Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Jake Halford

About me

I am a third year PhD student at the University of Warwick in the midst of researching dialogue, democracy and the public sphere in the seventeenth and eighteenth century under the supervision of Mark KnightsLink opens in a new window. I began my university career at Lancaster University where I studied History and Philosophy for my BA. After completing my BA I spent the summer working at the Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGEN) researching the history of Biobanks and Genetic Databases with Richard TuttonLink opens in a new window. Following my internship I stayed at Lancaster University to study an MA in philosophy that was generously funded by an AHRC studentship. Working with Stephen PumfreyLink opens in a new window my MA thesis was a genealogical and linguistic analysis of philosophy in the seventeenth century that used corpus linguistics and discourse analysis in conjunction with Early English Books OnlineLink opens in a new window to look at the conceptualisation of new philosophy.

Research Interests

My current research is focused on democracy and the public sphere in the Early Modern Sphere. It aims to interrogate the conenction between public discussion and democracy through looking at the literary form of the dialogue, more information can be found here. My general academic interests are:

  • Public discourse and the relationship between literature, language and ideas
  • The history of early modern key-words and concepts
  • The philosophy of history
  • The representation of debate and controversy
  • Authorship and readership
  • Early modern philosophy and natural philosophy
  • Historical linguistics, discourse analysis and digital humanities

My Research

The early modern period has been seen as a key stage in the formation of modernity, with, arguably, both a democratic culture and a public sphere formed in this period. My research intends to explore the relationship between democracy, dialogue and debate through an analysis of the dialogue genre.

What is a dialogue?

The dialogue genre was a popular literary form in the early modern period, with over 1,500 dialogues published in the seventeenth century and it consisted of a written conversation between two, or more, people. As a form it was used extensively by a variety of people including Galileo, Thomas Hobbes, Robert L'estrange and John Bunyan. Dialogues were written on a wide variety of subjects such as theological controversies, political debates, news discussions, fishing and romantic ballads.

Why study dialogues?


The dialogue genre as a whole has been neglected by early modern scholars, with very little published work on them. My study will contribute to resurrecting the forgotten voices of the dialogue writers to address this gap in scholarship. However, my research will not simply just recover the lost voices of the dialogue genre but it will view dialogues as participants of a broader social, intellectual and commercial nexus with the capability of shedding new light upon popular literary forms and common opinion. This approach is necessary due to the nature of the dialogue, as the dialogue genre was a hybrid form that appropriated and wove itself amongst other genres of writing. The incorporation of multiple genres within a dialogue makes a study of dialogues a useful point to bring together and synthesise scholarship on other popular literary forms. This fusion will allow me to interrogate the influence of popular culture on the public sphere and a democratic culture through the lens of the dialogue genre. Further, dialogues are also worth studying because they are a representation of social exchange, debate and discussion. By looking at them it can help us to understand the nature of communication in the early modern period, and the way in which debate and discussion was represented and perceived to have been conducted.

How will you study dialogues?

Dialogues sit on the cusp of multiple other genres in order to study them it requires an interdisciplinary approach. Having identified and catalogued the dialogues published in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries my research seeks to bring together the following interpretative frameworks and methodologies to study them:

  • Bakhtin's dialogism and intertextualityscreen_shot_2012-05-31_at_20.26.46.png
  • Corpus linguistics, text-mining and discourse analysis
  • Skinner and Pocock's historical contextualism
  • Ricoeur and Bourdieu's hermeneutics

The dialogues will be studied in relation to the scholarship on the following:

  • Pamphlets, newspapers and print culture
  • Ballads, songs, and popular culture
  • Anonymity, authorship and readership
  • Language and social exchange
  • Public opinion and the public sphere
  • Politics, literature and ideas
  • Politeness, civility and oral culture

What does the study of dialogues aim to achieve?

A closer scrutiny of the dialogue form and its rhetorical role in this period will contribute to a greater understanding of how debate and controversy were structured, mediated and created and provide a perspective from which to inspect changing attitudes to novelty and tradition. The significance of this is that it will explore the extent to which the dialogue genre contributed to the formation of a democratic culture and public sphere in the early modern period. This will be evaluated in conjunction with looking at the way in which the term 'democracy' was used during this period to understand how democracy was conceptualised and understood in the Early Modern Period.

