School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Professor Rachel Hammersley

Professor of Intellectual History


As an intellectual historian, I am particularly interested in past political ideas: their development; dissemination, circulation and influence. My work to date has largely focused on political concepts such as republicanism, democracy, and revolution - and has explored how these were understood in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in Britain and France; the means by which they were disseminated to new audiences; and the ways in which they were transformed in the process. A lot of my work has centred on the English Revolution (1640-1660) and the French Revolution (1789-1799) as well as on the ideas and institutions of the Enlightenment. In 2019 I published an intellectual biography of the seventeenth-century political thinker James Harrington ( It seeks to move beyond the conventional view of Harrington as primarily a republican thinker, offering a broader and more comprehensive account of him which addresses the complexity of his republicanism as well as exploring his contributions to economic, historical, religious, philosophical and scientific debates; his experimentation with vocabulary and literary form; and the relationship between his life and thought. Also about to appear is a textbook on Republicanism with Polity Press ( which is designed to offer an accessible contribution to that complex topic. 

My previous monograph The English Republican Tradition and Eighteenth-Century France: Between the Ancients and the Moderns (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010) challenged the common view of France as the revolutionary nation. It showed that that despite their frequent claims to be starting afresh, the French revolutionaries of the 1790s made much use of earlier models and ideas, not least those of seventeenth-century English republican writers whose works had exercised an influence on French thinkers, writers and political activists throughout the eighteenth century. More details of my research and publications can be found on my personal website:

PhD Supervision

I have supervised the following graduate students to completion:

Meg Kobza - 'The Social History of the Eighteenth-Century London Masquerade.

Tom Whitfield - 'Liberty, Property and Materiality - An Historical Archaeology of Later Eighteenth-Century Protest in NorthEast England.' (AHRC-funded). 

Amy Shields - 'Republicanism in a European Context: The Influence of the Dutch and Venetian Republics on Seventeenth-Century English Thought.' (AHRC-funded).

Sam Petty - ‘"That Colonies have their Warrant from God"- English Protestant thought and theories of colonisation in the seventeenth-century.'

Fred Milton - 'Children's Columns in the Nineteenth-Century Press.' (AHRC-funded).

I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

Leanne Smith - 'No King but Jesus': The Fifth Monarchist's Idea of a Christian Commonwealth

Lauren Dudley - 'Hubert Robert (1733-1808) and the French Revolution: Republican Landscapes and the National Museum.'

I welcome inquiries from prospective postgraduate students wanting to work on intellectual history, particularly as regards seventeenth or eighteenth-century Britain or France.

Memberships and Honorary Appointments

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Editorial Board member for The History of European Ideas
Editorial Board member for Global Intellectual History

Google scholar: Click here.
SCOPUS: Click here.


Current Research

I have recently published an intellectual biography of the seventeenth-century English political thinker James Harrington. Harrington is a fascinating character whose life and works embody the complex and contested web of political beliefs that lay at the heart of the English Revolution (1640-1660). He is best known today as one of the leading republican thinkers of the period thanks to his book The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) which, among other things, provided a blueprint for a durable English republic. Yet Harrington was also a loyal and affectionate servant to King Charles I in 1647-8 when he was being held captive by Parliament. Part of the aim of my book is to explore how these two facets of Harrington's life can be reconciled, but it will also bring to greater prominence other neglected aspects of his life and work, such as his contribution to developing ideas about democracy - and his engagement in historical, religious, and philosophical debates.

I am also a Co-I on an AHRC-Funded project entitled 'Wastes and Strays: The Past, Present and Future of Urban English Commons'. In this project I will be working alongside Chris Rodgers from the Newcastle Law School (PI); Alessandro Zambelli, who works in the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton; Emma Cheatle from the Architecture Department at Sheffield University; and John Clarke from the English Department at Exeter University. The project sets out to explore common land in urban areas with a particular focus on four case studies: the Town Moor, Newcastle upon Tyne; Valley Gardens, Brighton; Mousehold Heath, Norwich; and Clifton Down, Bristol. I am responsible for the 'Past' element of the project and will work with a postdoctoral research assistant to examine the historical and archaeological records relating to these case studies. Alessandro Zambelli has written a helpful summary of the project.


Undergraduate Teaching

I am module leader for the following modules:
HIS 2050 The European Enlightenment, 1700-1800.

HIS 2122 Ideas and Revolutions, 1640-1953.

HIS 3204 The English Revolution, 1640-1660.

I also supervise undergraduate dissertations on early modern British and French history and I teach on several Stage 1 modules including: HIS 1044: Aspects of British History; HIS1027: European History and POL 1000: Introduction to Politics and History as well as on the core course for Stage 2 students on the English and History joint degree.

Postgraduate Teaching

MA in British History.
MA in European History.