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John Montfort Dunn

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Subject: Republic, Harkness Fellowship, Ruth Scurr, Faculty of Human, Social, and Political Science, University of Cambridge
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John Montfort Dunn

For other people of the same name, see John Dunn (disambiguation).

John Mountfort Dunn (born 9 September 1940) is emeritus Professor of Political Theory at King's College, Cambridge, and Visiting Professor in the Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Chiba University, Japan.


The son of Colonel Henry George Mountfort Dunn and Catherine Mary (Ruth Scurr (1997; divorced 2013).


Dunn's work focuses on applying a historical perspective to modern political theory. His early reputation was based upon the careful reconstruction of the political thought of John Locke: this benefited from Peter Laslett's critical edition of Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Together with his contemporary, the historian Quentin Skinner, and their mentor/colleague J.G.A. Pocock, he offered methodological prescriptions in the late 1960s which aimed at correcting the historical insensitivity of political science by reconstructing what past political thinkers intended to do in writing. Much of his subsequent work - reflective essays, edited collections, and several books - has tackled substantive issues in political theory, although his historical sense continues to inform a certain skepticism about the degree to which politics is ultimately amenable to reason. He is the author of The Cunning of Unreason (2001), a work that discusses how the limits of human knowledge and rationality prevent democratic republicanism from achieving all that it promises. His reflections upon the vicissitudes of democracy as a political ideal have continued with Setting the People Free: the Story of Democracy (2005).


  • The Political Thought of John Locke (1969)
  • Modern Revolutions (1972)
  • Dependence and Opportunity (with A F Robertson, 1973)
  • West African States: Failure and Promise (ed, 1978)
  • Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future (1979)
  • Political Obligation in its Historical Context (1980)
  • The Politics of Socialism (1984)
  • Rethinking Modern Political Theory (1985)
  • Interpreting Political Responsibility (1990)
  • The Economic Limits to Modern Politics (ed, 1990)
  • Democracy: the unfinished journey 508 BC - 1993 AD (ed, 1992)
  • Contemporary Crisis of the Nation State? (ed, 1995)
  • The History of Political Theory and Other Essays (1996)
  • Great Political Thinkers (ed. with Ian Harris, 1997)
  • The Cunning of Unreason (2000)
  • Locke: A Very Short Introduction (2003)
  • Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy (2005).
  • Breaking Democracy's Spell (July 2014)

See also

External links

  • Faculty page - Prof. John Dunn
  • John Dunn interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 5th March 2008 (film)
  • RT's Laura Emmet
  • "Democracy: Clarifying the muddle - A conversation with John Dunn", Ideas Roadshow, 2013

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