Photo of Dr Robert Lamb

Dr Robert Lamb

B.A. (Strathclyde), M.A. (York), PhD (Exeter)

Head of Department, Associate Professor


01392 722054

Amory A232B

My research and teaching interests are in the history of political thought and contemporary political philosophy. In the historical sphere, my main interests concern modern liberal thought, as well as the philosophical and methodological problems involved in the interpretation of past ideas. My interests in contemporary political theory are primarily in conceptual and normative debates about property ownership and human rights.



Research group links

Research interests

My research interests are mainly in the following areas:

Modern Political Thought - the history of moral, economic and political ideas and argument, particularly modern liberal thought.

Political Philosophy - property rights, human rights, the nature and limits of normative authority.

Philosophy of History - philosophical and methodological issues in the history of ideas, especially the nature of interpretation and historical meaning.

My book Thomas Paine and the Idea of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2015) brings together my various research interests: it analyses Paine's texts, interpreting them as comprising a coherent account of liberal rights. In the monograph, I discuss Paine's ideas about human equality, the nature of rights, the grounds for (and limits to) political obligation, democracy and representation, property ownership and welfare, international relations and religion. In addition to offering (hopefully) novel interpretations of Paine's thought, I try to demonstrate his historical and philosophical distinctness within modern liberalism, and also show how entering into interpretive dialogues with past thinkers can be philosophically productive.



Research supervision

I would be happy to hear from prospective doctoral students working on any areas related to my research interests.

Research students

Katherine Townsend - The Problem of FGM for Liberalism and Multiculturalism

Maria Dede - The Idea of Moral Enhancement 


Modules taught


I was born and raised in the post-industrial west of Scotland and am of partly Italian extraction. After reading Politics and History at Strathclyde, I headed south to take the MA in Political Philosophy at York, before coming to Exeter in October 2002, where I wrote a doctoral thesis - on liberal egalitarian thought in the late eighteenth century - under the supervision of Professor Iain Hampsher-Monk. In 2006, shortly before the completion of my PhD, I was appointed to a permanent lectureship in Political Philosophy, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009 and Associate Professor in 2014.

I have held visiting fellowships at UC Berkeley (Center for British Studies, Autumn 2007), the University of St. Andrews (Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Spring 2010) and the University of Sydney (Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Spring 2013). At Exeter, I have taken on various administrative roles, including Director of Education (2010-2012) and Director of Research (2015-2017), and took over as Head of Department in August 2017. 

Away from university life, my interests include unambitious rambling towards country pubs, playing 5-a-side football and chess, listening to country music, and indulging my love for all things Italian (mainly food, wine, films, and football). Most of my heroes are fictional detectives.