School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr Rachel Hammersley

Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History


As an intellectual historian, I am particularly interested in political ideas in the past: 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. My most recent 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. I have also recently published an edited collection which examines the expression and development of revolutionary ideas between the seventeenth and the twentieth century: Revolutionary Moments: Reading Revolutionary Texts (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

Amy Shields - Republicanism in a European Context: The Influence of the Dutch and Venetian Republics on Seventeenth-Century English Thought
Emily Mitchelson - Agrarian Land Law and the Commonwealth Tradition
Sam Petty - ‘That Colonies have their Warrant from God'- English Protestant thought and theories of colonisation in the seventeenth-century
Tom Whitfield - 'An Archaeological Analysis of Eighteenth-Century Popular Protest and Civil Unrest in Britain'
Jen Scammell - Comparative Responses to Royal Deaths in the Atlantic World, 1751-1817

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

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Current Research

At the moment I am working on 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. 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.


Undergraduate Teaching

I am module leader for the following modules:
HIS 1030 Evidence and Argument
HIS 2050 The European Enlightenment, 1700-1800
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.