Current Research

These days I am working on two projects. In the first place, I am writing a book on Edmund Burke for Polity’s Classic Thinkers series. The book will introduce Burke’s main contributions to political thought while also highlighting some under explored themes in his writings including his assault on the patronage power of the Court, his plans to reform the slave trade, his defense of Indian rebellions against the East India Company, and his case for intervening in (and ultimately overthrowing) the French Republic. In doing so, the book challenges interpretations of Burke that reduce him to a theorist of conservatism, moderation, and self-restraint.

I also have recently embarked on a new project provisionally entitled Imagining Emancipation. The study will examine how eighteenth-century thinkers from Edmund Burke to the formerly enslaved abolitionist Quobna Ottobah Cugoano imagined the process of emancipating enslaved people in the British empire after the end of the slave trade. As these thinkers recognised, the transition from enslavement to freedom was fraught and required addressing several problems: how were the degrading psychological effects of living as a slave to be undone? What kind of education could prepare enslaved people for freedom? How should the emancipated relate to their former oppressors?  This project contributes to the study of eighteenth and nineteenth century thinking about slavery and abolition, but also has contemporary relevance. First, it can usefully inform the debate among contemporary political philosophers over the practical conditions for freedom, a debate that is key to the republican revival in political philosophy. What my research will suggest is that freedom is not a status but rather a dynamic process, one that allows for gradation, progress, and reversal. Second, this research will also speak to contemporary anti-slavery activists and organisations working to secure a safe transition to life after enslavement for victims of human trafficking, sex slavery, and other forms of modern servitude.