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Ted McCormick, PhD, FRHS

Associate Professor, History
Fellow, School of Irish Studies

Ted McCormick, PhD, FRHS
Office: S-LB 1001-01 
J.W. McConnell Building,
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 5903
Memorious: researching, writing, and repeating history
Availability: Office Hours (2020-21): Remote/e-mail for appointment


BA (1999) University of Maryland, College Park
MA (2001) and PhD (2005) Columbia University

Biography and research interests

I work on the boundary between intellectual history and history of science; I am interested in the relationships between science, technology, political economy and empire in early modern Britain, Ireland and the Atlantic world. 

My first book was William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic (Oxford, 2009). Based on a close examination of the manuscripts of the early economic thinker Sir William Petty (1623-1687), it showed how Petty’s major intellectual creation, “political arithmetic”, brought a mixture of alchemical and natural-philosophical ideas to bear on the problem of governing and transforming colonial populations in Ireland and the Atlantic, as well as confessional and labouring populations in Britain itself. The book won the 2010 John Ben Snow Prize, awarded by the North American Conference on British Studies. 

have recently completed my second book, which uses printed and manuscript material to explore changing ideas about the government of populations over a longer period, from c.1500 to c.1800 (or from Thomas More's Utopia to T.R. Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population). Scholars have often treated demographic thought as an aspect of the history of quantification. Instead, I show how a series of engagements with the qualities of specific groups – husbandmen, vagrants, the Irish, and colonial and colonized populations across the Atlantic – shaped the idea of population as an object of transformation, and made the transformation of populations a central task of government and a key component of the public good. 

With the support of a 2020-24 SSHRC Insight Grant, I have begun research on a third book, looking at the role of technological projects and mechanical inventions in Ireland and the English Caribbean between c.1650 and c.1680. Using manuscripts in UK, Irish, and Caribbean archives, I hope to elucidate how the perceived implications of technological innovations changed from one colonial context to another, and how these differences reflected and/or informed practical and ideological engagements with free, unfree and enslaved labour, as well as nascent concepts of race. 

Alongside my academic research, I am also interested in public perceptions of historians’ work, particularly as they relate to historical flashpoints in the renewed “Culture Wars” of the last several years: the commemoration vs. critique of settler colonialism, the centring vs. marginalization of racism and slavery in the narration of national pasts, the methodological vs. ideological nature of “revisions” to established historical narratives, and so on. I hope to develop a fourth book project examining these issues in light of key historiographical concepts and practices that are often obscured or omitted in public debate. 

have published research in OsirisHistory of ScienceIrish Historical Studies, the Journal of British StudiesThe William and Mary Quarterly and other journals, and contributed chapters to several edited volumes on the history of political and economic thought, early social science, and Ireland -- including The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History and The Cambridge History of Ireland. I have written for History Compass, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Conversation, and my work has been featured in Pour la Science and the London Review of Books. I am an associate editor of the Journal of British Studies.

Student supervision and placement

Former honours and MA students of mine have gone on to further study at McGill and Dalhousie in Canada as well as Columbia, the CUNY Graduate Center, NUI Galway, Oxford, and Trinity College Dublin. A list of current and past students, including thesis topics/titles with dates of completion, is below.

If you are interested in early modern British, Irish, or Atlantic history, or the history of science, feel free to email me or drop by my office to ask about thesis supervision.

Social media

I am on Twitter (@mccormick_ted), and I blog about my research, academia, and the historical profession at

I also help administer the 
M:Early Modernists Facebook page, an interdisciplinary forum for Montreal-area scholars with early modern interests (associated Twitter account @MtlEarlyModern).

William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic (2009)

Grants, fellowships, and awards

2020-2024: Insight Grant, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada

2015-2017: Seed Grant, Office of the Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies, Concordia University

2013-2015: (Co-applicant) Subvention grant for Groupe de recherche en histoire des sociabilités (GRHS), Université de Québec à Montréal

2013: Visiting Fellowship, Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney

2010: Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, UK (elected)

2010: John Ben Snow Foundation Book Prize, North American Conference on British Studies (for William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic)

2010-2014: Standard Research Grant, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada

2010-2011: Mellon Fellowship (long-term), Huntington Library

2009-2010: Seed Grant, Office of the Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies, Concordia University

2006-2008: Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Irish Research Council for Social Sciences and Humanities



William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) [book here; reviewed in the London Review of Books here]

Journal special issues

Co-edited with Vera Keller, "Towards a History of Projects", special issue, Early Science and Medicine 21:5 (2016) [special issue here]

Articles and book sections

"Food, Population, and Empire in the Hartlib Circle, 1639-1660", in Emma Spary and Anya Zilberstein (eds.), Food Matters: Critical Histories of the Food Sciences, Osiris 35 (2020): 60-83 [article here]

"Projecting the
Experiment: Science and the Restoration", in Janet E. Clare (ed.), From Republic to Restoration: Legacies and Departures (Manchester University Press, 2018), 185-205 [book here]

"Restoration Politics, 1661-1691", in Jane H. Ohlmeyer (ed.), 
The Cambridge History of Ireland, vol. 2: Early Modern Ireland 1550-1730, 96-119 (Cambridge University Press, 2018) [chapter here]

"Moral Geometry in Restoration Ireland: Samuel Foley's Computatio Universalis (1684) and the Science of Colonisation", Irish Historical Studies 40:158 (2016): 192-207 [article here; pre-publication version here]

"Who Were the Pre-Malthusians?", in Robert Mayhew (ed.), 
New Perspectives on Malthus: 250th Anniversary Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) [book here; pre-publication version here]

