I graduated from Oxford University (Wadham College) in 2002 with a double First in Modern History and English, also ranking first in my subject. After training as an English teacher and spending a semester teaching at a university in Nanjing, China, in the autumn of 2003 I took up a von Clemm fellowship at Harvard University (awarded to one graduating student from Oxford annually, to fund a year of study at Harvard in any discipline).
At Harvard, I began to work on the history of political thought under Richard Tuck, and enjoyed it so much that the following year I undertook an M.Phil. in Intellectual History and Political Thought at Cambridge University (King's College). While at Cambridge, I focused almost exclusively on 19th and 20th century political thought, and wrote my Master’s dissertation on Marx's and Hayek's views of capitalism and freedom. I was also fortunate enough to receive a prize studentship from the Centre for History and Economics, one of whose directors, Gareth Stedman Jones, was also my supervisor.
In the autumn of 2006, I returned to Harvard to begin doctoral study, again working with Richard Tuck. In part, I was keen to return to Harvard because all my undergraduate and Master’s training had been on exclusively modern subject-matter, and I regretted my lack of exposure to the ancient world. I looked forward to catching up on this aspect of my education over the two years spent preparing for Generals, and started learning ancient Greek, and later, Latin, alongside reading Plato and Aristotle for the first time.
My main interest remained modern European political thought, however, and in 2008 I successfully defended a dissertation prospectus on the birth of modern constitutionalism, focusing on the political thought of the English, American and French revolutions, before a committee consisting of Richard Tuck, Emma Rothschild, Jennifer Hochschild and Eric Nelson. In the same year I became a member of the Center for European Studies at Harvard, and worked as a teaching fellow in ancient and medieval political thought with Richard Tuck, and democratic theory with Jane Mansbridge.
Since 2009, I have held a series of non-teaching research fellowships: in 2009/10 courtesy of the Project on Justice, Welfare and Economics at Harvard, in 2010/11 at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, and in 2011/12 and 2012/13 at Yale Law School. While I’ve missed the contact with students, this time has proven enormously valuable in terms of research. During the 2009/10 academic year I decided to put my work on early modern constitutionalism temporarily on hold, and concentrate full time on what had up to that point been a side project: a study of the role of the courts in classical Athenian democracy. Thanks to the confidence shown in me by my supporters, I was able to make a systematic study of almost the entire corpus of extant primary material from the ancient Greek world, and have arrived at some surprising and potentially far-reaching conclusions that touch on our understanding of both Greek democratic ideas and institutions and the political philosophy that arose in connection with them.
Four working papers on this project have now been presented at national conferences, and two - one on Aristotle’s support for the political authority of the multitude, another on the meaning of “deliberation” in classical Greek - are in the pipeline for publication. The remaining two papers - one on the democratic significance of the Athenian assembly and courts and another on Plato and the conception of justice - will be submitted shortly. These four papers make up the core of my dissertation, Rethinking Athenian Democracy, which I defended in December 2012.
Two related papers, one on the meaning of the term "dēmos" and another on Aristotle and deliberation, will be completed in spring/summer 2013. After that, I will turn my attention to two book-length projects: first an account of democratic authority in Athens, provisionally entitled Dikastic Democracy, based on an analytical framework suggested by Aristotle's Rhetoric; and second a fresh interpretation of the works of Plato based on that account.