Dr Jessica Patterson

Assistant Professor in History and Politics, Fellow and Director of Studies
Trinity College
Affiliated Lecturer

I am a historian of eighteenth and nineteen-century intellectual culture and political thought, with a particular emphasis on enlightenment and empire. My first book, Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century was published in 2021 with the Cambridge University Press series, Ideas in Context.

I joined the University of Cambridge in 2020 as a Lecturer in the History of Political Thought. Prior to this I held posts in intellectual history, at Queen Mary, and the history of political thought, at King’s College London. I took my first degree in History, at the University of Cambridge, which I followed with an MA in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History, (QMUL & UCL). Following this, my AHRC funded PhD was completed at the University of Manchester, where I was a President’s Doctoral Scholar.

My research concerns the intellectual history of the long eighteenth century, including religious, philosophical, and political thought. My published work to date has focused on the Enlightenment and empire in India in the long eighteenth century. I am particularly interested in the presentation, by East India Company writers, of Indian philosophy, religion and history. My monograph, Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2021), looks at  the production and reception of British constructions of Hinduism. Taking a series of influential 'Company' writers, it traces the attachment of their work to enlightenment religious thought, as well as the ideologies and material politics of empire. My latest project concerns the relationship between Britain's turn to empire and British radical political thought in the 1780s-1820s.

I lecture on the history of political thought in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, primarily for Part I Paper 20 and Part II Paper 4. I also teach the history of international political thought on Part II, Paper 6, 'States Between States'. I supervise for the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History, particularly on topics that concern British enlightenment thought or the politics of empire in C.18th & C19th.


Tags & Themes


Jessica Patterson, Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century, (Cambridge University Press, 2021). * Winner of the Constance Blackwell Prize for best first monograph in intellectual history in 2022.

“Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s”, Journal for EighteenthCentury Studies, (2020).

"Enlightenment and Empire, Mughals and Marathas: The Religious History of India in the Work of Company Servant, Alexander Dow”, History of European Ideas, 45:7, (2019).

“An Eighteenth-Century Account of Sati: John Zephaniah Holwell's ‘Religious Tenets of the Gentoos’ and ‘Voluntary Sacrifice’ (1767)”, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 40:1 (2017).