skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Richard Serjeantson FRHistS

Dr Richard Serjeantson, FRHistS

Fellow and Lecturer in History, Trinity College

Trinity College
Cambridge CB2 1TQ
Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 338589


B.A., University of York
M.Phil., Ph.D., University of Cambridge
Procter Fellow, Princeton University 1996–97
Lecturer in History, Trinity College, Cambridge 2001–
Visiting Professor, California Institute of Technology 2007
Crausaz-Wordsworth Fellow, CRASSH 2013

Forthcoming talks:

SATURDAY, 14 MAY 2016, 14.45
‘Edward Herbert: pagan apologist?’
Truth, Certainty and Toleration: Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582-1648)
(Morell Centre for Toleration, University of York)

THURSDAY, 2 JUNE 2016, 3.15 pm
‘Thomas More’s Utopia and the politics of civic panegyric’
STVDIO Research seminar
(University of Warwick)

‘Philosophical Notebooks in the English Universities: Typologies, Uses, Afterlives’
Worlds and Networks of Higher Learning: Modes of interaction between Universities, Academies and Schools, 1400–1750
(University of Cambridge)

‘The Idea of a University in the Age of Thomas Plume’
The Plume Lecture, 2016
(Thomas Plume’s Library, Maldon, Essex)

‘Thomas More's Magnificent Utopia
(Gresham College, City of London)

Departments and Institutes

Trinity College:

Research Interests

My research interests lie in British and broader European history between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Within that period I am particularly interested in the shared history of philosophy and the sciences, and in their conceptual foundations; in political thought and action; in the production, circulation, and censorship of manuscripts and printed books; and in religion and irreligion. Figures studied have included Elizabeth Cary, Edward Herbert (of Cherbury), Thomas Hobbes, Meric Casaubon, John Milton, John Locke, and David Hume.

Work-in-progress includes studies of: the genre and politics of Thomas More’s Utopia (the 500th anniversary of the book’s first publication falls in 2016); the early philosophical development of René Descartes; the politics of religious violence in the second Reformation; and two founding members of the Royal Society, John Wilkins and Francis Willughby.

I am also pursuing ongoing research into Francis Bacon, both as a politician and political theorist, and as a natural philosopher. A study of the significance of Bacon’s notion of the ‘Interpretation of Nature’ for late Renaissance natural philosophy appears in the December 2014 issue of Isis.

Research Supervision

I offer Ph.D. supervision and advice in topics from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, with a focus on seventeenth-century Britain, for the Faculty of History, the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, and the Faculty of English.

I teach at Masters level for the M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History, the M.Phil. in Early Modern History, and the M.Phil. in History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science, Technology and Medicine. Masters students have written on a range of subjects, including: the reception of Lucretius in Renaissance Europe; the status of war in humanist educational writings; the natural philosophy of William Gilbert; Lancelot Andrewes; the reception of Giovanni Botero in England; theories of error in seventeenth-century philosophy; Sir John Eliot's prison writings; the study of politics in the English universities in the  earlier seventeenth century; Thomas Hobbes's changing account of the state of nature; George Rust and intellectual life in 1650s Cambridge; James Harrington as a reader of John Selden; the Royal Society's 'History of Trades' project; John Locke after 1689; the vegetarian writings of Thomas Tryon; Samuel Clarke's theory of human nature; the natural philosophy of Jean-Théophile Desaguliers; anti-Trinitarian debates in the earlier eighteenth century; perceptions of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman pasts in William Lambarde, David Hume and Edward Gibbon; and John Adams and republican political thought after the American Revolution.

Ph.D. students have worked, or are working on: the theory and practice of princely education in sixteenth-century Britain (Dr Aysha Pollnitz); the doctrine of presumptions in late Renaissance civil law (Dr Adolfo Giuliani); natural philosophy and natural theology in the period 1570–1630 (Dr Thomas Woolford); the idea of sovereignty in early modern English historical writing (Dr Rei Kanemura); theories of the origins of religious belief in the British Enlightenment (Robin Mills); and the reception and translation of Giovanni Botero's writings in England (Jamie Trace).


I teach history at Undergraduate, MPhil and PhD level.

Other Professional Activities

Key Publications

Student Introductions

  • Introduction’ to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Tom Griffiths (Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 2014), pp. vii–xxviii