Abstract: As the core premise of modern moral and political philosophy, equality commands more allegiance than investigation. The question of its historical emergence as a social and political ideal has generally been set aside in favor of tracing the harmful legacies of different forms of inequality. This paper explores ideas of equality as a political principle, a religious commitment, and a social practice in seventeenth-century England. These fascinating but forgotten visions of equality before egalitarianism shed light on the development of a central concept in modern political thought while providing analytical clarity and historical insight sorely missing in contemporary debates.
Teresa M. Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and a Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, published in 2017 by Harvard University Press, and her work has appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals, including the Journal of Politics, Review of Politics, and History of Political Thought. Her Ph.D. thesis at Yale University was awarded the 2015 Leo Strauss Award by the American Political Science Association for the best doctoral dissertation in political philosophy. In 2016 she was elected as the final Balzan-Skinner Fellow in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge.