John Selden
John Selden, 1584-1654: Scholarship in Context

Thursday 24th – Saturday 26th June 2010

Magdalen College, Oxford

keynote speakers

Professor G.J. Toomer • Mordechai Feingold • Peter Miller • Jason Rosenblatt • Richard Tuck


Sharon Achinstein • Sir John Baker • Mark Bland • Hans Blom • Elizabethanne Boran • Christopher Brooks • Alan Coates • Theodor Dunkelgrün • Anthony Grafton • Simon Keynes • Vivienne Larminie • Jan Loop • Scott Mandelbrote • Anthony Milton • Sarah Mortimer • Martin Mulsow • Eric Nelson • Paul Nelles • Graham Parry • Annabel Patterson • Jean-Louis Quantin • Julian Roberts • Richard Sharpe • Harvey Shoolman • Colin Tite • Chad van Dixhoorn • Dirk van Miert • Joanna Weinberg


We will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first publications of the jurist, historian, Hebraist and polymath, John Selden (1584-1654) with a major international conference on his life and works in Oxford. Selden, 'the monarch in letters' (Jonson), England's 'chief of learned men' (Milton), was the most important scholar in Britain in the seventeenth century. He was a major antiquary and historian of English law, whose work was unrivalled before Maitland in the nineteenth century. He was also a central figure in the transmission of Oriental learning to the West. He was acknowledged in his lifetime as the greatest living Christian authority on Jewish law and history; indeed, he probably knew more about Rabbinical Judaism than any Christian who had ever lived. He encouraged the study of Arabic, and produced one of the first English editions of an Arabic text. He was also an internationally recognised theorist of international law (in his Mare Clausum) and natural law (De Iure Naturali et Gentium). His works were caught up in many of the most controversial religious and political issues of the day, provoking praise and polemic throughout Europe. His correspondence network extended to northern Europe and eastwards to Aleppo. He was also the greatest collector of books and manuscripts in England: his library included three pre-Columbian codices and a map of China that is now recognized as one of the most important of seventeenth-century Chinese historical artefacts. The majority of Selden's library came to the Bodleian after his death. An exhibition of treasures from among Selden's collections is being held in the Bodleian in association with the conference. Selden is a figure of comparable importance to Grotius and Hobbes, and our conference intends to explore new ways in which this major figure can be made central to the study of the early-modern period.

We have gathered an international, inter-disciplinary, and cross-period team of leading scholars to assess the importance and impact of Selden's works. Leading experts will also explore Selden's place within the cultures and controversies of the seventeenth century, and the role his correspondence played in the habits and technologies of the Republic of Letters. The conference is designed to celebrate and build upon the publication of Professor G.J. Toomer's magnum opus, John Selden: A Life in Scholarship (OUP, 2009), and we are thrilled to be welcoming Professor Toomer himself to address the conference.

The conference will also be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Oxford in the spring and to make use of our many research libraries. The conference will be held in Magdalen College, and some accommodation (first-come, first-served) will be available on site in the college. On the first day of the conference delegates will be welcomed to Oxford with a drinks reception in the Bodleian Library's Divinity School, at which an exhibition of Selden's books and manuscripts will be opened. And the conference as a whole will conclude with a formal dinner in Magdalen College.


Please see the Conference Schedule (PDF) for details.

Please visit our online conference shop, where you will be able to book your place.

Full PriceGraduate Students
Whole conference£125£85
Two days£100£65
One day£60£40


We have a limited amount of accommodation available in Magdalen College, to be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. Ensuite rooms at £66pn or standard rooms at £55pn are both available. To reserve a room please contact either or


A small number of graduate bursaries will be available. They pay for half of the cost of the whole conference, and are only available to those coming for three days. Please ask your PhD supervisor to send a short email to confirming you are registered for a higher degree and that you have no other access to conference funding from your college or university. The bursaries will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.


For further details on the conference please contact or