Skip Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Professor Teresa Bejan

BA, MPhil, PhD

Teresa M. Bejan is Professor of Political Theory and a Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. She arrived in Oxford from the University of Toronto in 2015.

In 2021, Prof Bejan was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Politics, which celebrates early career researchers who have already achieved international recognition and with exceptional future promise.

Other awards include the Britain and Ireland Association for Political Thought’s Early Career Prize (2020), a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2018), the Balzan-Skinner Fellowship in Modern Intellectual History at Cambridge (2016), the American Political Science Association’s Leo Strauss Award for the best doctoral dissertation in political philosophy (2015), and a Mellon Research Fellowship in the Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities (2013-2014). In the 2020-2021 academic year she was on leave from Oxford as the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Constitutional and Political Theory at McGill University.

Research Interests

Professor Bejan’s research brings historical perspectives to bear on questions in contemporary political theory. She has written extensively on themes of free speech, civility, tolerance and equality in historical contexts ranging from ancient Athens to 20th-century analytic political philosophy.

Her first book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration (2017), examined contemporary calls for civility in light of 17th-century debates about religious toleration. It defended an ideal of ‘mere civility’ consistent with American free speech fundamentalism derived from Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. Her second book, tentatively entitled First Among Equals, explores the fascinating but forgotten history of equality before modern egalitarianism, due out in 2023 from Harvard University Press. Her next major research project will be the Clarendon edition of John Locke’s Letters on Toleration.

She has also published peer-reviewed articles in American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Political Theory, History of Political Thought, and more. Her Special Forum on “The Historical Rawls” for Modern Intellectual History (co-edited with Sophie Smith and Annette Zimmermann) was published in 2021.

Alongside her academic work, Prof Bejan writes regularly for popular venues, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. In 2018, she gave a TED Talk, ‘Is Civility a Sham?,’ which has received over 1.7 million views.

Selected Publications


Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration (Harvard University Press 2017, paperback 2019)

First Among Equals (under contract with Harvard University Press)

Locke and Liberalism: An Introduction (under contract with Penguin UK)

Edited Collections

“The Historical Rawls,” Special issue for the journal Modern Intellectual History (2021), co-edited with Sophie Smith and Annette Zimmermann.

The Political Thought of John Locke Revisited, in preparation for Oxford University Press, co-edited with Felix Waldmann.


“Hobbes and Hats,” American Political Science Review (online first, Jan 2023),

“Hobbes Against Hate Speech,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy (online first, Feb 2022),

“No Respecter of Persons,” contribution to symposium on “Social Inclusion and the Ethics of Citation” for The Journal of Biblical Literature (2021) 140: 831-836,

“What was the Point of Equality?,” American Journal of Political Science (online first, Oct 2021),

“Rawls’s Teaching and the ‘Tradition’ of Political Philosophy,” Modern Intellectual History (2021) 18: 1058-1079,

“The Historical Rawls,” with Sophie Smith and Annette Zimmermann, Modern Intellectual History (2021) 18: 899-905,

“In Search of an Established Church,” Roger Williams University Law Review 26 (2021): 284-335,

“Free Expression or Equal Speech?” Social Philosophy & Policy 37 (2020): 153-169,

“Two Concepts of Freedom (of Speech),” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 163 (2019), 95-107,

“Reconsidering Tolerance: Insights from Political Theory and Three Experiments,” co-authored with Calvert W. Jones. British Journal of Political Science (online first November 2019),

“‘Since all the World is Mad, Why should not I be so?’ Equality, Hierarchy, and Ambition in the Thought of Mary Astell.” Political Theory (online first May 2019),

“John Locke on Toleration, (In)civility, and the Quest for Concord,” History of Political Thought 37 (2016), 556-587.

“Difference without Disagreement: Re-thinking Hobbes on ‘Independency’ and Toleration,” Review of Politics 78 (2016), 1-25.

“Evangelical Toleration,” The Journal of Politics 77 (2015), 1103-1114.

“‘The Bond of Civility’: Roger Williams on Toleration and its Limits,” History of European Ideas 37 (2011), 409-420.

“Teaching the Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes on Education,” Oxford Review of Education 36:5 (2010), 607-626.

  • Reprinted in the collection, Ideas of Education: Political and Philosophical Perspectives from Plato to the Nineteenth Century, edited by C. Brooke and E. Frazer (Routledge, 2013).
  • Reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan (2nd edition), ed. D.C. Johnston (Norton, 2020).
Book Chapters

“On the Historical Emergence of Basic Equality,” in How Can We Be Equals, eds. G. Floris and N. Kirby (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

“Roger Williams,” with Matthew Young, in The Princeton Anthology of American Political Thought, eds. N. Buccola, S. McWilliams, and R. Montas (Princeton University Press, forthcoming).

“Civility” in Women of Ideas, edited by Suki Finn (Oxford University Press, 2021), 157-168.

“What’s the Use? Rainer Forst on the History of Toleration,” in Toleration, Power, and the Right to Justification: Rainer Forst in Dialogue, ed. David Owen (Manchester University Press, 2020).

“First Impressions: Hobbes on Religion, Education, and the Metaphor of Imprinting,” invited chapter for Hobbes on Politics and Religion, edited by Robin Douglass and Laurens van Apeldoorn (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“‘When the Word of the Lord Runs Freely’: Roger Williams and Evangelical Toleration,” invited chapter for The Lively Experiment: The Story of Religious Toleration in America, from Roger Williams to the Present, edited by Christopher Beneke and Christopher Grenda (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015).

“The Difficult Work of Liberal Civility,” co-authored with Bryan Garsten, invited chapter for Civility, Legality, and the Limits of Justice, edited by Austin Sarat (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Other Publications

“The Problem with Problematic,” The Atlantic (Oct 2021),

“Divided We Stand,” New Statesman (Nov 2020),

“What Quakers Can Teach Us about the Politics of Pronouns,” The New York Times (16 Nov. 2019),

“Can’t We All Just Disagree?” Australia Broadcast Corporation: Religion & Ethics (Aug. 2019).

“Is Civility a Sham?” TED Talk (Nov. 2018), with over 1.7 million views.

“The Two Clashing Meanings of Free Speech,” The Atlantic (2 Dec. 2017).

“You don’t have to be nice to political opponents. But you do have to talk to them,” The Washington Post (8 March 2017).