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Professor Annabel Brett

Professor  Annabel Brett

Professor of Political Thought and History, University of Cambridge

Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Gonville and Caius College
Cambridge CB2 1TA
Office Phone: 01223 3 32244

Subject groups/Research projects

Political Thought and Intellectual History:

Departments and Institutes

Gonville & Caius College:

Research Interests

Annabel Brett is a specialist in the history of political thought from the late middle ages to the mid-seventeenth century. One main area of research concerns scholastic moral and political philosophy, from Aquinas to the Spanish neo-Thomists of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. Within this tradition, she has examined in particular questions of natural law and natural rights, although her focus on the theory of human agency behind these issues has involved her in broader questions about human subjectivity and freedom, including the theory of the soul and its potentials. She has extended these lines of enquiry to include the humanist and Protestant natural law traditions, especially Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes, and early-modern understandings of international law. She has a strong interest in ancient philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle, while issues of concern in contemporary theory are connected with the themes of her historical research: human rights, animal rights and in general the interface between human political constructions and the natural environment.

Research Supervision

Annabel Brett supervises for the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History on all topics in scholastic and Aristotelian political thought, in particular natural law and natural rights, and on late medieval and early modern political thought and intellectual history more generally.

PhD supervision covers a wide range of topics in late medieval and early modern political thought and intellectual history.


Annabel Brett lectures on Paper 19, 'History of political thought to c. 1700' in Part I of the History Tripos, and on Paper 6, 'States between states: The history of international political thought' in Part II. She has lectured on historiography for the Historical Argument and Practice paper, and teaches a range of classes and topics for the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History.

Key Publications

  • Liberty, right and nature: Individual rights in later scholastic thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1997)
  • 'What is intellectual history now?', in D. Cannadine ed., What is history now? (London: Palgrave Press 2002)
  • Marsilius of Padua: The Defender of the Peace. Edited and translated by Annabel S. Brett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005)
  • (co-edited with James Tully) Rethinking the Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006)
  • Changes of state. Nature and the limits of the city in early modern natural law (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2011)
  • 'The space of politics and the space of war in Hugo Grotius's De iure belli ac pacis', Global Intellectual History 1 (2016)