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 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. 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). I am just finishing an intellectual biography of the seventeenth-century political thinker James Harrington. More details of that project can be found under Research on this site and on my personal website:

PhD Supervision

I have supervised the following graduate students to completion:

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:

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

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

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

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 (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.