Photo of Dr Robert Lamb

Dr Robert Lamb

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 liberalism.

Political Philosophy - the concept of property ownership, normative issues in property transfer, the nature of rights, distributive justice.

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.

Some excerpts from book reviews:

‘Robert Lamb’s new monograph dramatically reverses the methods standardly used by British historians of political thought….His contribution to current efforts to rouse the history of political thought in Britain from its dogmatic contextualist doldrums is what makes this book most valuable’ – Michael Frazer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

‘Lamb’s account brilliantly illuminates the historical distinctiveness and fundamental ambiguity of a revolutionary age that transformed the technologies of power and political obligation’ – Peter Onuf, American Political Thought

'In his outstanding study of Paine's reflections on moral, political, economic, international, and religious matters, Robert Lamb sets out to demonstrate both the continued relevance and the philosophical coherence of this underrated eighteenth century thinker' – Clement Fatovic, The Review of Politics

‘For his coverage of Paine’s opinions in careful expository prose, Lamb has achieved a great deal and deserves a wide readership’ – Samuel Moyn, Contemporary Political Theory

‘Lamb has written a book that will be admired by everyone interested in contemporary political philosophy and in need of historical encouragement for their liberalism’ – Richard Whatmore, History of Political Thought  

Current/future work:

I am currently working on various papers - on the role of the professional political theorist in a democratic society, on historical understandings of human rights, and on the philosophical value of the history of political thought - as well as a short book on 'Property', which will be published in Polity's 'Key Concepts' series.



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

Ehtashamul Haque - John Rawls' Political Liberalism and Islam