Conal Condren - Author, Philosopher and Historian

Academic Writing

I have worked principally as an intellectual historian of early modern Britain and Europe, but with a methodological focus on the nature of intellectual history, its descriptive and explanatory idioms, contextualisation, anachronism and the relationships between historiographical writing and genealogical myth-making.

Initially my interests were in late medieval Italian political writings, especially the work of Marsilius of Padua, on whom I wrote a number of essays. Most of my research and writing has amounted to one large project: an exploration of the conceptual vocabularies used to understand the political, the ways in which they change and their effectiveness in the hands of their users.

My first book in a sequence of studies was The Status and Appraisal of Classic Texts, (Princeton 1985). It was a critical examination of the vocabulary through which political texts from the past are appraised by academics, the terms through which classic status is accorded or denied. It dealt inter alia with notions of originality, coherence and influence. The argument was that they were of questionable value in the analysis of texts, and that such intellectual virtues did little to explain how it was that some works survived to be deemed ‘classics’ of political theory and other fell by the wayside. More explanatory power was to be found in the ambit of textual failings, specifically on what might be discovered or made to be ambiguous and so exploitable in argument.

The second book, George Lawson’s Politica and the English Revolution, (Cambridge 1989) was a case study- an account of a text, what went into it and to what purposes it was used, not least paying attention to the exploitation of the work’s areas of ambiguity or incoherence. I then edited a modern edition of Lawson’s Politica, (Cambridge 1992) from both editions and taking into account surviving manuscript material, none of which had been used in earlier discussions of Lawson’s work. The outlines of his biography were established for the first time.

The third monograph, The Language of Politics in Seventeenth Century England, (London, 1994) was a brisk overview of the contested vocabulary of seventeenth-century politics and the way in which arguments and debates in early-modern England had been obscured and distorted by modern historians and political theorists confusing their own vocabulary with the evidence.

The fourth, was by far the largest, Argument and Authority in Early Modern England: The Presupposition of Oaths and Offices, (Cambridge 2006). This was an account of the vocabulary of office-holding and oath-taking that ranged well beyond what we consider to be political theory. In part the argument was that what conventionally is isolated as a distinct, even autonomous realm of discourse, political theory, was better seen as a variable and unstable sub-set of a pervasive rhetoric of office holding. The first part explored the broad extent of the workings of the vocabulary of office. The Second dealt with oath-taking and breaking as a concentrated instance of office-argument in action. It focussed on three detailed case studies; the Oath of Allegiance controversy after the Gunpowder Plot (1605); the Engagement Controversy following the execution of Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy and House of Lords (1649-54); and the allegiance controversy following the ousting of James II (1688/9). The argument was that each of these and the theories emerging from them had been misunderstood by historians taking to early modern England too much of their own political vocabulary and presuppositions about the nature of the political.

The final stage of this sequence is Political Vocabularies: Word Change and the Nature of Politics, (Rochester University Press, 2017). This was prefigured in the Preface of Status and Appraisal as an account of metaphor in politics.  Metaphor, however, now takes its place within a context of related linguistic operations. The result is a general description of the mechanisms by which political vocabularies are formed and transformed in use and from which the very idea of the political is shaped.

Many of my published essays have been preliminary explorations of themes developed more fully in monographs. Other books and a few essays have been less tightly tied to these interests. But in recent years these have intersected more clearly with the research of others in the history of philosophy, most notably Stephen Gaukroger and Ian Hunter. The result is what I understand has been called the Australian persona school.
The aim has been to make the history of philosophy less anachronistic than it has been when conventionally written  either as a developmental doctrinal narrative leading to modern philosophical orthodoxy, or conversely a genealogy of errors leading in some wrong direction. Instead we have stressed that what has counted as philosophy was much disputed in the past. Moreover, that a central issue, now largely discounted or overlooked was what it meant to be a philosopher; that is, what virtues and practices needed to be cultivated irrespective of specific doctrine. The co-edited volume with Gaukroger and Hunter, The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe, (Cambridge 2006) is one product of my involvement in this revisionist enterprise; Hobbes The Scriblerians and the History of Philosophy, (London 2011) is another. That work also brings into focus an intermittent interest in satire, for the satirical critique of a philosophical persona could be important in attempting to delineate true philosophy.

The serendipitous focus on early modern England after my initial work on Marsilius, made confronting Shakespeare inevitable, simply as a source of political word use; but in several essays, I have explored themes of office-holding and abuse in his works, see Armitage, Condren and Fitzmaurice, eds., Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought, (Cambridge 2009) and ‘Understanding Shakespeare’s Perfect Prince: Henry V, the Ethics of Office and the French Prisoners’, Shakespearean International Yearbook ,9 (2009). I am now working on a book of essays on Shakespearian ethics, dealing both with specific plays to highlight different aspects of the problems of office, and more general themes. Essays on Richard II and duelling have already been roughly drafted.


Published works



1) Three Aspects of Political Theory:  On the Confusions and Reformation of an Expression, Melbourne: Macmillan, 1979, pp. 92, originally in The Pieces of Politics, ed., R. Lucy 1975.

2) The Status and Appraisal of Classic Texts: An Essay on Political Theory, its Inheritance and on The History of Ideas, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. xiii + 293 + index; (paperback edition, Princeton Legacy Library).

3) George Lawson's Politica and the English Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. xviii + 204 + index; (paperback edition, 2002).

4) The Language of Politics in Seventeenth-Century England, Basingstoke: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, pp.  xi + 206 + index.

5) Satire, Lies and Politics: The Case of Dr Arbuthnot, Basingstoke: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997, pp. xii + 185 + index.

6) Thomas Hobbes, New York: Twayne, 2000, pp. xix + 176 + index.

7) Argument and Authority in Early Modern England: The Presupposition of Oaths and Offices, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. x +390 + index.

8) Hobbes, the Scriblerians and the History of Philosophy, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011, pp. viii + 218 + index.

9) Political Vocabularies: Word Change and the Nature of Politics, Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester University Press, 2017, pp. xiv +189 +index.

Published lecture:
The Uses of Tyranny, and Liberty in Seventeenth-Century England. Louis Green Lecture on Intellectual History and the Social history of Ideas for 2013: Melbourne, Monash University, Ancora Press, 2014, pp.v +31.

Edited and co-edited volumes:

1) Altro Polo:  A Volume of Italian Renaissance Studies, edited with
Roslyn Pesman Cooper, Sydney: The May Foundation for Italian Studies, 1982.

2) The Political Identity of Andrew Marvell, edited with A. D. Cousins, London: Scolar Press, 1990, pp.    ix + 212 + index.

3) Politica Sacra et Civilis, (George Lawson, 1660 & 1689), Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. li + 275 + index; (paperback edition, 2003).

4) The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe: The Nature of a Contested Identity, edited with Stephen Gaukroger and Ian Hunter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. xii + 275 + index; (paperback edition, 2009).

5) ‘The Persona of the Philosopher in the Eighteenth Century’, edited with S. Gaugroger & I. Hunter, Intellectual History Review, 18, 3, (2008).

6) Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought, edited with David Armitage and Andrew Fitzmaurice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009; (paperback edition, 2012).


Published papers (A): contributions to collections/anthologies &c:

1) ‘An Historiographical Paradox’, in N. Wright and F. McGregor, eds., European History and Its Historians, Adelaide: AHMEME,  1977, pp. 85-96.

2) ‘The Quest for a Concept of "Needs"’, in R. Fitzgerald, ed., Human Needs and Politics, Oxford and Sydney: Pergamon Press, 1977, pp. 244-60.

3) ‘Marsilius of Padua and Machiavelli’, in R. Fitzgerald, ed., Comparing Political Thinkers, Oxford and Sydney: Pergamon Press, 1980, pp. 94-115.

4) ‘More and Socrates’, (with A. C. Condren), in Fitzgerald, Ibid, pp. 76-93.

