Professor Janet Coleman

Professor Janet Coleman

Emeritus Professor of Ancient and Medieval Political Thought

Department of Government

+44 (0)207 955 7196

About me

Janet Coleman, FRHistS, co-founder and co-executive editor of History of Political Thought, joined the department in 1987. She is one of the convenors of the History of Political Ideas staff/postgraduate seminar at the Institute of Historical Research.

From 2000-03 she was a Leverhulme Major Research Fellow researching: 'Pre-modern understandings of property: personal ownership and self-understanding' reflecting her interests in Ancient Greek, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance intellectual and social history.

As the Benedict Lecturer, Boston University (2002) she delivered a series of lectures on the decline of confidence in public right reason from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

In Autumn 2006 she was a Braudel Research Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy studying contemporary Italian scholarship on pre-Justinian Roman law.

In December 2007 she delivered the Dimaras Lecture at the Institute for Neo-Hellenic Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, Greece: 'Ancient Greek, modern and post-modern agonisms: the possibilities for democratic toleration'.

In 2009 she became a Global Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at New York University, USA.


A History of Political Thought: From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2000)

This volume continues the story of European political theorising by focusing on medieval and Renaissance thinkers. It includes extensive discussion of the practices that underpinned medieval political theories and which continued to play crucial roles in the eventual development of early-modern political institutions and debates. The author strikes a balance between trying to understand the philosophical cogency of medieval and Renaissance arguments on the one hand, elucidating why historically-suited medieval and Renaissance thinkers thought the ways they did about politics; and why we often think otherwise.

Research interests

  • Ancient Greek and Roman political philosophy
  • Genesis of the modern European state
  • History of political thought
  • Medieval and renaissance intellectual history
  • The history of western political thought
  • Theories of the state


  • French (Spoken: Fluent, Written: Fluent)
  • German (Spoken: Intermediate, Written: Intermediate)
  • Italian (Spoken: Basic, Written: Basic)

My research