William Godwin was a leading radical political philosopher, novelist, and social thinker of the British Enlightenment. He was the author of Political Justice, a founding text of philosophical anarchism, and of the novel Caleb Williams. He was committed to the Dissenting belief in the duty of ceaseless inquiry and revisited the same preoccupations throughout his writing life.
His work is full of ambiguities and contradictions. Critical tropes surface periodically in Godwin criticism, motivated by the search for consistency. The best critical studies take an encompassing view and place his writings in relation to the changing politics of his own times. Criticism now extends over his entire body of writings. Growth areas include his politics, pedagogical writings, historiographical writings, plays, and his diary and letters. To immerse oneself in Godwin’s wide-ranging body of texts can still be an expression of dissent from “things as they are.”