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Dr Philip Loft

Dr Philip  Loft

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-19)

Faculty of History
West Road

Cambridge CB3 9EF

Subject groups/Research projects

Early Modern History:

Research Interests

My broad areas of interest are popular politics, the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707, and state-formation in Britain between 1660 and 1800.

One strand of my research examined eighteenth-century political culture, with a particular focus on the history of petitioning. In a period with a restricted electorate, the ability to petition was hugely important in generating consent and allowing opinion to be expressed. Beyond establishing the extent of public involvement in politics and the various tools available to them, I was also interested in how notions of credibility and expertise were established, and how society became able to cope with difference and disagreement. This led to me investigating the role of emotions and the impact of scientific thought on political culture.

Continuing this interest in pluralism, my second project strand explored the variety of experiences of the state in the pre-modern world. I sought to apply ideas of legal pluralism to understand the nature and functioning of the British state. As part of this project strand, I questioned the extent of the early modern ‘great litigation decline’ and sought to contextualise the ‘legislative revolution’ that occurred in the Westminster parliament after the revolution of 1688. To date, my research has focused on place of Scotland in the post-Union state, and in particular the role of lawsuits in the Court of Session and House of Lords in making and remaking Scots law.

Before coming to Cambridge, I studied at University College London, and was awarded my PhD in 2015. 

I am grateful to the AHRC and British Academy for funding my research. 


Paper 5 British Political history, 1688-1886

Paper 10 British economic and social history, 1700-1880


  • Modern British History
  • Early Modern History

Key Publications

  1. Philip Loft, 'Petitioners and petitioning to the Westminster parliament, 1660-1788', Parliamentary History (November 2019).
  2. Philip Loft, 'A tapestry of laws: legal pluralism in eighteenth-century Britain', Journal of Modern History (June 2019).
  3. Philip Loft, ‘Litigation, the Anglo-Scottish union and the House of Lords as high court, 1660-1875’, Historical Journal, Volume 61 (December 2018), pp. 943-67.
  4. Philip Loft, ‘Involving the public: Parliament, petitioning, and the language of interest, 1688–1720’, Journal of British Studies, Volume 55 (January 2016), pp. 1-23.
  5. Philip Loft, 'Political arithmetic and the English land tax in the reign of William III', Historical Journal, Volume 56 (June 2013), pp. 321-343.

Other Publications

My work on petitioning has been shared in several places:

1. 'Power to the people: What's the point of petitions?', History Today, 69:5 (May 2019), 12-15.

2. TIME magazine as 'Where Brexit Fits in the Long British History of Petitioning Parliament'

3. With the History of Parliament Trust:

4. With the Parliamentary Archives:

4. With the House of Commons Petitions Committee (December 2018):

6. With the House of Commons Petitions Committee (forthcoming, June 2019):

7. Background to the role of the House of Lords as high court at:

8. My PhD thesis may be found at: