The Italian scholar Giovanni Battista Vico is widely viewed as the first modern philosopher of history, a judgment largely based on his obscure 1744 masterpiece, New Science. In this new study Mark Lilla complicates this picture by presenting Vico as one of the most troubling of anti-modern thinkers. By combing Vico's neglected early writings on metaphysics and jurisprudence, Lilla reveals the philosopher's deep reservations about the modern outlook and shows how his science of history grew out of these very doubts. In works such as the untranslated Universal Right (1720-1722), a treatise on natural law, Vico emerges as a profoundly political and theological thinker who contrasted the authoritative traditions of an idealized Rome against the corrupting skepticism endemic in modern life. Vico explicitly blamed this skepticism on the founders of modern philosophy, particularly Descartes. Placed in the context of his critique of skepticism, Vico's "new science" of history appears in a wholly new light. Though modern in form, it can be seen here for what it was: a pessimistic vindication of divine authority directed against the freedom and reason that characterize the modern age. This first truly comprehensive introduction to Vico ties his concerns for authority, politics, and civil religion to his theory of history. As such, it raises provocative questions about the subsequent intellectual development of the anti-modern tradition as it relates to the historical and social sciences of our time. It is a brilliant antidote to the "standard" reading of Vico and will transform studies of his work.