- Smith, Thomas
- (1513-1578)English humanist and statesman. After study at Cambridge University, he continued his education abroad at Paris and Padua. He taught Greek at Cambridge from 1535 to 1540 and was involved in the attempt of several Cambridge humanists, led by John Cheke, to introduce the pronunciation of Greek proposed by Erasmus, rather than the traditional one based on medieval Byzantine practice. This effort was opposed by the conser-vative chancellor of Cambridge, Bishop Stephen Gardiner, who re-garded it as disrespectful of tradition. Smith was a noted collector of books and under Queen Elizabeth I served abroad as an ambassador. He is best known as the author of De república Anglorum / On the English Polity (written in 1563 but not published until 1583), a con-cise and well informed account of the actual workings of English law and government in his time. In this work he distinguishes England, despite its having a king, from contemporary states because it is a commonwealth in which power is shared among crown, nobility, burgesses, and yeomen. Indeed, he classes England not as a monar-chy but as a "democracy."
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.