Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.
Thomas Hobbes called for an all-powerful sovereign. The Sovereign would serve the interests of the larger political community by holding it tightly together under his sovereign authority in order to curb the kind of human wantonness experienced in the Wars of Religion.
Thomas Hobbes' writings are largely devoted to showing the anarchy and civil wars caused by appeals to natural and divine laws above the will of the sovereign. Hobbes encouraged people to accept the established laws and customs of their nations, even if they seemed oppressive, for the sake of civil peace and security.
The Elements of Law was initially distributed only in manuscript. It was published later without Hobbes' permission.
In 1640, Hobbes (at the request of the Earl of Newcastle) wrote a work on politics called The Elements of Law, natural and politics. The book was directly aimed against the views of the parliamentary opposition to Charles I.
In 1640 Hobbes had plans for his future philosophical work, expecting it to take shape in the form of three treatises. He planned to begin with matter, or body, then look at human nature, and then society, but began with society.
Hobbes was sent to Magdalen College Oxford, and on his graduation in 1608 became tutor to the son of William Cavendish 1st Earl of Devonshire. Hobbes spent most of the rest of his life in the employment of the Cavendish family.
Hobbes left for the university at the age of 14. Although many people left for university around this age, Hobbes was the youngest of his classmates.
His father abandoned the family in Thomas' early youth and he was raised by a well-to-do uncle. Thomas began his schooling early in his life and entered Magdalen College, Oxford, at 15 years of age.
Hobbes' father was the vicar of a parish. Hobbes' uncle, who was a tradesman and alderman of Malmesbury, provided for Hobbes' education.
Hobbes was largely responsible for transforming classical natural law into modern natural rights. This was the beginning of the “human rights revolution” in thinking on natural law.