5) ‘Socrates and More: The Limits of Comparison and symbolic Potency’, (with A. C.  Condren), in B. Byron and D. Grace, eds., Essays on the Icon: Quincentennial essays on St Thomas More, Melbourne: Dove,  1981, pp.109-29.

6) ‘Political Theory’, in D Aitkin, ed., Surveys of Australian Political Science, Canberra: Allen and Unwin for The Australian Academy of the Social Sciences, 1985, pp. 36-85.

7) ‘Settlement and Resistance Reconsidered: An Aporetic Reading of Lawson's Politica’, in Gordon Schochet, ed., Religion, Resistance, and Civil War,  Proceedings of The Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought, 1500-1800, vol 3, Washington DC, 1990, pp. 201-220.

8) ‘Christopher Hill and the English Revolution: A Sceptical Decoding of Significances’, in J. O. Ward and S. M. Mukherjee eds., Revolutions as History,  Sydney: Sydney Association for the Study of Society and  Culture, 1989, pp.31-37.

9) ‘Casuistry to Newcastle: William Cavendish's 'Advice' to Charles II at the Restoration’, in Q. Skinner and N. Phillipson eds., Political Discourse in Early modern Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 164-188.

10) ‘Intellectual History’, in D. Schreuder, ed., The Humanities and a Creative Nation: Jubilee Essays, Canberra: The Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1995, pp. 263-273.

11) ‘Anachronism and Political Theory’, in Andrew Vincent ed., Political Theory: Ideology, Tradition and Innovation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 45-66.

12) ‘Image, Text and Language: Historicising the history of Political Thought’, in Bruce Bennett ed., Australia Between Cultures, Canberra: Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1999, pp. 92-8.

13) ‘English Historiography and the Invention of Britain and Europe’, in J. Milfull ed., Britain in Europe, London: Ashgate, 1999, pp. 11-27.

14) ‘George Lawson (1598-1678)’, in William Baker & Kenneth Womack eds., The Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 213: Pre-Nineteenth Century Book collectors and Bibliophiles, Boston: Bruccoli, Clark, Layman, 1999,  pp. 215-220.

15) ‘The Problem of Audience, Office and the Language of Political Action in Lawson’s Politica and Hobbes’s Leviathan’, in R. von Friedeburg, ed., Widerstandsrecht in der fruhen Neuzeit,  Beihefte der Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, 26, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2002, pp. 287-303.

16) ‘Trust, Lies and Politics’, in D. Burchell & A. Leigh eds., The Prince’s New Clothes, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002, pp. 145-154.

17)‘Historicism and the problem of Renaissance 'self-fashioning'’, in Philippa Kelly ed., The Touch of the Real, Perth: UWA Press, 2002, pp.105-124.

18) ‘Natura naturans: the topos of natural law in the writings of Thomas Hobbes’, in Ian Hunter & David Saunders eds., Natural Law & Civil Sovereignty: Moral Right and State Authority  in Early modern Political Thought, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, pp.61-75.

19) ‘The Office of Rule and the Rhetorics of Tyrannicide in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: an Overview’, in R. v. Friedeburg, ed. Murder and Monarchy, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp.48-72.

20) Biographical essays for the The New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , (each c. 1000 words) entries for:
a) Richard More (d. 1643);
b) Samuel More (d. 1662);
c) George Lawson (d. 1678);
d) Richard More, the younger (d. 1698).

21) ‘Historical Epistemology and the Pragmatics of Patriotism in Early Modern England’, in R.von Friedeburg ed., Patrioten und Patriotismus, Wiesbanden: Harrassowitz Verlag,  2005,  pp. 67-90.

22) ‘Curtailing the office of the priest: Two seventeenth-century views of the Causes and Functions of Heresy’, in I. Hunter, J. C. Laurson and Cary Nederman, eds., Heresy in Transition: Transforming Ideas of Heresy in the Medieval and Early Modern World, Aldershott: Ashgate, 2005, pp.115-28.

