One of the most influential French philosophers of the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin is known today for his political thought. Born in 1530, he received training in law at the University of Toulouse and became an advocate in Paris, where he won the favor of the royal family. Bodin's first major work, Method for the Easy Comprehension of History (Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem), published in 1566, provides an overall introduction to his philosophical system. The Six Bookes of a Commonweale, which appeared in French in 1576 and later in a Latin version, is in many respects his chief claim to fame as a political philosopher. It contains a strong defense of absolute sovereignty and of monarchy as the best form of government. His Demonomania, first published in 1580, is an elaborate account of witchcraft and sorcery intended to assist in the suppression of the black arts. Theatre of Nature (Universale theatrum naturae), printed in 1596, contains his cosmology and his speculations on the nature of the human soul, angels, and the spiritual world. Colloquium of the Seven (Colloquium heptaplomeres), composed in 1588, did not appear in print until the nineteenth century. It takes the form of a dialogue among seven sages of different religions and philosophical persuasions in search of a common creed. Although he was an active and, at times, controversial writer during the period of France's most bitter religious strife, Bodin seems to have avoided sectarian conflict while maintaining his loyalty to the Catholic Church and the monarchy. Bodin died in 1596.
Julian H. Franklin is professor emeritus of political philosophy at Columbia University. His books include Jean Bodin and the Rise of Absolutist Theoryand John Locke and the Theory of Sovereignty.