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. The first derives from my doctoral dissertation at Oxford and focuses on the recovery of a counter-intuitive theory 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)
'Ahead of her time.' Review of Max Skjönsberg's Catharine Macaulay: Political Writings (2023). Times Literary Supplement. April 28, 2023.
1. Paper on friendship in the history of political thought
2. Paper on feminist history of political thought and its methodologies
1. “Catharine Macaulay, Radicalism, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89,” accepted for publication in Radical Republicanism in Early Modern Europe, eds. Anna Becker, Alessandro Mulieri and Nicolai van Eggers, Brill.
2. “‘Fortunate enough to fit into this world’? Maria von Herbert on Life and Death,” 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.
3. “Mary Astell on Ambition, Rank, and Talent"
Political theorists often take disagreement to be at the heart of politics. Yet both public and scholarly commentators worry that too much of it threatens the very existence of liberal democracy. So how should we talk and relate to one another in politics? And when we disagree, how should we deal with this disagreement? These difficult and important questions have occupied political philosophers for centuries. Today, the answer to these questions is increasingly something along the lines of “politeness,” “respect,” “reasonableness,” and “friendship”.
Partisan Virtue presents an alternative answer to the question of how partisans should behave towards one another and what they should do in the face of disagreement. I do so by recovering a counterintuitive and highly original way of thinking about partisanship that is not grounded in politeness, reasonableness, and friendship. Building on but also innovating feminist histories of political thought, I find this perspective on partisanship in two English female eighteenth-century thinkers and vocal partisans: the Tory conservative and “first English feminist” Mary Astell (1666–1731) and the widely admired “first female historian” and radical republican Catharine Macaulay (1731–1791). Both claimed that politeness, reasonableness, and friendship were not partisan virtues, for they risked the exclusion of controversial, yet important, political voices.
Instead, Astell and Macaulay argued that partisans should debate passionately and even impolitely, motivated by a conviction of the truthfulness of their political beliefs. They should disagree openly, not only with their opponents but also with their co-partisans. The reason we do not find this novel perspective on partisanship in the political thought of canonical men, I argue, is because as women Astell and Macaulay were not straightforwardly or automatically included in politics. In other words, their unexpected approach to partisanship was deeply informed by their own exclusion. By recovering Astell and Macaulay’s partisan voices, Partisan Virtue not only brings to the fore two unduly neglected figures in the history of political thought, but also enriches our contemporary understanding of partisanship.