This book argues that pre-modern societies were characterized by a common quest for human flourishing or excellence, i.e. virtue. The history of virtue is a particularly fruitful approach when studying pre-modern periods. Systems of moral philosophy and more day-to-day moral ideas and practices in which virtue was central were incredibly important in pre-modern societies within and among diverse scholarly, literary, religious and social communities. Virtue was a cornerstone of pre-modern societies, permeating society in many different ways, and on many different levels, and it was conveyed in erudite and pedagogical texts, ritual, performance and images. The construction of virtues such as wisdom, courage, and justice helped shape identities and communities, but also served to legitimize and reinforce differences pertaining to gender, social hierarchies, and nations. On a more fundamental level, studying the history of virtue helps us understand the guiding principles of historical action. Thus, we believe that the history of virtue is central to understanding these societies, and that the history of virtue, including criticisms of virtue and virtue ethics, tells us important things about how men and women thought and acted in ages past.
Andreas Hellerstedt (editor) is an intellectual historian (Stockholm University) specialized on the early modern period. His main research interests lies in political thought in Northern Europe ca 1650-1750. Since 2013, he has been the research coordinator of the inter-disciplinary project Teaching Virtue, based at the Department of History, Stockholm University and funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond. He is co-editor of the recent volume Shaping Heroic Virtue, the result of a previous project out of which the current project grew.