Protean boundaries: Montesquieu's Europe and the Mediterranean world

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The Lettres persanes, the Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains and the Esprit des lois contain few direct references to the Mediterranean. Moreover, all of them imply a strictly physical and geographical notion of the region, while the cultural significance seems to be ignored. And yet the idea of a great sea that might influence customs, religions, traditions and laws, uniting or dividing the people on its shores, actually underlies many of the pages written by the Baron de Montesquieu. The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the notion of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in his writings by relating it to his views on Europe. The main argument is that Montesquieu construed the Mediterranean as a geographical, historical and ideological barrier, which he used to portray the image of a modern, commercial and liberal Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalFrench History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Montesquieu
  • Idea of Europe
  • Mediterranean

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