Thomas Hobbes Social Contract for A Level Politics


Thomas Hobbes is one of the most influential political thinkers in British History. Born in 1588, he formed his ideas during the early 17th century. It was the period as the three kingdoms drew closer to war. Leviathan, his seminal work, was published after the execution of Charles I, as the future remained relatively uncertain for both himself and the country. This resource looks at the context in which Leviathan was written and explores the key themes within it. There are two files, one comprising activities, the second reference materials.


Thomas Hobbes was one of the most influential political thinkers of his day. His ideas, formed in the midst of the English and British Civil Wars, went on to influence what became Conservatism and many later theorists. Hobbes’ best known work is the book Leviathan. In Leviathan, Hobbes’ discusses the conflicting rights of Sovereigns, Institutions and Individuals. Describing the chaos that emerges from humankind’s natural state of ego and greed, he explores ways in which a state of peace can be established.

Hobbes’ answer to the natural state of mankind is a Social Contract. In it each party gives away elements of their freedom in order to create a functional, harmonious society. For this to happen, Leviathan, the Sovereign, needs to have power. With total freedom this would amount to Absolutism. The Social Contract shows how this can be balanced through authority, acceptance and limits on absolutism and individual freedoms.

This Political Thought resource assumes that students have access to reference materials. It makes use of key quotations from Hobbes’ Work to run through a series of activities that are designed to get the students thinking about the context in which Leviathan was written. From there, the activities look at how different elements of society are dealt with by Hobbes.

The activities can lead to presentations by students, feed into preparations for essay writing and help to create a solid bank of resources from which the students can revise for the examination.

Two files are included. The first contains the activities. The second is a bank of sources relating to Hobbes. These are useful for reference but are provided to ensure that students have such reference materials available.


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