Dr Richard Serjeantson
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
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 Wilkins, Francis Willughby, John Locke, and David Hume.
Work-in-progress includes studies of the political significance of Thomas More’s Utopia; of the early philosophical development of René Descartes; of the politics of religious violence in the second Reformation; of Edward Herbert and the history of religion; and of the Emperor Constantine in Reformation and Counter-Reformation historiography.
I am also pursuing ongoing research into the figure of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), both as a political actor and thinker and as a natural philosopher, and have published a number of studies on these themes. As one of the editors of the Oxford Francis Bacon I have also pursued, and continue to pursue, a range of investigations into the publication history and provenance of various of his books and manuscripts. A recent publication identifies and discusses a possible addition to the canon of Bacon’s hitherto known writings (‘Francis Bacon and “The Summe of the Bible”’, Notes and Queries (2017), 318–21).
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 under my supervision have written on a range of subjects, including: the religious and political writings of Coluccio Salutati; 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.
Past and present Ph.D. students have worked, or are working on: the theory and practice of princely education in sixteenth-century England and Scotland (Dr Aysha Pollnitz); the doctrine of presumptions in late Renaissance civil law (Dr Adolfo Giuliani); natural philosophy and natural theology, 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 (Dr Robin Mills); the reception and translation of Giovanni Botero's writings in England (Jamie Trace); and Venetian–English intellectual relations in the seventeenth century (Eloise Davies).
I teach history at Undergraduate, MPhil and PhD level.
- Joint Director of the Oxford Francis Bacon
- Advisory Board Member of the ERC-funded project ‘War and the Supernatural in Early Modern Europe’ (PI: Dr Ian Campbell, Queen’s University, Belfast)
Tags & Themes
Cambridge CB2 1TQ
Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 338589
- Generall Learning: A Seventeenth-Century Treatise on the Formation of the General Scholar (ed. and introd.), by Meric Casaubon (Cambridge: RTM, 1999; 2nd edn. New York: Continuum, 2004) [Essay review]
- ‘Testimony and Proof in Early-Modern England’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 30:2 (1999), 195–236
- ‘The Passions and Animal Language, 1540–1700’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 62:3 (2001), 425–44
- ‘Herbert of Cherbury before Deism: The early reception of the De veritate’, The Seventeenth Century, 16:2 (2001), 217–38
- ‘Natural Knowledge in the New Atlantis’, in Francis Bacon’s ‘New Atlantis’, ed. by Bronwen Price (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 82–105
- ‘Hume’s General Rules and the “Chief Business of Philosophers”’, in Impressions of Hume, ed. by Marina Frasca-Spada and P. J. E. Kail (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 187–212
- ‘Proof and Persuasion’, in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Science ed. by Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 132–75
- ‘Hobbes, the Universities, and the History of Philosophy’, in The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Conal Condren, Stephen Gaukroger, and Ian Hunter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 113–39
- ‘Elizabeth Cary and the Great Tew Circle’, in The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680, ed. by Heather Wolfe (London: Palgrave, 2007), pp. 165–82
- ‘Testimony: The artless proof’, in Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. by Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander and Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 179–94
- ‘“Human Understanding” and the Genre of Locke’s Essay’, Intellectual History Review, 18:2 (2008), 157–71
- (with Thomas Woolford) ‘The Scribal Publication of a Printed Book: Francis Bacon’s Certaine Considerations Touching the Church of England (1604)’, The Library, n.s. 10:2 (2009), 119–56
- ‘Samson Agonistes and “Single Rebellion”’, in The Oxford Handbook of Milton, ed. by Nicholas McDowell and Nigel Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 613–31
- ‘The Soul’, in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Desmond M. Clarke and Catherine Wilson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 119–41
- ‘Hume’s Natural History of Religion (1757) and the demise of modern Eusebianism’, in The Intellectual Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy 1600–1750, ed. by John Robertson and Sarah Mortimer (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 267–95
- ‘Becoming a Philosopher in Seventeenth-Century Britain’, in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Seventeenth-Century Britain, ed. by Peter R. Anstey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 9–38
- ‘The Philosophy of Francis Bacon in Early Jacobean Oxford: With an edition of an unknown manuscript of the Valerius Terminus’, Historical Journal, 56:4 (2013), 1087–1106
- ‘Francis Bacon and the “Interpretation of Nature” in the Late Renaissance’, Isis, 105:4 (2014), 681-705
- ‘The Education of Francis Willughby’, in Virtuoso by Nature: The Scientific Worlds of Francis Willughby FRS (1635–1672), ed. Tim Birkhead (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 44–98
- ‘Francis Bacon and the Politics of Learning’, in For the Sake of Learning, ed. Ann Blair and Anja Goeing, 2 vols (Leiden, Brill, 2016), pp. 195–211
- ‘Francis Bacon’s Valerius Terminus and the Voyage to the “Great Instauration,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 78:3 (2017), 341–68.
- ‘Wilkins in Cambridge’, in John Wilkins (1614–1672): New Essays, edited by William Poole (Leiden: Brill, 2017), pp. 66–96.
- ‘Francis Bacon and “The Summe of the Bible”’, Notes and Queries (2017), 318–21).
‘Introduction’ to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Tom Griffiths (Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 2014), pp. vii–xxviii