23) ‘Introduction’ with S. Gaukroger & Ian Hunter, The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe, pp. 1-16.

24) ‘The persona of the philosopher and the rhetorics of office in early modern England’, in Ibid., pp. 66-89.

25) ‘Specifying the subject in early modern autobiography’, in R. Bedford, L. Davis and P. Kelly eds., Early Modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006, pp.35-48.

26) ‘Radicalism Revisited’, in Glenn Burgess and Matthew Festenstein eds., English Radicalism, 1550-1850, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 311-37.

27) ‘Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode on Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ and the context of the Engagement Controversy’, in Andrew Lynch and Anne M. Scott eds., Renaissance Poetry and Drama in Context, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, pp.257-67.

28) ‘Responsibility and the rhetorics of capability’, in J. Hartman, J. Nieustraten and M. Reinders, eds., Public office and Personal Demands: Capability in Governance in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic, Cambridge: Scholars Publishing, 2009, pp. 237-51.

29) ‘Unfolding ‘the properties of government’: the case of Measure for Measure and the History of Political Thought’, in Shakespeare and the History of Early Modern Political Thought, eds. Armitage, Condren & Fitzmaurice, pp.157-75.

30)‘Introduction’, with David Armitage and Andrew Fitzmaurice, in Ibid. pp.1-22.

31) ‘Sovereignty’, in Peter Anstey, ed.. The Oxford Handbook to Seventeenth-Century English Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.587-608.

32) ‘Rhetoric: Uses and Abuses’, in Sharon Lloyd ed., The Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes, London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2012, pp. 108-12.

33) ‘Satire’, S. Attardo. The Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, ed., L.A.& London, sage, 2014, vol.2, pp.661-4.

34) 'Printed Passion: Sympathy, Satire, and the Translation of Homer (1675-1720)', in Heather Kerr, David Lemmings and Robert Phiddian eds., Passions, Sympathy and Print Culture: Public Opinion and Emotional Authenticity in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Basingstoke, U. K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, pp. 245-65.


Published papers (B): journal articles (* = unrefereed publications)

1) ‘The Rhodesia "Settlement" ’, (with A. C. Condren), Current Affairs
, 48, 10, (1972), pp. 302-4

2) ‘Philosophy and History in the History of Philosophy’, Quadrant, 17, 5-6, (1973), pp. 24-7.

3) ‘The Death of Political Theory: The Importance of Historiographical Myth’, Politics, 9, 2,  (1974), pp. 46-9.

4) ‘On Interpreting Marsilius of Padua's Use of St Augustine’, Augustiniana, 25, (1975), pp. 217-22.

5) ‘Marsilius of Padua's Argument from Authority:  A survey of its significance the Defensor Pacis’, Political Theory, 5, 2, (1977), pp. 205-1. 

6) ‘Marsilius of Padua and the Poverty of Traditionalism’, Il Pensiero Politico, 11, (1978), pp. 393-6. 

7) ‘George Lawson and the Defensor Pacis:  On the Use of Marsilius in Seventeenth-Century England’, Medioevo, 6, (1980), pp. 595-617.  

8) ‘Dame Alice More as Xanthippe, Moreana, 64, (1980), pp. 59-64. 

9) ‘Democracy in the Defensor Pacis:  On the English Language Tradition of Marsilian Interpretation’, Il Pensiero Politico, 13, 3, (1980), pp. 301-16. 

10) ‘Sacra Before Civilis:  On the Ecclesiastical Politics of George Lawson’, The Journal of Religious History, 11, (1981), pp. 524-35. 

11) ‘Resistance and Sovereignty in Lawson's Politica: An Examination of Professor Franklin, His Chimera’, The Historical Journal, 24, 3, (1981), pp. 673-81. 

12) ‘The Image of Utopia in the Political Writings of George Lawson (1657):  A Note on the Manipulation of Authority’, Moreana, 69, (1981), pp. 101-5.

