Second Part

00:09:07 Both C.B. Macpherson and Christopher Hill were very generous to me; Hill read some of my early work on Hobbes which I was publishing through the 1960's and invited me to a seminar in Oxford that he was running and that was how I first encountered him; I very much liked some of what he had written in 'Puritanism and Revolution', especially 'The Norman Yoke' which I thought rather non-Marxist, indeed a rather exemplary attempt to excavate the kind of resources that Leveller thinking and radical thinking more generally was able to draw on, and how that gave you a particular picture of English history and view of human rights; I never felt he had a heavy Marxist agenda; I also liked his book on Milton and the Puritan revolution which I reviewed in 'New York Review of Books' and I got into a nice correspondence with him about that; Macpherson was a bit of a problem for me by contrast; I felt that from quite an early stage I had arrived at two principles which I tried to do justice to in my historical writings, one of which we have talked about that the act of interpretation is trying to see things their way; also wanted to say that when we study works in history and philosophy what we should be doing is just listening; what we must not do is to go to the past with some view about a story that they must be telling or a grand narrative in which they must be figuring, like the rise of modernity or the acquisition of national self-consciousness or any of these completely anachronistic concepts which we can apply to the past; that is what Macpherson did by inventing something called possessive individualism and went in search of its origins; this violated every principle that I held most dear, that we are not listening to them but telling them what they are talking about; worst of all we are making political theory epiphenomenal with respect to something else; in every way I found that book detestable; he was not easy to talk to about this; however it set me off to work on Hobbes; Macpherson's book was published in June 1962 at the moment I graduated; it was one of the first books that set me on what might have been a rather disastrous course which was to start thinking about what is dreadful about this, what's going wrong, how should one be doing this subject; first thing I ever published was a review article called 'Hobbes's Leviathan' which was published in the 'The Historical Journal' early in 1964 in which I tried to set out what I thought was going wrong in this way of thinking and what we should be doing instead; what happened after that was that I complicated my life by trying to write about Hobbes as an example of my view of interpretation but it took me many years to work out what I did believe in

6:33:10 I hardly knew Hugh Trevor-Roper though I talked to his seminar once and met him when he gave the Trevelyan lectures here; didn't find him an approachable person; found his book on Archbishop Laud an example of an attempt to get at a fundamental bedrock of society - in this case religion - while assuming everything else was a shibboleth; never found his work appealing; Keith Thomas is one of my heroes whom I respect deeply; he is a sensational scholar; his essay on Hobbes was in a collection which I was sent to review; when I came to it I was electrified and felt that this was how to do this subject; got in touch with him at that time and have remained so; I find him very formidable and in the area in which I practice he has been as good as it gets

11:08:09 Did not know John Dunn as an undergraduate well although he was famous then as a great speaker in the Union; although we did the special subject together I did not really get to know him until after we graduated; should say that as an undergraduate and teacher I have always found Cambridge a very competitive environment in which to work; as an undergraduate I adopted a response to this which has continued where I tend to crawl away into a corner and do what I am doing on my own; as an undergraduate I didn't want to go to seminars or to really discuss the issues that were set before us as I wanted to work them out for myself; later we got to know each other well and he was a major intellectual influence upon me; he was a picture of commitment and passionate about the subject; he read endlessly and was always wonderful to talk to about what he was reading; most of it he thought was rubbish which was tremendously exhilarating and his scorn for sloppy thinking or self-importance was very great; we used to meet very regularly when first teaching; he also influenced me in some of what I have talked about, historical method; by 1969 he had published what remains an absolutely classical text on the political philosophy of John Locke; that was in many ways a model of how one should do intellectual history; we talked a lot about it and were thinking along similar Collingwoodian and Wittgensteinian lines, but John had his own very original way of laying this out and the preface to the book on Locke stands up absolutely

