Dr Richard Serjeantson

Trinity College
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, David Hume, and René Descartes.

With my collaborator Michael Edwards I have recently published a study, edition, and translation of a newly discovered manuscript of an early draft of Descartes’s early philosophical work, the Regulae ad directionem ingenii  (Oxford University Press, 2023) ISBN: 9780199682942.

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 pursue investigations into the publication history and provenance of various of his books and manuscripts, one fruit of which is an account of tangled history of his posthumous papers (‘The Division of a Paper Kingdom: The tragic afterlives of Francis Bacon’s manuscripts’, in Archival Afterlives, ed. V. Keller et al. (Brill, 2018), pp. 28–71, ISBN 978-90-04-32430-5).


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; Henry Parker’s political writings; 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 (Dr Jamie Trace); Anglo–Venetian intellectual relations in the seventeenth century (Dr Eloise Davies); ‘hydraulic philosophy’ in early modern Europe (Davide Martino); the intellectual history of poor relief in sixteenth-century England (Misha Knight); and the political thought of the earlier seventeenth century in England (Olav Sigmundstadt). 

I teach history at Undergraduate, MPhil and PhD level.


Tags & Themes


Trinity College
Cambridge CB2 1TQ

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 338589


Key Publications

Student Introductions

Introduction’ to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Tom Griffiths (Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 2014), pp. vii–xxviii.