13) ‘Authorities, Emblems and Sources:  Reflections on a Rhetorical Strategy in the History of History’, Philosophy and Rhetoric, 15, (1982), pp. 170-186.

14) ‘Rhetoric, Historiography and Political Theory: Aspects of the Poverty Controversy Reconsidered’, The Journal of Religious History, 14, (1984), pp. 15-34.

15) ‘Ideas and The Model of Political Events:  A problem in the Historicity of the History of Ideas’, Political Science, (1984), pp. 53-66.

16) ‘The Political bibliography of the Settlement Controversy of 1659-60: An Initial Computer Study’, (with A. C. Condren), The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 9, 3, (1985), pp. 108-111.

17) ‘A "Cloath" of Fading Colours: Hume, Reid and the Inheritance of `contract’, The Bulletin of the Australian Society for Legal Philosophy, 10, 37, (1986), pp.  643-74.

18) ‘Cornwallis' Paradoxical Defence of Richard III: A Machiavellian Discourse on Morean Mythology’, Moreana, 24, 94, (1987), pp. 5-24.

19) ‘More Parish Library, Salop.’, (appendix with F. Carlton),   Library History, (1987), pp. 141-162.

20) ‘Confronting the Monster: George Lawson's reactions to Hobbes's Leviathan’, Political Science, 40, (1988), pp. 67-83.

21) ‘From Premise to Conclusion:  Some Comments on Professional History and the Incubus of Rhetorical Historiography’, Parergon ns, 6, Festschrift for Sir Geoffrey Elton, (1988), pp. 5-18.

22) ‘The Renaissance as Metaphor: Some Significant Aspects of the Obvious’, Parergon ns, 7, (1989), pp. 91-105.

23) ‘Radicals, Conservatives and Moderates in Early modern Political Thought: A Case of Sandwich Islands Syndrome?’,  History of  Political Thought, 10, 3, (1989), pp. 525-542.

24) ‘On the Rhetorical Foundations of Leviathan’, History of Political Thought, 11,4, (1990), pp. 703-20.

25) ‘The Australian Commonwealth and a Little Republican Virtue’, Legislative Studies, 6, 2, (1990), pp.31-4.

26) ‘Professor Franklin on George Lawson's Politica and the English Revolution-- A Rejoinder’, History of Political Thought, 12, (1991), pp. 561-5.

27) ‘Foucault's Cave: The Reification of Power and the legacy of Early modern Political Thought’, Common Knowledge, 3, 3, (1995), pp. 20-38

28) ‘Code Types: Functions and Failings and Organisational Diversity’, Business and Professional Ethics Journal, 14, 4, (1996), pp. 1-18.

29) ‘The Making of Richard Hooker's Political Reputation, 1600-1950’, The Journal of Religious History, 21, 1, (1997), pp. 35-59

30) ‘Liberty of Office and its defence in Seventeenth-Century Political Argument’, History of Political Thought, 18, 3, (1997), pp. 460-482.

31) ‘Fragmented Continuities: Reflections on Metaphor, Narrative Construction and the Early modern Historian’, Parergon ns, 15, 2, (1998), pp. 115-144.

32) ‘Sidney Godolphin and the Free Rider’, Business and Professional Ethics Journal, 17, 4, (1998), pp. 5-19.

33) ‘The Date of William Cavendish's Letter of 'Advice' to Charles II’, Parergon ns, 17, 2,  (2000), pp. 147-50.

34) ‘Between Social Constraint and the Public Sphere: Methodological Problems in Reading Early-Modern Political Satire’, Contemporary Political Theory,1,1. (2002), pp. 79-101.

35) ‘A Reflection on the Problem of Anachronism in Intellectual History’, Scientia Poetica, Band 8, (2004), pp.288-293.

36) ‘English Historiographical Revisionism, ‘Cambridge School’ intellectual history : Some Aspects of the Problem of Contextualisation’, International Journal of Public Affairs, 2, (2006), pp.19-28.

