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“The Poisoned Tree: Treason of the Heart in Seventeenth-Century England”

with Alison McQueen (Stanford)

November 6, 2023 @ 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm


What did it mean to be a traitor in seventeenth-century England?  Over the course of the century, English treason would transform from a personal betrayal of the king to a political betrayal of the people and the laws. Yet lurking behind this story of change is a strange continuity.  Treason was and remained a crime of the heart and of the head, of perverse affections and wicked designs.  This was the closest England came to criminalizing bare intentions—a relentless pursuit to draw out the poison hidden in the breast of the traitor.

Speaker Bio:

Alison McQueen is Associate Professor of Political Science and (by courtesy) History at Stanford University.  She is the author of Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times (2018). She is currently finishing a book on Thomas Hobbes’s religious arguments, tentatively titled Absolving God: Religion and Rhetoric in Hobbes’s Political Thought, and starting a new project on treason in the history of political thought.