Photo of Linda KirkDr Linda Kirk

Honorary Lecturer in Early Modern History
M.A. (Cantab.), Ph.D. (Lond.), FRHistS
18th c. Europe, 18th c. Geneva



Photo of Richard Cumberland and Natural Law book by Linda KirkLinda Kirk's undergraduate education was at Cambridge, and after a short while lecturing at the then University College of Rhodesia she returned to England, simultaneously starting part-time work on her doctorate at London University and teaching at Sheffield University, where she worked for 40 years.

Her main research interests lie in the history of seventeenth and eighteenth-century ideas and their connections with social and political behaviour in ancien régime Europe. She has written on the resurgence of religious intolerance in Europe in the late seventeenth century. She has focused, however, on the city-state of Geneva, especially in the eighteenth century, publishing a number of articles and working on a book-length study. In exploring the ways in which eighteenth-century understandings of political culture gave rise to what moderns perceive as states, participation-rights and revolutions she engages with both the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and has published on Tom Paine.

Professional Roles

Former member of panel for Civil Service fast-stream selection; current Bishop’s adviser on vocations.



Linda Kirk Richard Cumberland and Natural Law book coverRichard Cumberland and Natural Law (Cambridge, James Clark, 1987)

The first biographical and intellectual study of the most influential of 17th-century natural law philosophers, whose writings prefigured the rise of classical utilitarian thought.

No study in the history of seventeenth century thought is complete without some mention of Richard Cumberland, one of the many writers who aimed to refute Hobbes. Cumberland remains one of the few important writers of his century on whom, little of substance has been written.

In the past Cumberland has been somewhat unfairly overshadowed by his fellow anti-Hobbists. His one important work, De Legibus Naturae, first appeared in Latin in 1672 and has never been satisfactorily translated into English. That he published so little in such a prolific age was unusual, but his influence through his work continued to be felt well into the nineteenth century. It is now clear that he went further than both Grotius and Pufendorf in devising a system which prefigured classical utilitarianism, propounding a cosmology based upon the reconciliation of charity and self-interest.

In this study, Cumberland is placed for the first time, in his intellectual and historical setting. The author describes Cumberland's life, his work as Bishop of Peterborough, his book and above all his position in the development of natural law theory.

Articles and Chapters

- The Logic of Self-determination in S. Bahar and V. Cossie, eds., Geneva, an English Enclave 1725-1814, (Slatkine, Geneva, 2009).

- 'Indefinite Success: Religion and Culture in Eighteenth-century Geneva' in Elite and Popular Religion: Studies in Church History (42, 2006) pp. 305-314.

- 'The Matter of Enlightenment', Historical Journal, 43 (2000) 1129-1143.

- '"Going soft": Genevan Decadence in the Eighteenth Century', in John B. Roney and Martin I. Klauber (eds), The Identity of Geneva: The Christian Commonwealth 1564-1864, (Westport, CT, Greenwood, 1998).

- 'Genevan Republicanism', in David Wootton (ed), Republicanism, Liberty and Commercial Society, 1649-1776, (Stanford, CUP, 1994).

- 'A Poor Church in a Rich City: the Case of Geneva' in Marcel Pacaut et Olivier Fatio (eds.) L'Hostie et le Denier: Les Finances Ecclésiastiques du Haut Moyen Age à l'époque Moderne, Actes du Colloque de la Commission internationale d'histoire ecclésiastique comparée, Genève août 1989, (Geneva, 1991).

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

Linda Kirk continues to give invited lectures.

Administrative Duties

Administrative Duties

Former member of Senate, Council and many University committees.