My current book project, tentatively titled Hume’s Utopia, explores David Hume’s understanding of modern commercial government, from his early philosophy of the “artificial virtues” through the evolution of liberty in The History of England. The project centers on a paradox at the end of Hume’s political Essays. Why did Hume write the “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth”? Hume’s blueprint for a large federal republic was understandably popular among later American and French revolutionaries. Yet the plan has also been a source of confusion, since it seems in tension with Hume’s otherwise skeptical philosophy and realist political theory. I make a case for placing Hume’s constitutional thought in closer conversation with Thomas Hobbes, James Harrington, and Montesquieu. “Idea of Perfect Commonwealth” marks a bold attempt to model a “Hobbesian commercial state” that was capable of avoiding modern trade wars.
My next monograph will focus on the problem that modern slavery posed for theorists of the Scottish Enlightenment. Despite the extensive literature on “neo-Roman” conceptions of freedom, historians of British political thought have largely ignored how the rhetoric of political “slavery” related to literal chattel bondage throughout the British empire. I emphasize the extent to which the persistence of the trans-Atlantic slave economy shaped debates over “civil liberty” and free labor among eighteenth-century Scottish intellectuals, from Andrew Fletcher and Francis Hutcheson to Adam Smith and Dugald Stewart.
Below are links to my published academic pieces.
"Hume and the Politics of Slavery," Political Studies (online first, March 2023)
“Hume’s ‘Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth’ and Scottish Political Thought of the 1790s,’” History of European Ideas 48, no. 1 (2022), 78-96
“David Hume’s Balancing Act: The Political Discourses and the Sinews of War,” American Political Science Review 115, no. 1 (2020), 69-81
“State of the Field: The History of Political Thought,” History 105, no. 366 (2020), 470-83. Co-authored with Max Skjönsberg
“Political Theory and American Literature: a Guide through the Archive,” Political Theory (online, 2020)
“A Tribune Named Niccolò: Petrarchan revolutionaries and humanist failures in Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories,” History of European Ideas 44, no. 8 (2018): 1046-62. Co-authored with Michael Darmiento
“Catilinarian Cadences in Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories: Ciceronian Consensus and Corrupted Humanism,” History of Political Thought 39, no. 3 (2018): 439-64
“Death and Taxes in Machiavelli’s Florentine State,” in People Power: Popular Sovereignty from Machiavelli to Modernity, eds. Christopher Barker and Robert Ingram (Manchester University Press, 2022)
“‘Sinecures which could be held by girls’: Margaret Oliphant and Women’s Labour,” in Brontë to Bloomsbury: Realism, Sensation, and the New in Women’s Writing from the 1840s to the 1930s, vol. 2, eds. Adrienne Gavin and Carolyn Oulton (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 213-28