About 40 years ago, at the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association (APA) Eastern Division, a loose collection of Hobbes scholars recognized that by creating an organization they could request space at APA meetings and appear in the program. The principal moving forces in this process were Bertram Morris (University of Colorado, Boulder), Richard Popkin (Washington University, St. Louis), William Sacksteder (University of Colorado, Boulder), Herbert Schneider, (Claremont Graduate School), and Bernard Baumrin (Graduate Center, CUNY). We formed the International Hobbes Association (IHA) and were then able to convince the APA leadership to sponsor a tercentenary special set of sessions on Hobbes’s Philosophy. With that backing, the group was then able to convince the National Endowment for the Humanities to sponsor a multi-day Tercentenary Conference on the work of Thomas Hobbes. With that sponsorship, Professors Sacksteder and Morris were able to get the University of Colorado to donate their campus facilities as the conference venue.
In August 1979 the Tercentenary Congress on “The Science of Natural Justice: Research, interpretation and discussion of Hobbes’ life and thought” was convened at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in commemoration of Thomas Hobbes on the 300th anniversary of his death. The meeting was organized by co-directors Paul Johnson (California State University, San Bernadino), William Sacksteder, and Craig Walton (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). The final program included about 38 presented papers and between presenters, panelists (in symposia), and moderators, just over 70 Hobbes scholars actively participated in the Tercentenary Congress. Over 100 Hobbes scholars from all over the world attended the Congress. Among the presented papers was a Keynote Address by Anthony Kronman on “The Concept of an Author and the Unity of the Commonwealth,” Maurice Goldsmith’s “Hobbes’s ‘Mortal God’: Is there a Fallacy in Hobbes’s Theory of Sovereignty,” Simone Goyard-Fabre’s “Metamorphosis of the Idea of Right,” and Baumrin’s, “Hobbes’s Christian Commonwealth.”
That meeting spurred the development of the Hobbes Congress Newsletter, edited by Evelyn Harmer, and several further sessions devoted to Hobbes scholarship at the APA Eastern Division and organized by William Sacksteder. At the conclusion of the 1983 meeting IHA leadership was taken on by Professor Martin A. Bertman (SUNY, Potsdam). He formed an international Advisory Board that included: D.D. Raphael, Quentin Skinner, and Howard Warrender from England; François Tricaud from France; Gershom Weller from Israel; Karl Schumann from The Netherlands; Martin Bertman from the United States; Klaus-M Kodelle and Bernard Willms from West Germany. Also in 1983, Bertman announced that the IHA would begin publishing the International Hobbes Association Newsletter, edited by Timothy Fuller and Martin Bertman, as the successor to the Hobbes Congress Newsletter. The IHA Newsletter was to serve as a means for exchanging Hobbes related information on publications, conferences, and projects. The first issue of the IHA Newsletter was published in June 1985. It included suggestions for a series of conferences to be held in 1988 in commemoration of the birth of Thomas Hobbes on April 15, 1588.
The second issue of the IHA Newsletter, published in November 1985, listed Martin A. Bertman as IHA President. In addition to him, it listed IHA Steering Committee members: Bernard Baumrin, Bernard Gert, Timothy Fuller, Isabel Hungerland, Stanley Paulson, and William Sacksteder. It also listed the members of an IHA Honorary Board, comprised of all of the original Advisory Board members with the addition of Arrigo Pacchi from Italy. That issue included an obituary of Howard Warrender by M. M. Goldsmith and a reappraisal by Robert Orr of Warrender’s The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: His Theory of Obligation. It also lists two conferences in 1987 on Hobbes, one on “The Possibility of Justifying World Government on Hobbesian Principles” at the University of Helsinki organized by Timo Airaksinen, and another at the University of Toronto in conjunction with the URAM Conference on basic themes in Hobbes’s work.
In November 1987 the IHA announced the launch of a new journal, Hobbes Studies, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Hobbes. It was to be published by Van Gorcum Publishers in Assen, The Netherlands. Martin A. Bertman was named Editor-in-Chief, and the original Editorial Board included: Timo Airaksinen, Jeffrey Barnow, Timothy Fuller, Klaus-M Kodalle, Michel Malherbe, G.A.J. Rogers, Ross Rudolf, John Ryan, and Karl Schumann “with the advice of the International Hobbes Association’s Steering Committee and its Honorary Board.” Thereafter, the IHA Newsletters provided the contents of Hobbes Studies issues in its regular listing of “New Publications.”
