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Professor Richard Bourke


Professor in the History of Political Thought

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8345
Room Number: ArtsTwo 4.05


Richard Bourke specialises in the history of political thought. His research has ranged across ancient and modern intellectual history, with an emphasis on the political theory of the enlightenment. He took his first degree at University College Dublin and completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He also gained a second BA in Classics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Having previously co-directed the AHRC-funded Popular Sovereignty Network, he is currently co-directing the History in the Humanities and Social Sciences Network, also funded by the AHRC. His work has attracted various accolades and awards. In 2016 he was joint winner of the István Hont Memorial Book Prize in Intellectual History. He has held a number of Fellowships in Europe and the United States, and is currently co-director of the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought. In addition to his academic research, he has contributed opinion pieces and reviews to The Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, Political Quarterly, The Irish Times, Prospect Magazine, Aeon, Juncture, The Literary Review, Standpoint and The Nation.


Research Interests:

Richard Bourke’s work has focused on the history of political theory, particularly on enlightenment political thought, but also on ancient intellectual history and political ideas in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has also written widely on Irish history, above all on the Troubles. In addition he has written on various issues in contemporary political thought, ranging from nationalism and conservatism to political judgment and popular sovereignty. His principal publications include Empire and Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke and Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas . He has also co-edited Political Judgement, The Princeton History of Modern Ireland, and Popular Sovereignty in Historical PerspectiveHe is currently working on the philosophy of history since Kant, and on the history of democracy.

  • Eighteenth-Century Political Thought
  • Enlightenment Intellectual History
  • Ancient Political Thought
  • Twentieth-Century Political Ideas
  • Political Judgement
  • Democracy
  • Modern Nationalism
  • Irish History

Fellowships and Awards

Membership of professional associations or societies 

Editorial Positions


Recent Selected Publications

  • ‘Reflections on the Political Thought of the Irish Revolution’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 27 (2017), pp. 175–91.
  • ‘Staryy poryadok i Revolyutsiya’ (The Old Regime and the Revolution), ФИЛОСОФИЯ (Philosophy: Journal of the Higher School of Economics), 1:1 (Moscow 2017), pp. 34–56.
  • Editor, with Quentin Skinner, and contributor, Popular Sovereignty in Historical Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016),  x + 420 pp. Paperback 2017.
  • Editor, with Ian McBride, and contributor, The Princeton History of Modern Ireland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), iv + 544 pp.
  • ‘War Edmund Burke ein Konservativer? Notizen zum Begriff des Konservatismus’, Leviathan: Berliner Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft, 44:1 (2016), pp. 65–96.
  • Empire and Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015), pp. xxiv + 1001 pp. Paperback 2017.
  • ‘Edmund Burke als Aufklärer’, Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte, 9: 3 (Autumn 2015), pp. 111–16.
  • Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas (London: Random House, Pimlico, 2003, 2nd edition with new Preface, 2012), xvi + 462 pp.
  • ‘Party, Parliament and Conquest in Newly Ascribed Burke Manuscripts’, Historical Journal, 55:3 (September 2012), pp. 619–52.
  • ‘Burke, Enlightenment and Romanticism’ in David Dwan and Chris Insole eds., The Cambridge Companion to Burke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 27–40.
  • ‘Languages of Conflict and the Northern Ireland Troubles’, Journal of Modern History, 83:3 (September 2011), pp. 544–78.
  • ‘Pocock and the Presuppositions of the New British History’, Historical Journal, 53:3 (September 2010), pp. 747–70.
  • Editor, with Raymond Geuss, and contributor, Political Judgement: Essays for John Dunn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), viii + 354 pp. Paperback 2017.
  • ‘Theory and Practice: The Revolution in Political Judgement’ in Political Judgement: Essays for John Dunn, eds. Richard Bourke and Raymond Geuss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 73–110.
  • ‘Enlightenment, Revolution and Democracy’, Constellations, 15:1 (March 2008), pp. 10–32.

PhD Supervision

Professor Bourke welcomes applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

  • History of Political Thought
  • Enlightenment Intellectual History
  • Modern Irish History

Current PHD Students

  • Conor Bollins – The Eighteenth-Century Population Debate in Relation to Theories of Social and Political Stability
  • Catherine Hulse – Popular sovereignty, law, and ideology: Rousseau and the French Revolution after the Terror

Public Engagement

Recent broadcasts, public lectures and interviews

Appearances in the media 

Richard Bourke has commented on both past and current affairs, particularly on British, Irish and European politics, as well as on the history of ideologies like democracy and conservatism, for a range of print and other media, including BBC television, the BBC World Service, BBC RadioPress TV,  RTÉ RadioFinancial TimesThe Irish Times and Prospect Magazine. He has also written essays and reviews for such periodicals as the Times Literary SupplementPolitical QuarterlyThe Literary ReviewZeitschrift für Ideengeschichte and Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional.

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