Books

Below are some of the latest works produced by Cambridge scholars up to 2015. A more comprehensive selection is available here.

See also these two series by Cambridge University Press:

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Martin Ruehl, The Making of Modernity: Renaissance Italy in the German Historical Imagination, 1860-1930 (Cambridge, 2015)

This innovative study takes a fresh look at a decisive period in the development of Western historiography; the German engagement with the Italian Renaissance in the decades from the German unification to the Weimar republic. Examining the writings of Nietzsche, Burckhardt and Mann, alongside a wealth of visual sources, Dr Martin Ruehl traces the way in which the perception of the Italian Renaissance in this period is linked to, and to some extent shapes, the changing political discourse of the German middle class at a crucial moment of its modernisation. He argues that this discourse was tied to questions of religion, Kultur and national identity, and determined by rival tropes such as medievalism and the cult of the Reformation. The book ultimately reveals the Renaissance as a site of contestation and a concept fraught with the expectations, hopes and fears that defined the German bourgeoisie’s experience of modernity.

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Damian Valdez, German Philhellenism: The Pathos of the Historical Imagination from Winckelmann to Goethe (Basingstoke, 2014)

Philhellenism—the fascination with the art, politics, religion and society of ancient Greece—is a powerful and compelling phenomenon in German culture and intellectual history, creating a language and a series of key ideas that were to exert a continuous influence on German thought, aesthetics and politics well into the twentieth century. In this book Valdez examines the first generation of German Philhellenes from Winckelmann to Goethe. He shows how German Philhellenism was torn between the search for a historical whole which could explain and encompass Greek excellence, and the desire to incorporate individual aspects of Greece in a wider ethical and artistic enterprise, and finally, to give it a place in the history of freedom itself. Valdez also shows that German philhellenic ideas grew out of a dialogue with French and British ideas and historiography. He charts how the fascination with Greek antiquity was reflected in theatre and literature and how the longings and idealisation of Philhellenes clashed with the more critical and sober historians of the Enlightenment. The book also explains how the search for the historical reality of philhellenic ideals created intense emotional and ideological conflicts about the unique nature of male friendship in ancient Greece and about the position of women in ancient Athens.

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Michael Edwards, Time and the Science of the Soul in Early Modern Philosophy (Leiden, 2013)

For many early modern philosophers, particularly those influenced by Aristotle’s Physics and De anima, time had an intimate connection to the human rational soul. This connection had wide-ranging implications for metaphysics, natural philosophy and politics: at its heart was the assumption that man was not only a rational, but also a temporal, animal.

In Time and the Science of the Soul in Early Modern Philosophy, Michael Edwards traces this connection from late Aristotelian commentaries and philosophical textbooks to the natural and political philosophy of two of the best-known ‘new philosophers’ of the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes. The book demonstrates both time’s importance as a philosophical problem, and the intellectual fertility and continued relevance of Aristotelian philosophy into the seventeenth century.

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David Runciman, The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present (Princeton, 2013)

Why do democracies keep lurching from success to failure? The current financial crisis is just the latest example of how things continue to go wrong, just when it looked like they were going right. In this wide-ranging, original, and compelling book, David Runciman tells the story of modern democracy through the history of moments of crisis, from the First World War to the economic crash of 2008.

A global history with a special focus on the United States, The Confidence Trap examines how democracy survived threats ranging from the Great Depression to the Cuban missile crisis, and from Watergate to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It also looks at the confusion and uncertainty created by unexpected victories, from the defeat of German autocracy in 1918 to the defeat of communism in 1989. Throughout, the book pays close attention to the politicians and thinkers who grappled with these crises: from Woodrow Wilson, Nehru, and Adenauer to Fukuyama and Obama.

The Confidence Trap shows that democracies are good at recovering from emergencies but bad at avoiding them. The lesson democracies tend to learn from their mistakes is that they can survive them–and that no crisis is as bad as it seems. Breeding complacency rather than wisdom, crises lead to the dangerous belief that democracies can muddle through anything–a confidence trap that may lead to a crisis that is just too big to escape, if it hasn’t already. The most serious challenges confronting democracy today are debt, the war on terror, the rise of China, and climate change. If democracy is to survive them, it must figure out a way to break the confidence trap.

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Christopher Brooke, Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau (Princeton, 2012)

“Philosophic Pride is the first full-scale look at the essential place of Stoicism in the foundations of modern political thought. Spanning the period from Justus Lipsius’s Politics in 1589 to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile in 1762, and concentrating on arguments originating from England, France, and the Netherlands, the book considers how political writers of the period engaged with the ideas of the Roman and Greek Stoics that they found in works by Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Christopher Brooke examines key texts in their historical context, paying special attention to the history of classical scholarship and the historiography of philosophy.