37) ‘Introduction: The Persona of the Philosopher in the Eighteenth Century’ (with Ian Hunter), Intellectual History Review, 18, 3, (2008), pp.315-7.

38) ‘Defining Parody and Satire: Australian Copyright Law and its New Exception’ pt 1, with Jessica Milner Davis, Sally McCausland and Robert Phiddian, Media and Arts Law Review, 11, 2008, pp. 273-292,.

38a) ‘Defining Parody and Satire’ pt.2, Condren, in Ibid., 13 (2008) pp.401-21.

39) ‘Public, private and the idea of the ‘Public Sphere’ in early-modern England’, Intellectual History Review, 19, 1 (2009), pp.15-28.

40) ‘Understanding Shakespeare’s perfect prince: Henry V, the ethics of office and the French Prisoners’, The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 9, (2009), pp.195-213.

41) ‘ANZAMEMS (Inc.): Notes towards a pre-history’, Parergon, 27, 1, (2010), pp.1-12.

42) ‘Reason of State and Sovereignty in Early Modern England: A Question of Ideology?’, Reason of State, Natural Law, and Early Modern Statecraft, eds. Cathy Curtis and David Martin Jones, Parergon, 28, 2, (2011), pp.5-27.
43) ‘Satire and Definition’, Humor: The International Journal of Humor Research, 25, 4 (2012), pp.375-399.

44) ‘The Philosopher Hobbes as the Poet Homer’, Renaissance Studies, 28, 1 (2014), pp.71-89.

45) ‘Historiographical Myth, Discipline and Contextual Distortion’, History of European Ideas, 40, 1, (2014) pp. 37-43.

46) 'Skepticism and Political Constancy: Richard II and the Garden Scene as a Model of State', The Review of Politics, 78, 4 (2016),   pp.625-43.

47) 'The History of Political Thought as Secular Genealogy: The Case of Liberty in Early Modern England', Intellectual History Review, 27, 1 (2017), pp.115-33. See also below, Forthcoming.
Review articles:

1) ‘Comparison and Theoretical Fluidity: Three Studies in Political Theory’, Politics, 10, 2, (1975), pp. 210-214.

2) ‘Images of the Species and its Crisis’, Quadrant, 23, 5, (1979), pp. 59-62.

3) ‘Religion and Political Principle: New Studies on the Political Theory of the English Revolution’, Politics, 2, 18, (1983), pp. 117-20.

4) The Paradoxes of Re-Contextualisation in Early-Modern Intellectual History, The Historical Journal, (1994), pp. 225-31.

5) ‘The Little Lettered Hobbes’, Parergon, 15, 1, (1997), pp. 161-9.

6) ‘Negotiating Property’ Journal of Early Modern History: Contacts, Comparisons, Contrasts, 2, 2, (1998), pp. 203-9.

7) ‘The Perplexities of Satire’, Humor: The International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 4 (2009), pp.437-447.
I have reviewed for the following:
The Australasian Journal of Politics and History; The Cambridge Review; The European Legacy; History of Political Thought; Hobbes Studies; The Journal of Ecclesiastical History; The Journal of the History of European Ideas; The Journal of Modern History; The Journal of Religious History; Parergon ns; Political Theory; The Political Theory Newsletter; Political Science; Quadrant; The Renaissance Quarterly;The Review of Politics; The Sixteenth-Century Journal; Teaching History.

Journalism & non-professional publications:
Sydney Morning Herald (11 articles); The Australian (2 articles); The Bulletin (1 article); The Australian Quarterly (1 article); The Political Theory Newsletter (2 pieces), 1 re-printed in Campus Review Weekly, one accepted for The Open Road.


Forthcoming work:

1) 'Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister: The Theoretical Dimension', in Jessica Milner Davis ed., Satire and Politics: The Interplay of Heritage and Practice, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

2) 'The History of Political Thought as Secular Genealogy: The Case of Liberty in Early Modern England,' to be re-printed in P. Harrison, ed., Narratives of Secularization, London, Routledge, 2017.