Elena Yi-Jia Zeng

PhD Candidate in Political Thought and Intellectual History
Cambridge Trust Scholar

I joined the Faculty of History in 2020. Supervised by Professor Richard Bourke FBA, my doctoral thesis 'The Politics of Belief in Hume and Enlightenment Scepticism' looks into the nature and status of belief in Hume’s religion, morality and politics as well as his place in the sceptical tradition from Pierre Bayle to the Kant-Jacobi debate. I am particularly interested in the question of how epistemic and ideational factors may influence political judgement and public opinion from a sceptic's perspective.

I was elected as a Postgraduate Member of the Royal Historical Society in 2022. Before Cambridge, I obtained the MA in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History at Queen Mary University of London and University College London in 2019 with Distinction. My MA dissertation investigated the Scottish responses to the American Revolution in the context of the early modern debates over the republican dilemma of empire and liberty. In 2018, my BA dissertation won the best undergraduate research award in Taiwan.

Enlightenment political thought and intellectual history 

British and Irish political history c. 1700–present

political epistemology

ethics of belief

'The Role of Philosophy in Hume’s Critiques of British Imperial Politics', Early Moderns on the Power of Philosophy, University College Dublin, 14–15 October 2022, Dublin, Ireland.

'Hume’s Political Epistemology and the Critiques of Empire', Histories of Knowledge: Political, Historical and Cultural Epistemologies in Intellectual History, ISIH Conference, Università Ca' Foscari, 12-15 September 2022, Venice, Italy.

‘History as the Ethics of Belief: the Case of Hume’s History of England’, Intellectual History Graduate Conference, European University Institute, 7–8 June 2022, Florence, Italy.

'Belief and Action in Hume’s Religion', Naturalizing Religion in the Scottish Enlightenment Conference, organised by the Center for Ethics, University of Antwerp and the Institute for the Study of Scottish Philosophy, 8–10 September 2021, Antwerp, Belgium.

'Adam Ferguson on Political Representation and the Liberty of the British Empire', Oxford Graduate Conference in Political Theory, 26–27 April 2021, online.

'Empire and Liberty in Adam Ferguson's Republicanism', Research Center for Humanities and Social Science, Academia Sinica, 21 August 2020, Taipei, Taiwan.

'Beyond Liberal and Conservative: The Third Way of Reading Hume', Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 13 August 2020, Taipei, Taiwan.

History of Political Thought from c.1700 to c.1890 (Part I Paper 20/POL 8)


Tags & Themes


515 King's College, Cambridge, CB2 1ST


Key publications

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles & Book Reviews

'Empire and Liberty in Adam Ferguson’s Republicanism', History of European Ideas, (2022), DOI: 10.1080/01916599.2022.2040045

‘The Multifaced Hume’, New History, 32:2 (2021), 331–42.

‘The Role of Consent in Locke’s Theory of State’, Historical Inquiry, Journal of National Taiwan University, 66 (2020), 201–36.

‘The Political Ideal of the Enlightenment in the American Revolution’, Intellectual History, 9 (2019), 491–506.

‘The Historical Depth of Ancient and Modern Political Thought: On Melissa Lane’s Greek and Roman Political Ideas’, New History, 30:1 (2019), 167–78.

‘A Review of Alexander Broadie’s A History of Scottish Philosophy’, National Taiwan University Philosophical Review, 56 (2018), 177–202.

Commissioned Article

Scepticism from the Pyrrhonian Crisis to Hume‘, Journal of the History of Ideas Blog, 28th July, 2021.

Editorial Work

Guest-editing the special issue 'David Hume and Political Epistemology', Cosmos and Taxis, (2022), in progress.