Brooke delves into the persisting tension between Stoicism and the tradition of Augustinian anti-Stoic criticism, which held Stoicism to be a philosophy for the proud who denied their fallen condition. Concentrating on arguments in moral psychology surrounding the foundations of human sociability and self-love, Philosophic Pride details how the engagement with Roman Stoicism shaped early modern political philosophy and offers significant new interpretations of Lipsius and Rousseau together with fresh perspectives on the political thought of Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes.

Philosophic Pride shows how the legacy of the Stoics played a vital role in European intellectual life in the early modern era.”


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Christopher A. Bayly, Recovering Liberties: Indian Thought in the Age of Liberalism and Empire (Cambridge, 2011)

Bayly

One of the world’s leading historians examines the great Indian liberal tradition, stretching from Rammohan Roy in the 1820s, through Dadabhai Naoroji in the 1880s to G. K. Gokhale in the 1900s. This powerful new study shows how the ideas of constitutional, and later ‘communitarian’ liberals influenced, but were also rejected by their opponents and successors, including Nehru, Gandhi, Indian socialists, radical democrats and proponents of Hindu nationalism. Equally, Recovering Liberties contributes to the rapidly developing field of global intellectual history, demonstrating that the ideas we associate with major Western thinkers – Mills, Comte, Spencer and Marx – were received and transformed by Indian intellectuals in the light of their own traditions to demand justice, racial equality and political representation. In doing so, Christopher Bayly throws fresh light on the nature and limitations of European political thought and re-examines the origins of Indian democracy.

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Anabell S. Brett, Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law (Princeton, 2011)



“This is a book about the theory of the city or commonwealth, what would come to be called the state, in early modern natural law discourse. Annabel Brett takes a fresh approach by looking at this political entity from the perspective of its boundaries and those who crossed them. She begins with a classic debate from the Spanish sixteenth century over the political treatment of mendicants, showing how cosmopolitan ideals of porous boundaries could simultaneously justify the freedoms of itinerant beggars and the activities of European colonists in the Indies. She goes on to examine the boundaries of the state in multiple senses, including the fundamental barrier between human beings and animals and the limits of the state in the face of the natural lives of its subjects, as well as territorial frontiers. Drawing on a wide range of authors, Brett reveals how early modern political space was constructed from a complex dynamic of inclusion and exclusion. Throughout, she shows that early modern debates about political boundaries displayed unheralded creativity and virtuosity but were nevertheless vulnerable to innumerable paradoxes, contradictions, and loose ends.

Changes of State is a major work of intellectual history that resonates with modern debates about globalization and the transformation of the nation-state.”

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Isaac Nakhimovsky, The Closed Commerical State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte (Princeton, 2011)

“This book presents an important new account of Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Closed Commercial State, a major early nineteenth-century development of Rousseau and Kant’s political thought. Isaac Nakhimovsky shows how Fichte reformulated Rousseau’s constitutional politics and radicalized the economic implications of Kant’s social contract theory with his defense of the right to work. Nakhimovsky argues that Fichte’s sequel to Rousseau and Kant’s writings on perpetual peace represents a pivotal moment in the intellectual history of the pacification of the West. Fichte claimed that Europe could not transform itself into a peaceful federation of constitutional republics unless economic life could be disentangled from the competitive dynamics of relations between states, and he asserted that this disentanglement required transitioning to a planned and largely self-sufficient national economy, made possible by a radical monetary policy. Fichte’s ideas have resurfaced with nearly every crisis of globalization from the Napoleonic wars to the present, and his book remains a uniquely systematic and complete discussion of what John Maynard Keynes later termed “national self-sufficiency.” Fichte’s provocative contribution to the social contract tradition reminds us, Nakhimovsky concludes, that the combination of a liberal theory of the state with an open economy and international system is a much more contingent and precarious outcome than many recent theorists have tended to assume.”

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The Cambridge History of 19th Century Political Thought, edited by Gareth Stedman Jones and Gregory Claeys (Cambridge, 2011)

“This major work of academic reference provides the first comprehensive survey of political thought in Europe, North America and Asia in the century following the French Revolution. Written by a distinguished team of international scholars, this Cambridge History is the latest in a sequence of volumes firmly established as the principal reference source for the history of political thought. In a series of scholarly but accessible essays, every major theme in nineteenth-century political thought is covered, including political economy, religion, democratic radicalism, nationalism, socialism and feminism. The volume also includes studies of major figures, including Hegel, Mill, Bentham and Marx, and biographical notes on every significant thinker in the period. Of interest to students and scholars of politics and history at all levels, this volume explores seismic changes in the languages and expectations of politics accompanying political revolution, industrialisation and imperial expansion and less-noted continuities in political and social thinking.”

