I am an intellectual, cultural and religious historian of early modern Europe. I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2010. I was then appointed a Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. Since October 2015, I have been a Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. I have also held positions at the Folger Library in Washington D.C. (Visiting Fellow, 2013), the University of Edinburgh (Chancellor’s Fellow, 2013–14), and at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge (2014–15). In 2016 I received the inaugural Leszek Kołakowski Prize in Intellectual History, awarded by the Foundation for Polish Science to the world’s leading post-doctoral scholar in the subject.
I have published extensively on philosophical, scientific, medical, religious, legal and political thought in early modern Europe. Although I have made several discoveries about individuals and institutions (including Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, the Hebraist John Spencer, the early modern study of Persian religious history, and the Society of Apothecaries), I am above all interested in large-scale patterns of change from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, patterns that transcend the influence of any individual or group. My first book, Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science (2015), demonstrates how almost all educated people in the seventeenth century engaged deeply with the history of ancient philosophy, in stark contrast to the still prevalent stereotype of the period as one that witnessed a move away from humanistic modes of thought. It was named as one of the 2016 Books of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement. My current book project, provisionally entitled An age of erudition, explores, largely on the basis of previously untapped manuscript sources, how from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries ideas about religion and theology were historicised at an institutional level, especially in the universities, and how that institutionalisation in turn led to wider cultural awareness of the historical dimension to Christianity and other religions.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. As well as my academic work, I have written for the London Review of Books and the Literary Review. I also speak at schools, and am happy to receive requests to do so (please contact me by email in the first instance).