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 research looks into David Hume and Enlightenment scepticism. I am particularly interested in the nature and status of belief in Hume's religion, morality and politics, and in what ways epistemic and ideational factors influence political judgment and public opinion. Apart from my doctoral project, I am also guest-editing a special issue entitled 'David Hume and Political Epistemology' for Cosmos and Taxis, an interdisciplinary journal based at the University of British Columbia.

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 libertas et imperium. I have always been intrigued by different concepts of liberty and therefore committed myself to the study of political thought and intellectual history since my undergraduate years. In 2018, my BA dissertation won a national research award, and I have thenceforth been publishing articles on leading journals in Taiwan.

Enlightenment political thought and intellectual history 

British and Irish political history c. 1700–present

political epistemology

ethics of belief

'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, Taipei, Taiwan, 21 August 2020.

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

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

‘The Multifaced Hume’, New History, (2021), forthcoming.

‘The Role of Consent in Locke’s Theory of State’, Historical Inquiry, Journal of National Taiwan University, 66 (2020), 201–236.

‘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), 167–178.

‘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.