Alexander Cook

Position: Lecturer
School and/or Centres: School of History


Phone: (02) 612 52717

Location: Level 6, Room 6.13, 146 Ellery Cres


BA (Hons) (Australian National University) M.Phil (University of Cambridge) PhD (University of Cambridge)

Researcher profile:

I graduated from the Australian National University with Honours in History and a University Medal in 1997, before going on to complete graduate study at the University of Cambridge. During this time I also undertook some historical work with the BBC. After a brief period as a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Queensland, I returned to the ANU in 2008.

My intellectual interests centre upon Britain, France and their colonial worlds from the eighteenth century. I am interested in politics and political thought, empire, consumption and culture amongst other things. Much of my personal research is focused upon the social history of ideas. I am interested in the way in which ideas and discourses are taken up, adapted and used by individuals and groups in social situations. I also have a strong interest in historiography and in the uses of history in both the past and the present.

Current Research Projects:

Nature and History in the Political Thought of the French Revolution – This is a project examining conceptions of human nature, natural law and historical process during the era of the French Revolution. It will result in a monograph focused on the revolutionary politician, philosopher, historian and traveler Constantin-François Volney – a largely forgotten figure who has recently been described as the ‘Foucault of his age’.

The Politics of Pleasure in the eighteenth century – This project analyses conceptions of pleasure, and of its role in human life, in the political and moral thought of Europe during the long eighteenth century. It examines the dynamics of that intellectual history against the backdrop of contemporary hopes and fears concerning the rise of commercial society, the division of the religious world and the instability of social order.

Thinking the Human in the Era of Enlightenment – This is a group project, run in collaboration with Dr Ned Curthoys and Dr Shino Konishi, to bring together innovative recent thought on the character and function of competing conceptions of human nature and needs during the Enlightenment in Europe and its colonial world. The project is associated with a conference in July 2010, and a series of group publications to follow.

(ed.) with Ned Curthoys, Discourses of Humanity in the Enlightenment, a special issue of Intellectual History Review (2012)

'“The great society of the human species”: Volney and the global politics of revolutionary France’, Intellectual History Review, 2012.

‘Volney and the science of morality in revolutionary France’, Humanities Research, 16.2 (2010), 7-28. 

‘The Politics of pleasure talk in eighteenth-century Europe’, Sexualities: Studies in Culture and Society, 12.4 (2009), 453-468.

‘Reading Revolution: Towards a history of the Volney vogue in England’ in C. Charle, J. Vincent & J. Winter (ed.s), Anglo-French Attitudes: Comparisons and Transfers between English and French Intellectuals since the 18th Century. (Manchester University, Manchester, 2007), pp. 125-46.

'The Use and Abuse of Historical Re-enactment: Thoughts on recent trends in television history’, Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, 46.3 (2005), 487-496.

Sailing on The Ship: Re-enactment and the Quest for Popular History’, History Workshop Journal, 57 (2004), 247-55.

The Birth of Modernity: Britain 1688-1848

History and Theory

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