Fulbright winner headed to Vanderbilt University

James Crimmins is looking forward to a new prospect – calling Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., home for the next academic year.

Awarded the 2012-13 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the southern American university, Crimmins, a professor of political theory at Huron University College, will use the year to research the relationship between rights and utility in American political and philosophical thought since the 1776 revolution.



“The traditional view is that utilitarian ideas were of little consequence in shaping the political and intellectual culture of the new republic, and the standard texts in the field give short shrift to the notion that utilitarianism was a significant influence,” he said.

“Utilitarian writings were widely read and reviewed in the periodicals of the day, utilitarian ideas had a major impact in the teaching of law and in the law reform movement, and utilitarianism was enlisted, for example, on both sides of the debates on codification, democracy, political economy and property law, the death penalty and slavery.”

His project will be co-funded by a three year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant.

Crimmins was born and educated in Wales and received his B.A. and M.A. from Swansea University, before completing a PhD at Western. Having taught at Western for nearly three decades and widely published, he is a past fellow of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.

The Fulbright appointment comes at a pivotal moment in his academic career, Crimmins noted.

“Vanderbilt is a private research university with a strong nucleus of scholars in the law school and the departments of history and philosophy working on themes and questions related to my interests. I am looking forward to connecting with these scholars and testing my ideas in the various interdisciplinary workshops and seminars held at Vanderbilt,” he said.

“In the last few years, my interests have shifted to this side of the Atlantic, and the Fulbright will provide a unique opportunity to further my engagement with American political and philosophical thought. In addition, in 2014-15 it is my intention to offer an undergraduate course at Huron on the U.S. Constitution.  The research I will conduct at Vanderbilt and other American universities will provide a good foundation for the teaching of this course.

“Western’s Centre for American Studies provides a ready-made venue for the linkages supported by the Fulbright. In 2013-14, I will also be a visiting fellow in the Institute of Bills of Rights Law at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia,” he added.

Crimmins’ books include Secular Utilitarianism (1990), Utilitarians and Religion (1998), Jeremy Bentham’s Auto-Icon and related writings (2002) and On Bentham (2004). His most recent book, Utilitarian Philosophy and Politics (2011), was reissued in paperback in 2013, as was an earlier collection of essays Religion, Secularization and Political Thought (1989). His edition of The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism also appeared in 2013.

The Fulbright scholarship program was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, through the medium of educational and cultural exchange. The program was conceived by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, a Rhodes Scholar. A highly competitive scholarship program, it has produced over 300,000 alumni in 150 countries. It is the largest and most prestigious academic exchange program in the world.