The subsequent IHA Newsletter issues continued with the inclusion of book reviews by a broad array of authors, book announcements, announcements and accounts of conferences. These included reviews of books that you would expect to find, such as Gregory S. Kavka’s Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory reviewed by David R. Mapel (#5, 1987), and Quentin Skinner’s Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes reviewed by Tom Lowery (#23, 1996). Issues also included commentaries by authors who you would expect to see, such as William Sacksteder’s article, “A Plea for Molesworth’s Pagination” (#8, 1988), and some who might surprise you: a short piece on “Hobbes and Cudworth” by Richard H. Popkin (#8, 1988), a review article by Richard A. Epstein of James R. Stoner Jr.’s Common Law and Liberal Theory: Coke, Hobbes, and the Origins of American Constitutionalism (#15, 1992), and a review article by Deborah Baumgold of Thomas Hobbes: The Correspondence, edited by Noel Malcolm (#23, 1996), and another by Edwin Curley (#24, 1997) in as the final issue of the Newsletter.
In addition to publishing the IHA Newsletter and launching Hobbes Studies, Martin Bertman played an active role in promoting Hobbes scholarship, translations, and meetings. On behalf of the IHA, Professor Bertman organized sessions at APA meetings and co-sponsored several international conferences including one at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House in New York City in June 1986, one together with Michel Malherbe at l’Université de Nantes in France in June 1987, and several during 1988. The proceedings of the Nantes conference were ultimately published in French in 1989. The volume, Thomas Hobbes: de la Métaphysique à la Politique, included papers by François Tricaud, “Lecture parallèle du chapitre XIV de la première partie des Elements of Law et du chapitre premier du De Cive,” Bernard Gert, “Hobbes’s account of reason and the passions,” Micheline Triomphe, “La conscience du souverain,” and Rosamond Rhodes, “The test of Leviathan, parts 3 and 4 and the new interpretations.”
In 1998, Martin Bertman asked Rosamond Rhodes to take on the role of IHA Program Committee Chair, a position she held through 2017. On behalf of the IHA, she organized sessions at the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, Boston in August 1998. Between 2003–2013, she organized IHA sessions at the APA Pacific Division. These sessions had to be held in conjunction with the meetings of the Pacific Division because by that time, only the Pacific Division did not require participating organizations to submit a copy of their constitution. Martin had not wanted a constitution, so the IHA was not eligible for group sessions at the Central or Eastern Division meetings.
In 2012, when Martin became ill, a group of active IHA members (Bernard Baumrin, Timo Airaksinen, Juhana Lemetti, Al Martinich, and Rosamond Rhodes) drafted a minimal constitution. It established that the group’s leader would be known as “Sovereign,” and hold that position for a five-year term. Rosamond Rhodes was selected to be the first IHA Sovereign, serving from 2013–2017. She moved the annual IHA sessions to the APA Eastern Division to facilitate participation from European Hobbes scholars. Over the past 19 years, IHA sessions have included author-meets-critic sessions, panels, papers, and commentaries.
Michael Byron assumed the position of IHA Sovereign in January 2018. Although Rosamond has not shared her reasons for nominating him for the job, he has led two organizations: the Ohio Philosophical Association, where officers serve successive terms as secretary, conference organizer, and president; and the APA Committee on Computers and Philosophy. As a primary duty of the IHA Sovereign at present is the organization of the annual meetings at the APA, this experience would seem a substantial credential for the job.
The future of the Association will almost certainly include developing an online presence. Currently, the Association has a basic, informational site, but its activities could easily expand beyond a single annual meeting at the APA if it had an enhanced website. Of course, the task of constructing websites has become far easier today compared to 15 years ago, when we had no equivalent of Wordpress or Drupal, two of the dominant content management systems available for building websites. Such tools enable groups to deploy a substantial online presence, along the lines of the site developed by the European Hobbes Society (EHS: europeanhobbessociety.org) which includes sections linking to members’ pages, current events, and online debates and news.
Plans for the future include the development of an IHA conference series. Ideally, the IHA and EHS could hold their meetings on alternate years to encourage a trans-Atlantic exchange of Hobbes scholarship. As any conference organizer knows, these meetings represent a major investment of time and organizing talent. The other requirement for a quality conference is, of course, worthwhile content, and the IHA is well provisioned in that respect. Further opportunities for collaboration with the EHS, whose members have already contributed to IHA meetings, will be welcome.