The Centre for the Study ofthe History of Political Thought


Past Events

Symposium on the work of Martin E. Jay

Friday 15th June, 2018

We are pleased to announce the programme for the Centre’s Annual International Symposium in the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will be held on Friday, 15 June 2018. The symposium is devoted to the work of Professor Martin E. Jay (Berkeley), and registration is essential. To download the conference programme, please click here. For the conference poster, please click here.

The History of Political Thought in the Age of Ideologies, 1789-1989

Thursday 31st May, 2018 – Friday 1st June, 2018

Queen Mary University of London

Historians of political ideas since the late 1960s have advocated focussing on authorial intentions instead of tracing the progress of “unit ideas” or the transmission of disembodied concepts. Yet historical practice has not always followed methodological injunctions. Nowhere is this more the case than in the period following the French Revolution. Capacious political movements are assumed to dominate the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, giving rise to a procession of abstract ideologies. Yet is it plausible to think of the era as inhabited by such continuous “discourses”, let alone as being characterised in terms of a clash between them? This conference is intended to probe the durability of ideas that are standardly assumed to traverse the ages while sustaining the integrity of their meaning.

The conference also aims to examine how the epoch is generally presented. In what sense can the period be described as an “age of ideologies” if its constitutive doctrines are disassembled into a succession of speech-acts? In 1982 Karl Dietrich Bracher described the twentieth century as a “Zeit der Ideologien”. Yet this conception already had interesting precedents by the time he wrote, having been applied to the nineteenth century by Reinhart Koselleck in 1959. Koselleck’s depiction has a longer pedigree still, looking back to nineteenth century accounts of the legacy of the enlightenment. Thus, in the wake of the French Revolution, the idea emerged that an era of hostile ideologies had succeeded an older age of religious strife. In exploring how we might best write the history of political thought after 1789, this conference will examine common depictions of the period as living in the shadow of revolutionary upheaval that unleashed an enduring contest between opposing principles.

The speakers at the conference include Peter Ghosh (Oxford), Niklas Oslen (Copenhagen), Greg Conti (Cambridge), Gareth Stedman Jones (QMUL), Emily Jones (Cambridge), Jennifer Pitts (Chicago), William Selinger (Harvard), Maurizio Isabella (QMUL), Stuart Jones (Manchester), Andrew Sartori (NYU), Eva Hausteiner (Bonn), Leslie Butler (Dartmouth), Georgios Varouxakis (QMUL), Duncan Kelly (Cambridge), Anne-Sophie Chambost (Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne), Rachel Hoffman (Cambridge), Quentin Skinner (QMUL), Udi Greenberg (Dartmouth), Julia Nicholls (KCL), and Richard Bourke (QMUL).

Registration for this event is essential. To download the conference programme, please click here.

2018 Annual Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 8th February, 2018

6:30 pm, Peston Lecture Theatre, Graduate Centre, Queen Mary University of London

Please save the date for the 2018 Annual Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture in Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought, which will be delivered by Samuel Moyn (Yale). The lecture, titled ‘Judith Shklar’s Critique of Cold War Liberalism’, will be followed by a drinks reception, to which all are welcome. Registration for this event is essential.


Political liberalism is today in dire straits. Cold War legacies have made it a dubious theory of individual liberty against the expansive state rather than a doctrine that promotes social freedom and material equality. This lecture will focus on the leading post-War American political thinker, Judith Shklar – returning, decades before she propounded her famous “liberalism of fear,” to her earliest writings. These in effect mounted an argument against her future self. Shklar’s first book, After Utopia, offered a critique of the limits of Cold War liberalism, before she herself came to adopt a version of it. The lecture will assess this early perspective, claiming that it represents a more attractive option in the face of the crisis of liberalism today.

Workshop on ‘Cooperative behaviour, Kantian optimisation and market socialism’

Monday 18th December, 2017

2pm - 6:30pm, GC601, Graduate Center, Queen Mary University of London

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at QMUL and the Review of Social Economy. Please visit this webpage for the full programme and more information.

Symposium on Happiness in Political and Moral Thought

Friday 13th October, 2017

10 am - 5pm, The Royal Historical Society room, UCL Library, 23-25 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6BT

We are pleased to announce the details of ‘Happiness in Political and Moral Thought’, a symposium organised by the Centre’s Professor Georgios Varouxakis (Queen Mary University of London) with the assistance of Professor Mark Philp (Warwick) and Professor Philip Schofield (UCL, Bentham Project).

