Prof Annabel Brett
I am a specialist in late medieval and early modern history of political thought. After obtaining my BA in Classics in Cambridge in 1988, in the final year of which I specialised in ancient philosophy and history of political thought, I moved to History to study history of political thought for a PhD with Quentin Skinner. I was elected a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College in 1992, and my first appointment to a lectureship was in the Department of Philosophy at the University of York. After a very fruitful year there, I returned to Cambridge in 1996 to take up a lectureship in the history of political thought and a college lectureship at Gonville and Caius College. I have continued to teach and research in History in Cambridge ever since.
My background in Classics shaped the nature and trajectory of my initial research, as I developed the interest in the medieval Latin reception of Aristotelian philosophy that had been sparked as an undergraduate. For my PhD I chose to study the revival of Thomist Aristotelian in sixteenth-century Spanish scholasticism, largely a neglected field in Anglophone historiography at that time. Pioneering new lines of enquiry had, however, been opened by Quentin Skinner, Richard Tuck and Anthony Pagden, all in Cambridge at the time, and I developed my ideas in that stimulating environment for a PhD that was ultimately published as Liberty, right and nature with Cambridge University Press in 1997.
Since then I have continued to work on the interface between nature, law and the political, the construction of which is the primary endeavour of the early modern natural law tradition. In Liberty, right and nature I had already expanded my optic beyond the scholastics to include Hobbes, and I now work across the natural law tradition in a way exemplified in Changes of state, published by Princeton in 2011. Scholarship on the Spanish scholastics has now expanded enormously, in part due to the recent 'historical turn' in international law which has revived interest in the classic 'founders of international law' from Francisco de Vitoria forward, and my current research projects and teaching have this international dimension as a major focus.
History of political thought, primarily early modern but also ancient and late medieval; history of international law; conceptions of nature, natural law, natural rights, and human rights; human nature, animal nature, and the environment; conceptions of the city and the state; translation, intellectual history and theory.
Most aspects of history of European political thought (late medieval and early modern), especially natural law and the law of nations, history of natural rights and human rights, early modern Spanish political thought including America, history of Aristotelian philosophy and early modern intellectual cultures more generally.
I teach for the second-year paper 'History of political thought to ca. 1700' and for the third year paper 'States between states: The history of international political thought', as well as BA dissertations in most areas of late medieval and early modern political thought. I also teach history and theory for the current 'Historical argument and practice' paper.
I am Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for Political Thought and I co-convene the seminar 'Legal Histories beyond the State' with Megan Donaldson and Surabhi Ranganathan at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law in Cambridge. I sit on the editorial boards of The Historical Journal, History of European Ideas, Journal of the History of International Law and other journals and book series. I am an International Core Scholar for Centre for Privacy Studies in Copenhagen and involved in other international research collaborations and academic review processes.
Tags & Themes
Gonville and Caius College
Cambridge CB2 1TA