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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

Office hours: Tuesdays 11.00 - 12.00pm


I am Professor of Political Thought and International Relations in POLIS and a Fellow of Christ’s College.  

I received my B.A. in War Studies from King’s College London and my M.Phil (International Relations) and PhD (History, 2004) from Cambridge. Since then I have been extremely fortunate to spend my career working at Cambridge.  

My research and teaching stand at the intersection of political theory, intellectual history, and International Relations. Over the last couple of decades I have focused principally on tracing ideas about empire – and in particular settler colonialism – in the history of modern British political thought. I have written three books on the subject, as well as assorted articles and book chapters. I have also worked on various topics in contemporary political theory and IR.  

My current research explores how the future of humanity has been imagined – by philosophers, scientists, and fiction writers – in Britain and the United States since the late nineteenth century. I am working on two books, a general history of ideas about the future from Darwin to Artificial Intelligence, and a monograph on the social and political thought of H. G. Wells.  

I Co-Direct the Cambridge Centre for Political Thought and Co-Convene the POLIS History and IR programme. 

I have held visiting positions at Columbia, Harvard, Darmstadt and the FU Berlin. In 2012 I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize and in 2021 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.  


My primary research interests are in the history of modern political thought and contemporary (international) political theory.

More specifically, I work on the following topics:

History of Political Thought

British social and political thought, c.1870-present; modern British and American ideologies of empire and imperial expansion; visions of utopia and dystopia; the history of the human sciences (especially political science and international relations) in the twentieth century.

Contemporary Political Theory & IR

Questions of empire, race and historical injustice in political theory and IR; technology and politics; political aesthetics, with a focus on architecture and speculative literature.


Key publications: 

Duncan's articles have appeared in a wide range of journals, including:

American Political Science Review, British Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Politics and International RelationsConstellations, European Journal of International Relations, International Studies Quarterly, International Affairs, Historical Journal, History of Political Thought, Journal of Modern History, Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, Modern Intellectual History, Political Studies, Political Theory, and Review of International Studies.

For a full list of publications (including on-line papers):

Teaching and Supervisions


I am the convener for POL 20: The Politics of the Future, 1880-2080, a third-year undergraduate course that explores the nature of utopian/dystopian thought.

I also teach philosophy and sociology of social sciences on the PhD program, and various topics on the M.Phil in Political Thought and Intellectual History.

I supervise M.Phil and PhD theses on contemporary political theory, international theory, and the history of modern British and American political thought.

I am also Director of Studies in Politics and Sociology at Christ’s College.

Professor of Political Thought and International Relations
University Teaching Officer
Fellow, Christ's College
Professor Duncan  Bell

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