Speakers and topics:

  • Barbara Arneil (University of British Columbia): “The Failure of Planned Happiness: The Rise and Fall of British Home Colonies”.
  • Roger Crisp (St Anne’s College, Oxford): “Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Mill on Pleasure and Virtue”
  • Emmanuelle de Champs (Université de Cergy-Pontoise / Max Weber Kolleg, Erfurt): “From ‘public happiness’ to ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’: The promise of progress in the writings of Condorcet and Bentham”
  • Manuel Escarmilla-Castillo (Universidad de Granada): “Bentham and President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms”
  • Paul Kelly (LSE): “Asceticism, False-Consciousness and Resentment: Bentham and the Genealogy of Morality”
  • Ellen Kennedy (The University of Pennsylvania): “Liberty: Variations on a Theme in the Work of Wilhelm von Humboldt, J. S. Mill & Walter Eucken”
  • Antis Loizides (University of Cyprus): “James Mill on Happiness”
  • James Moore (Concordia University): “Scepticism and Epicureanism from David Hume to J. S . Mill”
  • Michael Quinn (UCL): “‘The first article to look to is power’: Jeremy Bentham, Happiness, and the Capability Approach”
  • Jonathan Riley (Tulane University): “Competing Conceptions of Plural Utility: Bentham versus Mill”
  • Alan Ryan (New College, Oxford): “Inductive and Progressive?”
  • Philip Schofield (UCL): “Jeremy Bentham and the Spanish Constitution of 1812”
  • Frederick Rosen (UCL): “Parallel Lives in Logic: John Stuart Mill, George Bentham, and Darwin’s Origin of Species” [t.b.c.]
  • David Weinstein (Wake Forest University/ Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg): “Making Better Sense of Ideal Utilitarianism”

Please note: Places for this event are strictly limited, and will be allocated to those who apply first. If you wish to know if there are places left, please email Georgios Varouxakis (

8th Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought

Thursday 29th June, 2017 – Friday 30th June, 2017

University College London

Registration for the 8th Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought is now open. Please visit the conference website for programme, registration and further details.

Symposium on Gareth Stedman Jones’ Karl Marx, Greatness and Illusion

Friday 21st April, 2017

9:30 am - 6:00pm, Queen Mary Graduate Centre Room 201

We are pleased to announce the Annual Symposium in the Humanities and Social Sciences on Gareth Stedman Jones’ Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (Allen Lane, Penguin: 2016). To view the poster for the event, please click here.

The speakers are:

Gareth Stedman Jones (QMUL)
Warren Breckmann (Penn)
Douglas Moggach (Ottawa/Sydney)
Julia Nicholls (Oxford)
Shannon C. Stison (Georgetown)

To view the programme, please click hereRegistration is essential.

2017 Annual Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Wednesday 15th March, 2017

6:30 pm, Arts Two Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London

We are pleased to announce the details for this year’s annual Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture in Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception, to which all are welcome. Booking is essential, please register here.

Speaker: Professor Susan Pedersen, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, Columbia University

Chair: Professor Julian Jackson, QMUL

Title: “The League of Nations Secretariat as a Site of Political Imagination”


What difference did the League of Nations Secretariat make to the practice and theory of international politics?  This talk takes us inside the Secretariat to meet some of the men (and one woman) who headed up its different sections, delving into the records of their internal “kitchen cabinet” meetings to uncover what they themselves thought they were doing.  The League’s high officials talked freely among themselves about the nature and scope of their authority, about how to balance national loyalties and international service, and about how to deal with public complaints of ineffectuality or lack of accountability.  Self-consciously, unevenly and buffeted by political winds, they nonetheless developed strategies and practices that challenged and changed the international system and that still influence it to this day.  Historians and political theorists should pay more attention to the Secretariat as a site for political innovation and political thought.

Speaker Brief Bio:

Susan Pedersen is Morris Professor of British History at Columbia University.  She has written widely on British, European and international politics after 1900.  Her first book examined the way European welfare states came to account for dependence; her second book, a biography of the visionary social theorist and social reformer Eleanor Rathbone, appeared from Yale University Press in 2004.  Pedersen’s new book, The Guardians:  The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015) was awarded the 2015 Cundill Prize for Historical Literature.

Pedersen received her B.A. and PhD from Harvard University, where she was Professor of History and served for a time as Dean for Undergraduate Education before moving to Columbia in 2003.  She has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, the Radcliffe Institute, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, among others.  In 2014 she delivered the Ford Lectures at Oxford University on the subject of “Internationalism and Empire:  British Dilemmas, 1919-39”. She is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Britain at the Constitutional Crossroads — Prof. Bruce Ackerman (Yale)

Friday 2nd December, 2016

13:00 — 14:00, British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace

In association with the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought and the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context, the Mile End Institute is delighted to welcome Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University to give a lecture Britain at the Constitutional Crossroads – Court, Parliament, and Popular Sovereignty in the Twenty-First Century.

Professor Ackerman’s lecture comes at a critical moment as the Supreme Court deliberates on the role of Parliament in the process of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and the judiciary has come under fire in the popular press. His talk will consider the interaction of representative democracy and referendums and the role of the courts in mediating the two. There will be an opportunity for audience Q&A after the lecture.

The event will be chaired by Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Anniversary Chair in Law at QMUL and co-director of the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context

To register for the event, please click here. Places are limited, and so booking is essential.

Please click here to watch a recording of the event.


Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion book launch

Tuesday 4th October, 2016

18:30 - 20:30, School of History, Queen Mary University of London

To celebrate the publication of the important new biography Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (Allen Lane) by Professor Gareth Stedman Jones, the School of History, Queen Mary, is hosting a debate between Professor Stedman Jones and Dr Tristram Hunt MP, author of a recent biography of Friedrich Engels. To RSVP for the event, click here.

Update: A video of the event is now available online. Please follow this link to watch it.