--who received an almost exclusively classical education at Cambridge University for the explicit purpose of public service. This education imbued them with the same goals and aspirations, above all new ideals of citizenship, which guided their public and private conduct. It set them on a common project in practical affairs (diplomacy, economic affairs, domestic matters, and educational policies, for instance) which their humanism helped to shape. My goal is to demonstrate both the humanist connection behind their undertaking and the significance of this movement for our understanding of Elizabethan political and cultural life.


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