My research focuses on the thought of John Locke and its relation to (i) the thought of Thomas Hobbes, (ii) Nonconformity in seventeenth-century England, (iii) European debates about toleration and (iv) liberalism. I am currently completing a critical edition of the Locke-Stillingfleet controversy over toleration and separation from the Church of England, 1680-1683 for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke. Recent articles on Hobbes and Locke reflect some of these interests, and gesture towards a wider interest in the place and standing of authority in the modern world and its role in politics. I was Beinecke Fellow at Yale University in 2007-8, Vice Chancellor’s Anniversary Lecturer at the University of York in 2008-9, and Balzan-Skinner Fellow in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge in 2011-12, where I gave the third Balzan-Skinner Lecture, ‘John Locke and the fable of liberalism’. I am editor of the journal Locke Studies and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York.
Project: The mischief of separation?
My project explores Locke’s ideas about toleration in the context of post-Reformation European debates about Christianity, the constitution of churches, and the problems of separation and schism. It looks especially at the intellectual justifications for national churches offered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and how they shaped debates about toleration in Protestant countries in this period. It aims to show what was distinctive about Locke’s conception of churches and how that conception led him to an alternative view of toleration. The project continues and extends work done for the Clarendon Edition, by considering Locke’s controversy with Stillingfleet against a wider historical background.
- Natural law and toleration in the early Enlightenment, ed. Timothy Stanton and Jon Parkin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
- ‘Freedom of conscience, political liberty, and the foundations of liberalism’, in Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner (eds.), Freedom and the construction of Europe: new perspectives on philosophical, religious, and political controversies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 134-54.
- ‘Locke and his influence’, in James Harris (ed.), in The Oxford handbook of British philosophy in the eighteenth century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 21-40.
- ‘Hobbes’s redefinition of the commonwealth’, in Keith Allen and Tom Stoneham (eds.), Causation and modern philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2011, pp. 104-22.
- ‘Natural law, nonconformity, and toleration: two stages on Locke’s way’, Proceedings of the British Academy 186, (2013), 50-85.
- ‘Authority and freedom in the interpretation of Locke’s political theory’, Political Theory 39, (2011), 5-30.
- ‘Hobbes and Schmitt’, History of European Ideas 37, (2011), 160-67.
- ‘Logic, language, and legitimation in the history of ideas: A brief view and survey of Bevir and Skinner’, Intellectual History Review 21, (2011), 71-84.
- ‘Hobbes and Locke on natural law and Jesus Christ’, History of Political Thought 29, (2008), 65-88.
- ‘Locke and the politics and theology of toleration’, Political Studies 54, (2006), 84-102.