Skip to main content

Dr Sophie Nicholls


Sophie Nicholls has a BA in Ancient and Modern History from Oxford, and an MPhil and PhD from Cambridge. She returned to Oxford to take up the Carlyle-Clayman Junior Research Fellowship in the History of Political Thought at St Anne’s College in 2010, and has since continued to work in Oxford as a college lecturer.

Research Interests:

Sophie works on the history of ideas in the Early Modern period, and specialises in the French Wars of Religion. She is interested in the development of political ideas in the context of civil war, Reformation and Counter Reformation.

Sophie’s first monograph, Political Thought in the French Wars of Religion (2021), explores the relationship between the church and the French kingdom in treatises produced in response to the religious and civil crisis of the French wars (1562-1629). It examines the intellectual history of the French Catholic League, and the ways in which members of the League legitimised their resistance to the French monarchy, and the role they played in the assassinations of Henri III and Henri IV.  The impact of these ideas on developing conceptions of sovereignty, church-state relations and political science are a particular focus of the monograph.

Sophie’s recent work focusses on broad themes and questions in French political thought in the Early Modern period, specifically the development of theories of individual, subjective rights; juridical concepts of dominion; the concept of voluntary slavery and anti-democracy.

Her next research project will take the form of a monograph on Franco-Scottish political thought in the Early Modern period, from the sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. She then plans to write a book on the intellectual impact of the French religious wars on the political thought of the seventeenth century, with a particular emphasis on the significance of the work of the jurist Pierre Grégoire (c.1540-1597), whose De Republica (1596/7) made an important, but as yet largely unacknowledged, contribution to the history of ideas.

Sophie is also currently writing a history of the French Wars of Religion.

Key publications:

Political Thought in the French Wars of Religion. Cambridge University Press, ‘Ideas in Context’ series, 2021.

The Midnight Bell. A History of the French Wars of Religion. Forthcoming, under contract with Head of Zeus.

‘Power, consent and the role of the multitude in Étienne de La Boétie’s De la Servitude Volontaire’, Society for Early Modern French Studies, forthcoming.

‘Historic rights in Early Modern France’, in eds A. Fitzmaurice, R. Hammersley, The Cambridge History of Rights1500-1700. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

‘Ideas on Royal Power in the French Wars of Religion: the influence of René Choppin’s De Domanio Franciae (1574)’ French History, 34, 2 (2020): 141-160.

‘Parlementarisme et communautés politiques: le moment Ligueur’ in I. Brancourt (ed.), Au cœur de l’état: parlement(s) et cours souveraines sous l’ancien regime. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2020.

‘Political and Legal Thought’ in The Cambridge History of French Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

‘Sovereignty and government in Jean Bodin’s Six Livres de la République, 1576’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 80, I (2019):  47-66.

‘Catholic resistance theory: William Barclay versus Jean Boucher’ History of European Ideas, 44, 4 (2018): 404-418.

De Justa Reipublicae Christianae in Reges Impios et Haereticos Authoritate (1590): questions of authority and heretic kings in the political thought of the Catholic League.’ Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, LXXVII, 1 (2015): 81-101.

‘Pierre Grégoire’ in Luc Foisneau (dir.), Dictionnaire des philosophes français du XVIIe siècle: acteurs et réseaux du savoir en France entre 1601 et 1700 (Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2015), 829-832.

‘Gallican liberties and the Catholic League.’ History of European Ideas special issue, ‘Thinking about intellectual history.’ Vol. 40, 7 (2014): 940-964.

Academic - Fellows & Lecturers