14:55:00 I have a narrow but passionate interest in a limited number of issues in history; I always felt that Peter Laslett had taken a wrong turning with the work that he did; he sent me to read 'The World We Have Lost' in typescript and I thought it rattling good stuff but it seemed rather impressionistic and I'm not sure that he ever mastered the statistical techniques that were necessary to do the family reconstitution that he then got interested in; what was an epiphany for me was his Locke edition which I read as an undergraduate; this, together with Dunn's and Pocock's work on Locke are all remarkable pieces of work

17:12:03 Have been preoccupied with the subject of liberty since the early 1980's; in the book called 'The Renaissance', the first volume of 'The Foundations of Modern Political Thought', I began to talk about a view of freedom that seemed to me classical and connected with notions of virtue in an interesting way; I gave the Tanner lectures at Harvard in 1984 where I tried to develop all this work; I came back to it in the 1990's through someone who has become a very important intellectual associate of mine, Philip Pettit, who teaches in philosophy and politics at Princeton; he and I knew each other at Cambridge from the 1970's and taught together at the Australian National University in 1994 a seminar on the theory of freedom which was the beginning of my more intensive preoccupation with this theme; the essay which I called 'A Third Concept of Liberty' was the inaugural Isaiah Berlin Lecture at the British Academy which I gave in 2000, but before that I had already made this topic the subject of my inaugural lecture as Regius Professor; I was rather keen to inaugurate myself on the theme of liberty because of Acton† who was a hero of my youth and his inaugural lecture had been partly on similar questions; I developed that in 'Liberty Before Liberalism'; what I am trying to talk about is a view of freedom which is neither of Isaiah Berlin's two concepts - that freedom embodies some notion of self-mastery which he contrasted with the view that to understand the concept of freedom is to understand that freedom essentially consists in a state of non-interference; I wanted to say that the latter had risen at a particular ideological moment as the enemy of a completely different way of thinking about freedom which we have essentially lost; I wanted to restore this which is why I called it the third concept of liberty in my British Academy lecture; this concept I found in the classical Roman historians but also in their reception in the Renaissance and above all in Machiavelliís 'Discorsi' which I thought to be a really crucial text from this point of view; this is a view that sees liberty, not as a predicate of action so does not think in terms of freedom of action; Berlin's view that freedom is simply non-interference makes our interest in liberty essentially an interest in freedom of action; the classical view that interested me thinks of freedom as the name of a status and is interested not in freedom of action but what it is to be a free person; the contrast is not with interference but with dependence; this is a distinction that goes back to the foundations of Roman law and is to be found laid out in the beginnings of 'The Digest' that the essential distinction in law of persons is are you a free person or are you a slave; Roman law needs to know that as slaves fall outside the law; to be a free person is essentially to be a citizen, a person not dependent upon the will of anybody else; you might say that they are talking about something else, not freedom of action, but what is subtle about the classical view is that a free person is someone who is going to be able to act freely; a slave's status means that he cannot act freely because of fear of the persons in domination; not unlike the situation of illegal workers in this century who are up against arbitrary and discretional power, so it is a view of freedom that we ought to be thinking about but has largely been lost; feel it important as an intellectual historian to recover lost traditions of thinking and reinspect them; the other thing that I have been trying to do is to locate when this view of freedom about being a free person get replaced by one where freedom is just freedom of action; I returned to Hobbes 'Leviathan' as the text which was written in order to discredit this view of freedom; underlines what I have been saying about interpretation being about what is being done in these texts; in 'Leviathan' a view of freedom is being presented so that all this talk about free persons is discredited as being confused; Hobbes had extraordinary success in that endeavour as classical utilitarianism fundamentally takes up the Hobbesian insight; Berlin's also accepts the tradition of Hobbes in his 'Two Concepts of Liberty'; I have tried to get behind this tradition to see what he tried to supersede; the most recent topic of my teaching in the University has been to give a large course of lectures on Hobbes and the English Revolution to contextualize 'Leviathan' in just this way