"Alchemy into Economy: Material Transmutation and the Conceptualization of Utility in Gabriel Plattes (c.1600-1644) and William Petty (1623-1687)", in Guillaume Garner and Sandra Richter (eds.), „Eigennutz“ und „gute Ordnung“: Ökonomisierungen im 17. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016), 339-52 [book here; pre-publication version here]

"Statistics in the Hands of an Angry God? John Graunt's Observations in Cotton Mather's New England", William and Mary Quarterly 72:4 (2015): 563-86 [article here; pre-publication version here]

"Restoration Ireland, 1660-1688”, in Alvin Jackson (ed.),
The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) [book here]

“Political Arithmetic’s Eighteenth-Century Histories: Quantification in Politics, Religion, and the Public Sphere”, History Compass 12:3 (2014): 239-51 [article here]

“Population: Modes of Seventeenth-Century Demographic Thought”, in Carl Wennerlind and Philip J. Stern (eds.), Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 25-45 [book here]

“Political Arithmetic and Sacred History: Population Thought in the English Enlightenment, 1660-1750”, Journal of British Studies 52:4 (2013): 829-57 [article here]

“Governing Model Populations: Queries, Quantification, and William Petty's ‘Scale of Salubrity’”, History of Science 51:2 (2013): 179-98 [article here; pre-publication version here]

“‘A Proportionable Mixture’: Sir William Petty, Political Arithmetic, and the Transmutation of the Irish,” in Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled, edited by Coleman Dennehy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 123-39 [book here]

“Transmutation, Inclusion, and Exclusion: Political Arithmetic from Charles II to William III,” Journal of Historical Sociology, 20:3 (2007): 259-78 [article here]

“Alchemy in the Political Arithmetic of Sir William Petty (1623-1687),” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37:2 (2006): 290-307 [article here]

Magazine articles

Co-authored with Shannon Dea, "Can 'progress studies' contribute to knowledge? History suggests caution", The Conversation, 11 August 2019 (article here)

"Publish and Perish",
The Chronicle Review, Chronicle of Higher Education 63:19, 13 January 2017 (article here)

Papers and presentations

Conference, workshop, and seminar presentations (last two years)

"The Unnatural Origins of Self-Interest", Social Justice Centre Speaker Series, Concordia University, 28 November 2019

"Relocating William Petty (1623-87): The Significance of Political Arithmetic in the Making of Population", Early Modern Theories of Society symposium, Research Center for the Humanities, Budapest, 15 November 2019

"Engines of Division: Projects, Improvement, and Colonial Populations in the Mid-Seventeenth Century", Northeast Conference in British Studies, McGill University, 5 October 2019

"Population before Quantification: Mobility, Mutability, and the Making of Political Arithmetic, 1500-1700", British Studies Graduate Cluster, Northwestern University, Evanston, 1 October 2019

"English Colonial Projects and the Construction of Interest, c.1640-1690”, “Knowledge(s)
 of Self-Interest” workshop, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen, 8 February 2019

Teaching and supervision

Courses 2020-2021

Fall 2020:

HIST328: The Scientific Revolution
HIST398D: Early Modern Utopias

Winter 2021:

Sabbatical leave

Courses taught


HIST/HISW 207: Early Modern Europe
HIST 326: Reformation and Counter-Reformation
HIST 328: The Scientific Revolution
HIST 340: Early Modern Britain and Ireland
HIST 382: The Enlightenment
HIST 398: Intolerance and Toleration in Early Modern Europe
HIST 403: Methodology and History (Honours)

Subject seminars (offered as HIST 437/610)

Early Modern Utopias
History and Progress in the Enlightenment
Knowledge and Power in Early Modern Europe
Revolutions in Three Kingdoms: England, Scotland, and Ireland 1640-1660
Science and Early Modern Culture

Graduate and Honours students (current and graduated)


Solveig Hanson, "Midwives, Knowledges, and Medical Publications in Seventeenth-Century England and Ireland" (current)

Hannah Sparwasser Soroka, "Anthropophagy in Three Keys: New World Cannibalism, the Blood Libel, and Corpse Medicine in the British Atlantic World, 1640-1660" (current)

Rana Fahmy, MA thesis, "Re-Settling Woes and Rebellions: The Role of 
Irelands Natvrall History in the Cromwellian Era" (2019)

James Leduc, MA thesis, "Between Sovereignty and Conscience in the Early Modern World: Archbishop Richard Creagh and the Problem of Government in Tudor Ireland" (2017; winner of the Edward Eastman McCullough Award for best MA thesis in History)

Tyson Lowrie, MA essay, "Broadcasting Peace: UN Peacekeeping Radio Operations, 1989-Present" (2015)

Vanessa Hulewicz, MA essay, "Breeding Behaviour: Etiquette and Companionate Marriage among the British Elite, 1870-1920" (2015)

Thomas Reubens, MA essay, "Barebones of the Financial Revolution" (2013)


Cynthia Panneton, "The Struggle of Friends: Toleration and Persecution of Quakers in Seventeenth-Century England and New England" (2016)

Patrick Reed, "'Seized by Terror and Great Fear': Emotions as Ideology in Early Medieval Ireland" (2016)

Christopher Schütze, "Sir William Osler's View: Medical Science, Institutionalization and Community in the Nineteenth Century" (2009)

Pierre-Etienne Stockland, "'Nature Doth Everywhere Geometrize': The Ontology of the Beehive in Seventeenth-Century English Natural Philosophy" (2009; winner of the David Fox Memorial Prize for best History Honours thesis)

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