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School of English and Drama

Professor David Colclough, MA (Cambridge) DPhil (Oxford)


Professor of Renaissance Studies



I grew up in Cumbria, where I attended the local state secondary school; I took my undergraduate degree at King’s College, Cambridge, and my D.Phil. at Wadham College, Oxford.  My doctoral research, supervised by John Carey and David Norbrook, was on textual citation in early modern prose, and fostered long-standing interests in Francis Bacon and John Donne.  After a year spent teaching at the universities of Fribourg and Neuchâtel in Switzerland, I returned to Cambridge to take up a Junior Research Fellowship, again at King’s.  I have taught in the English Department at Queen Mary since 1998.  From my first book, Freedom of Speech in Early Stuart England (Cambridge University Press, 2005), I have been interested in the relationships between literary and intellectual history.  My current research is concerned primarily with early modern religion (especially Donne’s sermons) and natural philosophy (a scholarly edition of Bacon’s New Atlantis).


Research Interests:

  • Early modern literary history
  • Early modern political thought
  • John Donne
  • Religious writing, especially the early modern sermon
  • Rhetoric
  • Francis Bacon
  • Early modern manuscript culture and textual editing

Recent and On-Going Research:

My research focuses on early modern literature and thought. I am especially interested in the connections between literary, political, and religious writing, and in the material forms of their dissemination, in manuscript and in print. My first monograph, Freedom of Speech in Early Stuart England (Cambridge University Press, 2005), studied debates over freedom of expression in rhetorical handbooks, parliamentary debates, religious polemic, and manuscript miscellanies. I have a strong interest in textual editing, and have recently edited Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis for the Oxford Francis Bacon (to be published as volume 19 of that edition).  Following a series of articles on a long-standing subject of my research, John Donne, and my edition of his Sermons at the Court of Charles I (volume 3 of the Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne, of which I am also Deputy General Editor), I am currently preparing a further volume of the edition, containing Donne’s sermons preached at St Paul’s Cathedral, 1628-1630.



Selected Publications

  • ‘“I have brought thee up to a Kingdome”: Sermons on the Accessions of James I and Charles I’, in Paulina Kewes and Andrew McRae (eds.), Stuart Succession Literature: Moments and Transformations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 205-221
  • ‘Prose and the Public Sphere’, in Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (eds.), Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 268-84
  • ‘Die Rhetorik der freien Rede in frühneuzeitlichen England’, trans. Malte Wessels, in Rüdiger Campe and Malte Wessels (eds.), Bella Parrhesia: Begriff und Figur der freien Rede in der Frühen Neuzeit (Freiburg: Rombach Verlag, 2018), 27-60 [translation of David Colclough, ‘Parrhesia: The Rhetoric of Free Speech in Early Modern England’, Rhetorica 17:2 (Spring 1999): 177-212]
  • ‘Variety in copy-text’, in Claire Loffman and Harriet Phillips (eds.), A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), 133-36
  • ‘Rhetoric’, in The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture: Volume One: Cheap Print in Britain and Ireland to 1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 240-49
  • ‘Thomas Adams and John Donne Revisited’, Notes & Queries, 59, 1 (2012), 96-100
  • ‘Silent Witness: The Politics of Allusion in John Donne's Sermon on Isaiah 32: 8’, Review of English Studies, 63 (2011) doi:10.1093/res/hgr098
  • ‘Upstairs, Downstairs: Doctrine and Decorum in Two Sermons by John Donne’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 73 (2010), 163-191 doi:10.1525/hlq.2010.73.2.163
  • ‘“The Materialls for the Building”: Reuniting Francis Bacon's Sylva Sylvarum and New Atlantis’, Intellectual History Review, 20 (2010), 181-200 doi:10.1080/17496971003783757
  • ‘Talking to the Animals: Persuasion, Counsel and their Discontents in Julius Caesar’, in Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought, ed. D. Armitage, C. Condren, and A. Fitzmaurice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

I have supervised the following successful PhD projects:

  • Rosanna Cox, 'John Milton and Reading Like a Man' (2006)
  • Maria Reardon, 'The Manuscript Miscellany in Early Stuart England: A Study of British Library, Manuscript Additional 22601 and Related Texts' (2007)
  • Steven Cowser, 'The Politics of Sacred History in ‘Eikonklastes’, ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Paradise Regain'd’' (2012)
  • Vanessa Lim, ‘Shakespeare’s Strategies of Deliberation’ (2019) (co-supervised with Prof. Quentin Skinner)
  • Katie Ebner-Landy, ‘The Theophrastan Character Sketch as Moral and Political Philosophy’ (2022) (co-supervised with Prof. Quentin Skinner)


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