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Smith, Sir Thomas

Smith, Sir Thomas (1513–77). Scholar and statesman. Smith was born in Saffron Walden of prosperous parents and educated at Queens' College, Cambridge. In the early 1540s, with his friend Cheke, he plunged into the controversy about the pronunciation of Greek. In 1543 he was made professor of civil law. Under Protector Somerset he prospered as a protestant. He was appointed provost of Eton, dean of Carlisle, and a secretary of state, and was given a knighthood. He survived Somerset's fall with some difficulty and took a back seat under Mary. Elizabeth restored him to favour and he was involved in negotiating the treaty of Troyes in 1564. In 1572 he was reappointed secretary of state, using his influence on behalf of the Scottish reformers. His best-known work is his Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, published posthumously in 1583 and frequently reprinted. It is a description of the mechanics of government in 1565, with a famous, and disputed, account of the role of Parliament.

J. A. Cannon

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