In seventeenth-century England, patriarchalist thinking shaped English ideas not only about the family but also about society and the state. Many thinkers argued that the state should be seen as a family, and that the king held the powers of a father over his subjects. The classic texts of patriarchal political thinking were written by Sir Robert Filmer (1588-1653), one of the most acute defenders of absolute monarchy. In addition to presenting his own patriarchalist theory, Filmer's works contain incisive attacks on democratic thinking and on the notion that political obligation stems from a contract between ruler and ruled. His political works are here edited from the original manuscript and printed sources, with an introduction which locates Filmer's ideas in their historical and ideological contexts. These texts - to which John Locke replied in his influential Two Treatises of Government - provide highly important documents for the understanding of political and social ideas at a decisive stage in the development of English attitudes.