Dr Joseph Canning

Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of History
Fellow Commoner, Queens' College

Having read Part I of the Classical Tripos and Part II of the Historical, I went on to gain my PhD in History at Cambridge.  I have held posts at the University of Queensland, Bangor University and the Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte in Göttingenwhere I was Director of the British Centre for Historical Research in Germany.  I currently continue with research, publications and teaching at Cambridge.

Research Interests

My research has been within the field of medieval political thought.  My two most recent books have been concerned with problems of power and authority in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance and my current research pursues this theme further on in the sixteenth century.


I give supervisions in Medieval European History for Part IA; the History of Political Thought to c.1700 for Part 1B; and medieval dissertations for Part II. 







Tags & Themes


Faculty of History

West Road





Conciliarism, Humanism and Law: Justifications of Authority and Power, c.1400-c.1520, Cambridge University Press, 2021

Ideas of Power in the Late Middle Ages, 1296-1417, Cambridge University Press, 2011

A History of Medieval Political Thought, 300-1450, London and New York: Routledge, 1996, reprinted with a new introduction, 2005

The Political Thought of Baldus de Ubaldis, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought,  4th series, 7, Cambridge University Press, 1987


Edited volumes

Knowledge, Discipline and Power in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of David Luscombe, ed. with Edmund King and Martial Staub, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2011

Power, Violence and Mass Death in Pre-Modern and Modern Times, ed. with Hartmut Lehmann and Jay Winter, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004

Britain and Germany Compared: Nationality, Society and Nobility in the Eighteenth Century, ed. with Hermann Wellenreuther, Göttinger Gespräche für Geschichtswissenschaft, 13, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2001

Political Thought and the Realities of Power in the Middle Ages/ Politisches Denken und die Wirklichkeit der Macht im Mittelalter , ed. with Otto Gerhard Oexle, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte, Göttingen, 147, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998


Recent articles and chapters

'Religion and the principles of political obligation', in Eugenio Biagini (ed.), A Cultural History of Democracy, vol. 2, The Medieval Ages (ed. Kenneth Pennington and David Napolitano), London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, pp. 95-114

'Ideas of empire in the thought of the late medieval Roman law jurists,' in Edward Cavanagh (ed.), Empire and Legal Thought.  Ideas and Institutions from Antiquity to Modernity, Studies in the History of International Law, 16, Leiden and Boston: Brill Nijhoff, 2020, pp. 280-99

'The universal rule of law in the thought of the late medieval jurists of Roman and canon law,' in Anthony Carty and Janne Nijman (eds), Morality and Responsibility of Rulers.  European and Chinese Origins of a Rule of Law as Justice for World Order, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 55-72

'The paradox of Franciscan use of canon law in the fourteenth-century poverty disputes,' in Michael Robson and Patrick Zutshi (eds), The Franciscan Order in the Medieval English Province and Beyond, in series, Church Faith and Culture in the Medieval West, ed. Brenda Bolton, Anne J. Duggan and Damian J. Smith, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018, pp. 255-70


Some earlier publications

'Law, sovereignty and corporation theory, 1300-1450' in J.H.Burns (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c.350-c.1450, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 454-76

'Ideas of the State in thirteenth and fourteenth-century Commentators on the Roman Law,' Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 33 (1983), 1-27

'The corporation in the political thought of the Italian jurists of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,' History of Political Thought, (1980),1, 9-32