In 1984, a National Endowment for the Humanities grant established the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought. In 1996, an endowment from Dr. Barbara Taft assured its future. Further gifts and a bequest from Dr. Taft have strengthened its position. Through a series of carefully plotted seminars, conferences, and publications, the Center has re-mapped the main patterns of discourse in a major political culture over three seminal centuries.
The Center's work to date is represented in print by The Varieties of British Political Thought, 1500–1800, edited by J.G.A. Pocock, with the assistance of Gordon J. Schochet and Lois G. Schwoerer, cofounders of the steering committee. The Varieties features essays by the directors of the first comprehensive sequence of grant-funded seminars. Six volumes of "Proceedings" followed from Center’s 1984–87 programs, as have numerous collections of individual conference and seminar papers. Most recently, British Political Thought in History, Literature and Theory, 1500—1800, edited by David Armitage, marked the proceedings of the Center’s twentieth anniversary conference, a conference which has helped to set new agendas for the Center’s future programs. A series of symposia on “Networks and Practices of Political Exchange in the Early Modern World” have also been instrumental in the charting of new courses for the Center. Most of the volumes have been published by Cambridge University Press in association with the Folger Institute. The Institute maintains a complete list of all Center programs and publications.
The Center is overseen by a Steering Committee chaired by J.G.A. Pocock of the Johns Hopkins University and including David Armitage of Harvard University, Linda Levy Peck of George Washington University, Gordon Schochet of Rutgers University, Julia Rudolph of North Carolina State University, Nigel Smith of Princeton University, and Kathleen Lynch of the Folger Institute.