27:21:16 I have always wanted to say that we must let texts speak for themselves and not go to the past with the Whig desire to place them within a grand narrative to show they are contributing to some great overarching story; I have also wanted to say something that is mildly relativist which is that although we can get ourselves in touch with these people they are very different from us and hold very different beliefs, and can profit from this; this can sometimes enable one to see that they do hold views that we do not now hold but are nevertheless candidates for belief; that is what I think I have discovered in this classical view of freedom; perhaps we should think about these texts again having that in mind; there would be an opposite fallacy from the Whig interpretation which you go to the past specifically with the aim of trying to find these subversions of our own beliefs; I am not asking that that should be your motivation; it should be to listen to people whom you want to hear; I still think we should do our own thinking for ourselves as I don't think the past contains blueprints that we can simply adopt; do not agree with David Cannadine's recent suggestion that historians should advise politicians; fear it would lead to dependency and we should keep ourselves independent from power

32:24:02 Question of the difference between Roman and English common law with regard to status; Bracton distinguishes the free from the servile, and the vassal from both; notion that you might not be a slave but might not be free because you are a copyholder or because you are a tenant at will was very important in common law and brings out that view about freedom that it is the name of a relationship between two persons with respect to dominance and dependence in respect of property rights; general thoughts on servitude; own independence by getting a lectureship so early which gave a freedom to act in a way that those dependent on others for a secure job do not have; never felt pressure in Cambridge to conform as the system protects those it has appointed; I had an equivalent of freehold in English law as a life fellow of Christ's College; Cambridge also has two power bases in the departments and colleges although I have always been a natural ally of the University; in my time the faculties and University have taken over and is a sign of increasing professionalization, and it doesn't matter so much now which college you go to as an undergraduate; when I was an undergraduate it did matter, now the seminars are organized by the faculty and you get the same teachers; the fact that the faculties have taken over has had an equalizing effect and has been beneficial; colleges are very heavily endowed halls of residence and they spend that endowment on research; the major colleges all elect research fellows; the faculty has no role in that and it seems that if faculties got locked into a particular ideology it was very important that there should be colleges that were not; my views on freedom mean I am not keen on there being just one centre of power but that power should be diffused so that we are not dependent on any one source

41:20:02 I like to think my own thoughts so am not tremendously affected by where I am; my reasons for staying in Cambridge would not now be as strong as they used to be but they were numerous; one reason when I came back from Princeton was that Cambridge was a good place to bring up children; the second which was always important to me is the amazing quality of students in this University; I have had a wonderful succession of Ph.D. and Masters students; they don't in general go on to be academics but whom you teach at a graduate level; a third consideration was the excellence of the library; in my work that has been rather overtaken by databases now so I can sit in my room where I have access to early English books on line, and can get almost any book I want without leaving; until this, the extraordinary excellence of the rare books collection here was crucial to me, and I needed a huge range as I was trying to turn political theory into a genuinely historical subject, and I could not have done that in most English universities; interesting why I didn't stay at the Institute; two further things to mention, one was that deciding to have a family made me want to come home; now that salary scales have been changed I doubt that I would be paid more but when I returned from Princeton to a Chair in Cambridge I halved my income, so I must have really wanted to do it; the other consideration was that I have always seen myself as a teacher and have wanted as a lecturer to get things clear to myself in order to do so effectively; at Princeton I had no students and never gave any lectures and I really missed that; I can see that it would have adversely affected my research as in an elite university like this you have the extraordinary privilege of being able to lecture out of your research; the making of it clear enough to yourself to make it clear to others which is the fundamental task means that that has always been the feed for my scholarship

46:06:23 The whole process of working is a mystery to me and I have even tried to write about how I start on a new project; I can't quite see how it evolves; at some point I am reading texts and making notes on them and then I am trying to reorganize those notes and trying to turn those notes into prose; that is as much as I can say about how I do it; for many years I had a vast pile of notes and then settled down one dreadful morning to try to write them out as a piece of prose; now I short-circuit that; I have been using a word processor since the early 1980's which in English academic life was quite early, the first production being published in 1983; since then the pile of notes have been transformed on screen and edited there; since the advent of the word processor I have, like everybody else, written far more; I think in general my colleagues now write books that are far too long; my advice to young scholars now is to write very short books on very large subjects because that really does gain you an audience; can't believe that people read the giant tomes that my colleagues write; think the word processor has been bad for us in that way but for me it really gives a fluency

