My research deals broadly with the early modern history of European political thought, and sits at the intersection of political theory, intellectual history, and feminist theory. I am interested in seeing how historical perspectives can help us think through contemporary political problems or questions, in two ways. First, by reminding us of forgotten, alternative ways of thinking, and second, by showing us what we take for granted in political theory today. In my research, I show why going beyond the canon and taking into account neglected voices in history––in my case, primarily women’s voices––is a promising way of doing this.
I am currently working on two projects, both of which are driven by an interest in the mechanisms behind political exclusion and inclusion. The first derives from my doctoral dissertation at Oxford and focuses on the recovery of a novel ethics of partisanship through engagement with the works of two eighteenth-century English political thinkers and partisans, Mary Astell and Catharine Macaulay.
My second project focuses on the history of the concept of ambition and its relation to politics, with a special interest in female ambition. There is a standard narrative that says that ambition used to be a Christian sin, and then transformed into the virtue it is today. I want to question this narrative. What was the political function of hailing someone as ambitious––did it serve as a marker of exclusion and inclusion? Is this different from today, or perhaps more similar than we might think? In other words, who was “allowed” to be ambitious and who was not, and why?
Beyond this, I am also interested in the history of the concept of political friendship, the methodologies and practice of feminist history of political thought, and Kantian moral philosophy.
“Mary Astell on Moderation: The Case of Occasional Conformity” The European Legacy 2023. Special issue “Recovering Moderation” eds. Aurelian Craiutu, Nicholas Mithen, Alexander Smith. (peer reviewed)
1. Paper on Mary Astell and Machiavelli on ambition and partisanship
2. Paper on feminist history of political thought and its methodologies
1. "‘I Love you whom the World calls Enemies’: Mary Astell Against Political Friendship"
2. “Catharine Macaulay, Radicalism, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89,” intended for publication in Radical Republicanism in Early Modern Europe, eds. Anna Becker, Alessandro Mulieri and Nicolai van Eggers, Brill.
3. “‘Fortunate enough to fit into this world’? Maria von Herbert on Purpose and Suicide,” co-authored with Mara van der Lugt (St Andrews), intended for publication in Kant and Maria von Herbert: Friendship, Trust, and the Meaning of Life. Sources and Critical Explorations, eds. Jens Timmermann and Bernhard Ritter, Oxford University Press.
Critics of partisanship argue that partisans lack independence of thought, and that their righteousness and zeal pose a threat to compromise, deliberation, civility and reasonableness. These very contemporary concerns about partisanship echo eighteenth-century complaints in Britain, where worries about partisans’ independence, righteousness and zeal were rife. In this thesis, I explore the political thought and lives of two eighteenth-century English female political thinkers and partisans, Mary Astell (1666–1731) and Catharine Macaulay (1731–1791). Whilst they were excluded from formal institutions of politics, they were to some extent also politically included, in that they were involved partisans who belonged to a political group and contributed to political debates.
This thesis shows that when we consider the marginalised perspective of Astell and Macaulay on partisanship, we find an innovative, radical and alternative way of thinking about partisanship, as well as a critique of the ethics of partisanship presented by Anglo-Saxon political theorists today. Astell and Macaulay argued that a partisan was virtuous provided she was zealous, righteous, sincere and independent. As such, their theories differ greatly from both those conceptions found in their male contemporaries, but also from those found in the present-day political theory literature. These conceptions tend to be grounded in compromise, loyalty, friendship and reasonableness, which Astell and Macaulay decidedly rejected as partisan virtues. Before we heed calls for striving towards civic friendship or attempting to seek harmony and denounce discord, we would do well to listen to Astell and Macaulay. By recovering their loudest voices, that is, their partisan voices, this thesis not only brings to the fore unduly neglected figures in the history of political thought, but also enriches our understanding of partisanship by considering it from the perspective from the margins.