John Robertson

Professor Emeritus of the History of Political Thought
Emeritus Fellow of Clare College
Professor John Robertson
I studied Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford 1969-72, followed by a doctorate on 'The Scottish Enlightenment and the Militia Question' under the supervision of Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper (obtained 1981). From 1975 until 1980 I was a Research Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, after which I was appointed University Lecturer, Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at St Hugh's College, Oxford in 1980, holding this position until 2010. From 2010 to 2018, Professor of the History of Political Thought at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. I have held several visiting positions while on leave or in retirement, most recently at the British School at Rome, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Fudan University in Shanghai, and the University of St Andrews.
History of Political Thought and Intellectual History c.1600-1800: particular interests in the Enlightenment, in the relation of historical writing (especially sacred history) and philosophy to political thought, in Scottish and Neapolitan intellectual history, the history of thinking about union, confederation and federation; and in the modern historiography of these subjects.
Honorary Professor of the History of Political Thought, University of St Andrews; Trustee of the Gladstone Memorial Trust


Tags & Themes


Clare College, Trinity Lane, Cambridge CB2 1TL


Key publications

The Enlightenment. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2015)

The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680-1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; pb reissue 2007)

The Scottish Enlightenment and the Militia Issue (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1985)

Edited volumes:

Andrew Fletcher: Political Works (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, in the series Texts in the History of Political Thought: 1997)

A Union for Empire. Political Thought and the Union of 1707 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995; pb reissue 2006)

Selected recent articles and chapters:
'Enlightenment and Modernity, historians and philosophers', International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity, 8 (2020), 278-321 [If inaccessible, contact author for copy.]

‘John Pocock’s histories of political thought’, Storia della storiografia / History of Historiography, 75:1 (2019), 11-46. [If inaccessible, contact author for copy.]

‘Sociability in sacred historical perspective, 1650-1800’, in Béla Kapossy, Isaac Nakhimovsky, Sophus A. Reinert and Richard Whatmore, eds, Markets, Morals, Politics. Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 2018), 53-81.

‘Sacred history and political thought: Neapolitan responses to the problem of sociability after Hobbes’, The Historical Journal, 56 (2013), 1-29.

‘Enlightenment, public sphere, and political economy’, in Jesús Astigarraga (ed), L’Économie politique et la sphère publique dans les débats des lumières (Madrid: Casa de Velasquez, 2013), 9-32

‘Hugh Trevor-Roper, intellectual history and “The Religious Origins of the Enlightenment”’, English Historical Review, cxxiv, 511 (2009), 1389-1421; revised version in Blair Worden (ed), Hugh Trevor-Roper. The Historian (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016), 116-144.

‘Political Economy and “the feudal system” in Enlightenment Naples: outline of a problem’, in Richard Butterwick and Simon Davies (eds), Peripheries of Enlightenment, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 2008:1, 65-86.

Other publications include

edited with Sarah Mortimer, The Intellectual Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy 1600-1750 (Leiden: Brill, 2012)

‘The Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707: the scope for a European Perspective’, in Andrew Mackillop and Micheal O’Siochru (eds), Forging the State: European state formation and the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 (Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2009), 49-67

‘Enlightenment and revolution: Naples 1799’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, sixth series, vol. 10 (2000), 17-44

‘The Enlightenment above national context: political economy in eighteenth-century Scotland and Naples’, in The Historical Journal 40, 3, (1997), pp. 667-97

‘Union, state and empire. The Britain of 1707 in its European setting’, in Lawrence Stone (ed), An Imperial State at War. Britain from 1689 to 1815 (London & New York: Routledge, 1994), pp. 224-57

‘Universal Monarchy and the liberties of Europe: David Hume’s critique of an English Whig doctrine’, in Nicholas Phillipson & Quentin Skinner (eds), Political Discourse in early modern Britain (Cambridge: University Press, 1993), pp. 349-73

‘The Scottish Enlightenment at the limits of the civic tradition’, in I. Hont & M. Ignatieff (eds), Wealth and Virtue. The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pb repr. 1987), pp. 137-78