49:17:21 I am an atheist; think that if we know anything it is that none of that could be true; of course we may not know anything, so atheist is a bold word; I'm a Richard Dawkins kind of atheist; there are two kinds, the Marxists who think that though they are materialists what is interesting about religion in all forms is that it deformed very deep human yearnings and aspirations and that it is a very powerful route into trying to understand human psychology; another kind of atheist - David Hume or Bertrand Russell - who mostly can't understand what these people are claiming, but in so far that I do it is obviously false, and I am that kind of atheist, it just doesn't interest me at all; that has been true since I was a teenager; I can't say that it was even a very great crisis though Bertrand Russell was one of my great heroes then; at University I made a special study of Hume and therefore the 'Dialogues on Natural Religion' and I am inclined to think what Hume says in that text more or less deals with the subject; this is an increasingly unfashionable thing to say; most atheists are of the other sort nowadays; one of the most surprising things in my lifetime is the recrudescence not merely of organized religion as a powerful political force so that the old distinction of religion being part of the private sphere has gone; when I was writing 'The Foundations of Modern Political Thought' my wife who was reading it began to become seriously worried that I would become a convert; I was really seriously trying to understand the point of view of these people and trying to sympathise with it as much as I could; now I am told that students find there is not enough religion in those books; its commonly said by critics of my work that I don't do religion because I am very insensitive to it; I think that is unfair but it is certainly true that it is uncongenial to me as a subject for research and it is rather remarkable that I am a specialist in early modern culture and don't study religion

53:12:12 Susan matters more to me than I can express and its true that she reads everything that I write and I read everything that she writes; we have a pact of honesty which can be very painful; although I don't talk to people about my work I am a very keen sender-out of my work and she is one of a group of natural advisors; I have never understood why scholars don't send out their drafts; of course it is very painful and takes you much longer but in the most recent book that I finished, not only Sue but two others of my readers really caused me to junk the first draft and to rewrite it completely; I was horrified to think that I was going to have to do that at the time, and retrospectively delighted; I suppose the only other thing I might be inclined to reflect on is that I am now 67 and this is my last year in Cambridge; because I started teaching at 21 I am now the longest continuous serving member of this university at this moment; it is fifty years almost to the day since I sat the scholarship examination so it has been the whole of my adult life; so what has changed? It has changed, not always for the best, and in some rather disquieting ways it has not changed; when I look at my lecture audience they seem to be of the same socio-economic class and ethnic group that they always were; there seems to be an extraordinary homogeneity of our students and in a society that really must me more multicultural that I think is indefensible; that is a problem for the colleges as they admit undergraduates which is one reason why I view them with a certain suspicion; the great change since I arrived is in relation to women; when I was and undergraduate there were 43 tenured members of staff and two were women in the history faculty, now there are 54 and 16 are women; the balance is still bad but it is a revolution; the year I graduated, 1962, 8% of graduates in history were women, now it is 50% as it has been for about fifteen years, a huge revolution and very beneficial to the University

57:59:00 Was an active member of The Apostles when I first graduated for about the first two year and it was very important to me at that time; it was a group that was dominated when I was a member by economists but were deeply interested in moral and political theory; I learnt a great deal going to those weekly meetings; it was a violation of my principle that I should keep myself to myself and I found these people deeply formidable; there were only seven or eight of us, two of whom won the Nobel prize; one of these was Amartya Sen who was an amazing person to talk to over a wide range of questions; I know that one shouldn't be a member of secret societies but we were not spies and I doubt that MI5 (or MI6) was interested in any of us, but it was an education, and with apologies for the elitism involved it was a very remarkable group