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 Bradfield 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 founding members of the Steering Committee were J.G.A. Pocock, Lois G. Schwoerer, and Gordon J. Schochet. Linda Levy Peck replaced Professor Schwoerer. Current members of the Steering Committee include its chair, Nigel Smith (Princeton University), and Sharon Achinstein (Johns Hopkins University), David Armitage (Harvard University), Julia Rudolph (North Carolina State University), and Owen Williams (Folger Institute, ex officio).
A number of past programs have resulted in publications such as The Varieties of British Political Thought, 1500–1800.