Academic Profile

2011-2014 - PhD (History) University of Warwick

2010-2011 - MA (Philosophy) Lancaster University (Distinction)

2010-2010 - University of Copenhagen, ERASMUS Module

2008-2011 - BA (History and Philosophy) Lancaster University (First Class)


2013 - Folger Library NEH funded Summer Institute

2013 - Warwick-Newberry Mellon Fellowship

2012 - HRC conference

2012 - Warwick-Newberry Residential Summer Workshop

2012 - Institute of Ideas Scholarship

2011 - AHRC Doctoral Award

2010 - AHRC MA Award

2010 - Friends of Lancaster Research Internship Award


Jacob Halford, Review of Science in Denmark: A 2,000 year history, in British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 43, No. 1, March 2010

Jacob Halford, ‘Models of Exemplarity: Uraniborg and Solomon’s House’ in Re-inventing utopia: science, politics and religion in early modern Europe, Studii de Stiinta si Cultura, Vol. 6, No. 4, Dec 2010

Outside of Academia

When not reading copious amounts of books I like to cycle around the Derbyshire countryside, play the guitar, watch and make films. I blog on a semi-regular basis for Wheat and Tares and I have a personal blog in which I try and keep track of all the beautiful words, pictures and films I encounter.




“The emergence of 'new philosophy' in the discourses of seventeenth century philosophy” EEBO-TCP conference, University of Oxford, September 2012


"A Map of Mischief: Conflict, Disagreement and the Dialogue Genre 1640-1660,"
Warwick Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick, June 2012
"The rise of new philosophy in the seventeenth century,"
British Society of the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, January 2012
"Was there a paradigm shift in the seventeenth century?"
Early Modern Seminar, University of Sheffield, October 2011
"Models of Exemplarity: Solomon's House and Uraniborg,"
HISTFEST, Lancaster University, July 2011
"A genealogy of philosophy in the seventeenth century,"
Postgraduate Philosophy Conference, Lancaster University, June 2011
"Galileo, the Church and the Iconography of the Scientific Revolution"
Science and Religion Symposium, University of Birmingham, May 2011
"The curious case of Thomas Bushell: A reflection on the rise of Baconianism"
British Society of the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, University of Manchester, January 2011
"Towards a Taxonomy of Biobanks and Genetic Databases,"
CESAGEN internship conference, Lancaster University, September 2010


"Free Will in the Past and Today," Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick, February 2012

"Liberty and its Histories: a Symposium with Quentin Skinner," Lancaster University, November 2010

'Mapping the Genomic Era: Measurements and Meanings,' ESRC Genomics Network Conference, Cardiff, September 2010

Professional Development

Reading Publics in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Renaissance Europe, Warwick-Newberry Summer Workshop, July 2012

How to be an effective researcher, Research Student Skills Programme, November 2011

Speed Reading, Research Student Skills Programme, January 2012


Virginia Cox, The Renaissance Dialogue: Literary Dialogue in Its Social and Political Contexts Castiglione to Galileo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

David Zaret, Origins of Democratic Culture (Princetone: Princeton University Press, 2000)

John R. Snyder, Writing the Scene of Speaking: Theories of Dialogue in the Late Italian Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989)

K. J Wilson, Incomplete Fictions: The Formation of English Renaissance Dialogue (Catholic University of Armedea Press, 1985).

Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Jean-François Vallée Dorothea B. Heitsch (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004)

Susan Wiseman, Drama and Politics in the English Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Joad Raymond, Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Joad Raymond, The Invention of the Newspaper (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005)

Richard Hust, "News and Politics in Early Seventeenth-Century England," Past & Present 112 (1986),

C. J. Sommerville, The News Revolution in England (Oxford and New York: 1996).

Matthew Dimmock, ed., Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Ashgate, 2009)

David Mckitterick, Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order: 1450-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Lynne Magnusson, Shakespeare and Social Dialogue : Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Kevin Sharpe, Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000)

D. Freist, Governed by Opinion: Politics, Religion and Dynamics of Communication in Stuart London 1637-1645 (London: 1997),

Tim Harris, London Crowds in the Reign of Charles Ii (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987),

Mark Knights, Politics and Opinion in Crisis 1678-1681 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Quentin Skinner, "Language and Political Change," in Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, ed. James Farr and Russell L. Hanson Terence Ball,

Quentin Skinner, "Language and Social Change," in Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics, ed. James Tully (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988)

Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, trans. Caryl Emerson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984)

F. Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England 1476-1776 (Urbana: 1952)

Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991)

Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London: Ashgate, 1978)


Jacob Halford

The Frozen SeaLink opens in a new window

Main Supervisor:

Prof Mark Knights

Contact Details