Mishael Knight

PhD Candidate in Political Thought and Intellectual History

I am a PhD candidate considering early modern ideas of wealth, poverty and property distribution and the development of this discourse in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This includes studying poor relief and different approaches towards its implementation; agrarian laws and demands for the redistribution of wealth; the debates over enclosure and engrossing; and different forms of communism and anarchism. I am intrigued by the intersection of legislation and theory on these topics, as well as its role in approaches to colonial foundations. In particular, I hope to excavate and highlight the longstanding discourses and debates over these issues in early-modern England, predating the outpouring of literature on this subject in the English Civil Wars and Interregnum. I also aim to develop an understanding of the intersections of cross-Channel discourse on these matters, especially between the Low Countries and England.

I previously completed an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History (2019) and a BA in History (2018) at Peterhouse, Cambridge. Research projects included the influence of Petrus Cunaeus on discourses of agrarian law in the English Civil War and Interregnum, as well as early-modern English utopias and political Hebraism.

Thesis title: Property, redistribution, and the common wealth, c. 1500–1660

Supervisor: Dr Richard Serjeantson

Core Research Interests:
Ideas of property, wealth, poverty, and inequality.
Agrarian laws and redistribution.
Development of welfare legislation and poor relief.
Attitudes to unemployment and 'idleness'.
Model commonwealths: colonial and utopian.
Natural law and natural rights.
Communism and anarchism.

Seminar leader and Supervisor, 'History of Political Thought to c. 1700', History T1;  POLIS POL7.
Led seminars and individual supervisions. Teach topics including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, More, Obedience and Resistance in Reformation thought, Reason of State, British Revolutions, Hobbes, and Locke, Republics and Monarchies, and Colonial Empire.

Seminar leader, 'Poverty and poor relief', Part I: Paper 9: British Social and Economic History, c. 1500–1750, (20212022).

‘“The Goods of the Church are Called the Goods of the Poor”: Impropriation Discourse in Sixteenth-Century England’, Peterhouse Research Symposium, March 2023.

‘Idleness in Sixteenth-Century English Politics’, Journal of the History of Ideas Symposium, Sept 2023.

‘The Common Chest and the gazophylacium’, Cambridge Workshop for the Early Modern Period, Nov 2023.

‘Play in Utopia, Play as Utopia’, Saint Andrews English Graduate and Early-Career Conference, Feb 2024.

‘Gavelkind and the Ancient Constitution’, Pocock Centenary Colloquium, Mar 2024.


Tags & Themes

Key publications

‘James Harrington and the English Agrarian Law’, forthcoming in History of Political Thought.