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Victorian Visions of Global Order: Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth Century Political Thought,edited by Duncan Bell (Cambridge, 2007; pb 2011)

“This wide-ranging and original study provides an insight into the climate of political thought during the lifespan of what was, at this time, the most powerful empire in history. A distinguished group of contributors explores the way in which thinkers in Britain theorised influential views about empire and international relations, exploring topics such as the evolution of international law; the ways in which the world was notionally divided into the ‘civilised’ and the ‘barbarian’; the role of India in shaping visions of civil society; grandiose ideas about a global imperial state; the development of an array of radical critiques of empire; the varieties of liberal imperialism; and the rise and fall of free trade. Together, the chapters form an analysis of political thought in this context; both of the famous (Bentham, Mill, Marx, and Hobson) and of those who, whilst influential at the time, are all but forgotten today.”

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An Intellectual History for India, edited by Shruti Kapila, with an Afterword by C. A. Bayly (Cambridge, 2011)

Kapila 2

This volume addresses the power of ideas in the making of Indian political modernity. As an intermediate history of connections between South Asia and the global arena the volume raises new issues in intellectual history. It reviews the period from the emergence of constitutional liberalism in the1830s, through the swadeshi era to the writings of Tilak, Azad and Gandhi in the twentieth century. While several contributions reflect on the ideologies of nationalism, the volume seeks to rescue intellectual history from being simply a narration of the nation-state. It does not seek to create a ‘canon’ of political thought so much as to show how Indian concepts of state and society were redrawn in the context of emergent globalized debates about freedom, the constitution of the self and the good society in the late colonial era. In so doing the contributions here resituate an Indian intellectual history that has long been eclipsed by social and political history. These essays were originally published in a Special issue of the journal Modern Intellectual History (CUP, April 2007).

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Duncan Kelly, The Propriety of Liberty: Persons, Passions and Judgement in Modern Political Thought (Princeton, 2010).

“In this book, Duncan Kelly excavates, from the history of modern political thought, a largely forgotten claim about liberty as a form of propriety. By rethinking the intellectual and historical foundations of modern accounts of freedom, he brings into focus how this major vision of liberty developed between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries.

In his framework, celebrated political writers, including John Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Hill Green pursue the claim that freedom is best understood as a form of responsible agency or propriety, and they do so by reconciling key moral and philosophical claims with classical and contemporary political theory. Their approach broadly assumes that only those persons who appropriately regulate their conduct can be thought of as free and responsible. At the same time, however, they recognize that such internal forms of self-propriety must be judged within the wider context of social and political life. Kelly shows how the intellectual and practical demands of such a synthesis require these great writers to consider freedom as part of a broader set of arguments about the nature of personhood, the potentially irrational impact of the passions, and the obstinate problems of individual and political judgement. By exploring these relationships, The Propriety of Liberty not only revises the intellectual history of modern political thought, but also sheds light on contemporary debates about freedom and agency.”

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Ethics and World Politics, edited by Duncan Bell (Oxford, 2010)

“Designed to appeal to teachers and students of international relations and political theory, this exciting, user-friendly text explores the ethical dimensions of some of the most complex problems in world politics.

The book opens with a discussion of different methods and approaches employed to study the subject, including analytical political theory, post-structuralism and critical theory. It then surveys some of the most prominent perspectives on global ethics, including cosmopolitanism, communitarianism of various kinds, theories of international society, realism, postcolonialism, feminism, and green political thought. Part III examines a variety of more specific issues, including immigration, democracy, human rights, the just war tradition and its critics, international law, and global poverty and inequality.”

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Religion and the Political Imagination, edited by Gareth Stedman Jones and Ira Katznelson (Cambridge, 2010).

“The theory of secularisation became a virtually unchallenged truth of twentieth-century social science. First sketched out by Enlightenment philosophers, then transformed into an irreversible global process by nineteenth-century thinkers, the theory was given substance by the precipitate drop in religious practice across Western Europe in the 1960s. However, the re-emergence of acute conflicts at the interface between religion and politics has confounded such assumptions. It is clear that these ideas must be rethought. Yet, as this distinguished, international team of scholars reveal, not everything contained in the idea of secularisation was false. Analyses of developments since 1500 reveal a wide spectrum of historical processes: partial secularisation in some spheres has been accompanied by sacralisation in others. Utilising new approaches derived from history, philosophy, politics and anthropology, the essays collected in Religion and the Political Imagination offer new ways of thinking about the urgency of religious issues in the contemporary world.”

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A catalogue of less recent books by Cambridge scholars is available here.

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