The Centre for the Study ofthe History of Political Thought

The Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

The Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History is an annual memorial lecture held in honour of the distinguished Renaissance scholar and former Queen Mary colleague, Nicolai Rubinstein. Having fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s, Rubinstein was appointed to a lectureship at Westfield College, University of London (later merged with Queen Mary) in 1945, and retired as Professor in 1978. He was the leading authority on the government of Florence under the Medici, and a renowned expert in the art, architecture and political thought of Renaissance Italy. This lecture series, inaugurated in 2007, celebrates his contribution to intellectual history.

Past Events

2020 Rubinstein Lecture: Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam

Thursday 26th March, 2020

18:30 - 20:30, ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London

Please note, the 2020 Rubinstein Lecture has been cancelled.

We are pleased to announce the details of the 2020 Annual Rubinstein Lecture, which will be delivered by Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam (Distinguished Professor and Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences, UCLA) on 26 March 2020. The title for the lecture is “Sceptical Views of Early Modern Empire in Europe and Beyond”.

The lecture will be chaired by Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice (QMUL).


2019 Rubinstein Lecture: Professor Melissa Lane

Thursday 21st March, 2019

18:30 – 21:00, ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London

We are pleased to announce the details of the 2019 Annual Rubinstein Lecture:

ChairProfessor Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, QMUL

SpeakerProfessor Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics & Director, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Title‘Lycurgus, Solon, Charondas…: Figuring the legislator in Platonic political thought and its aftermath’

To be followed by a reception. Please register 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.

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.

Eighth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Tuesday 31st March, 2015

6.30pm, ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Professor Martti Koskenniemi (Helsinki) delivered the eighth annual Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture, ‘Jus gentium – the power of a middle concept’.

Download invitation (pdf)

Seventh Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 20th March, 2014

6.30pm, ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Professor Carlo Ginzburg, UCLA, delivered the seventh annual Rubinstein Lecture, ‘Intricate Readings: Machiavelli, Aristotle, Aquinas’.

Download invitation (pdf)

Sixth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 21st March, 2013

6.30pm, Skeel Lecture Theatre

Professor Peter Brown (Princeton University) delivered the sixth annual Rubinstein Lecture, ‘Constantine, Eusebius and the Future of Christianity’.

For more information click here.

Fifth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 29th March, 2012

6.30pm, ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, ArtsTwo Building

Armitage rubinstein med_menu-thumbThe fifth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture, ‘What’s the Big Idea? Intellectual History and the Longue Duree’was given by David Armitage (Harvard University).

Download invitation (pdf)

History of European Ideas article (pdf)

Professor Armitage’s article for the Times Literary Supplement can be found  here

Fourth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 10th March, 2011

6.30pm, Arts Lecture Theatre, Arts Building

histories of scientific experience in early modern europe med_menu-thumbProfessor Lorraine Daston of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin delivered the fourth Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture, entitled ‘Histories of Scientific Experience in Early Modern Europe’.

Download invitation (pdf)

Third Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture

Thursday 4th March, 2010

6.30pm, Skeel Lecture Theatre

republics and revelations_menu-thumb
The third Nicolai Rubinstein lecture, ‘Republics and Revelation: Some Patterns in the Shaping of Western Historiography’, was delivered by Professor John Pocock (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore).

Download 3rd Rubinstein Lecture invitation (pdf)