Johann Sommerville

Position title: Emeritus Professor


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Johann Sommerville


I am a historian of early modern Britain, and of the History of Political Thought in Europe between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. I have written books on politics and political ideas in early seventeenth-century England, and on Thomas Hobbes and his historical context, and have edited the political writings of King James VI and I and Sir Robert Filmer (for the series Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought). I’ve also written articles and book chapters on topics including John Selden, John Donne, divine right episcopacy, literature and national identity, the history of lying, natural law, and Catholic political theory. My research interests include:  Intellectual history and the history of political thought between the late Middle Ages and the Enlightenment; Thomas Hobbes; English political, social and economic history to 1688; early modern Europe.


Ph.D., Cambridge
M.A., Cambridge
B.A., Cambridge


Selected Publications

  • “Hobbes, Selden, Erastianism, and the History of the Jews,” in G. A. J. Rogers and Tom Sorell, Hobbes and History, Routledge, London and New York, 2000, 160-88.
  • “Selden, Grotius, and the Seventeenth-Century Intellectual Revolution in Moral and Political Theory,” in Victoria Kahn and Lorna Hutson, eds., Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001, 318-44.
  • “King James VI and I and John Selden: Two Voices on History and the Constitution,” in Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier, eds., Royal Subjects: Essays on the Writings of James VI and I, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 2002, 290-322.
  • “An emergent Britain? Literature and national identity in Early Stuart England,” in D. Loewenstein and J. Mueller, eds., The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature, Cambridge 2003, 459-86.
  • “John Donne the controversialist: the poet as political thinker,” in David Colclough, ed., John Donne’s Professional Lives, D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, England, 2003, 73-95.
  • “The modern contexts of George Mosse’s Early Modern Scholarship,” in What History Tells: George Mosse and the Culture of Modern Europe, ed. Stanley G. Payne, David J. Sorkin and John S. Tortorice, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003, 25-38.
  • “Hobbes, Behemoth, Church-State Relations, and Political Obligation,” in Filozofski vestnik 24/2(2003), 205-222.
  • “Hobbes and Independency,” in Rivista di storia della filosofia 21(2004), 155-73.
  • “Conscience, Law, and Things Indifferent: Arguments on Toleration from the Vestiarian Controversy to Hobbes and Locke,” in Harald Braun and Edward Vallance, eds., Contexts of Conscience in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, 166-79, and notes at 222-6.
  • “Papalist Political Thought and the Controversy over the Jacobean Oath of Allegiance,” in Ethan H. Shagan, ed., Catholics and the Protestant Nation, Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 2005, 162-84.
  • “Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and its Anglican context,” in Patricia Springborg, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’ Leviathan; Cambridge University Press; 2007), 358-74.
  • “English and Roman Liberty in the Monarchical Republic of early Stuart England,” in John McDiarmid, ed., The Monarchical Republic of early Modern England, Ashgate, Aldesrhot, UK, 2007, 201-16.
  • “Behemoth, Church-State Relations, and Political Obligation” in Tomaž Mastnak, ed., Hobbes’s “Behemoth”: Religion and Democracy, Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2009, 93-110.
  • “The Social Contract (Contract of Government)” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy, ed. George Klosko, Oxford University Press, 2011, 573-85.
  • “The Death of Robert Cecil: End of an Era” in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne, ed. Jeanne Shami et al., Oxford University Press, 2011, 495-505.
  • “Early Modern Absolutism in Practice and Theory” in Monarchism and Absolutism in Early Modern Europe, ed. Cesare Cuttica and Glenn Burgess, London, Pickering and Chatto, 2012, 117-30; notes at 240-3.
  • Review of The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629 edited by Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 6 vols., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010, in English Historical Review 127(2012), 1519-24.
  • “Life and Times” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes, edited by S.A. Lloyd, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, 1-28.
  • Thomas Hobbes” in Oxford Bibliographies Online, (subscription required to read the full text) (11,716 words)
  • “Hobbes and Absolutism” in The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes

Selected Awards

  • 2012: University Housing Honored Instructor Award.
  • 2012: Undergraduate History Association, Best Professor Award for 2011-12.
  • 2007: History Department, Karen F. Johnson Teaching Award.
  • 1998-9: R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
  • 1996-9: on Editorial Board of the Journal of Modern History.
  • 1993: NEH long-term Fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.
  • 1986- : Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
  • 1980-4: Fellow, St John’s College, Cambridge.
  • 1976-7: Joseph Hodges Choate Memorial Fellow, Harvard University.

History Courses

  • History 123 – English History to 1688
  • History 283 – History of Political Thought from the Late Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
  • History 351 – Seventeenth-Century Europe
  • History 361 – The Emergence of Modern Britain 1485-1660
  • History 367 – Society and Ideas in Shakespeare’s England
  • History 600 – The Foundations of Modern Political Thought
  • History 831 – Early Modern Britain
  • History 867 – Social and Political Ideas in early Modern Europe