In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Francis Bacon

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies and Reference Guides
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Source Collections
  • Biographies
  • Journals
  • Bacon and the Law
  • Bacon’s Theology
  • Reputation and Influence

Renaissance and Reformation Francis Bacon
Sarah Covington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0138


No one disputes the tremendous importance of Francis Bacon in the context of early modern natural, moral, and legal philosophy, but assessments of that importance in the long term, and of the man himself, have been subject to considerable debate. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bacon’s empiricism, specifically his inductive method, was viewed as leading inexorably to modern science; for others, however, Bacon’s larger “reformation of learning” had little to do with the “new science” that ensued. In the 20th century, Theodor Adorno acknowledged Bacon’s importance but criticized the idea he was said to have originated, of a science based on the domination of nature—a view that was reiterated, with some variation, by feminist and eco-minded scholars in the 1980s and later. Meanwhile, Bacon’s moral character as well as his political career were also in doubt, beginning with Thomas Macaulay’s demolition of him in 1837, but recent decades have witnessed a rehabilitation of the man and his work. Whatever the opinion held, the range of Bacon’s thought is so encompassing as to extend across the disciplines, eliciting scholarship from historians of science to political and literary scholars. The following bibliography reflects this range, even if the categories are somewhat arbitrarily imposed and most books move across the boundaries of Bacon’s life and thought. On a final note, the role of Bacon in the ongoing Shakespeare authorship debates has been omitted because it is dismissed by most scholars; for that subject, interested students should nevertheless consult James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Bibliographies and Reference Guides

Bacon can be found in virtually any reference work that covers philosophy, science, or the history of ideas. Klein 2011 provides a good online reference, as does Rossi 1973–1974, also online. For guides to his work, Gibson 1950 is the authoritative source for the editions up through 1750, while the Bibliography of British and Irish History provides the best gateway to secondary sources of the past and present.

  • Bibliography of British and Irish History.

    Formerly known as the Royal Historical Society Bibliography and hosted by University of London’s Institute of Historical Research, this definitive database, updated three times a year, provides excellent search capabilities for articles and books written on Bacon. Available by institutional or personal subscription.

  • Gibson, Reginald W. Francis Bacon: A Bibliography of His Works and Baconiana to the Year 1750. Oxford: Scrivener, 1950.

    An extremely useful bibliography of nearly seven hundred entries covering Bacon’s works, including foreign language editions, as well as Baconiana, or scholarship that alluded to Bacon through the 18th century. An excellent index and clear layout make this an especially accessible guide for the student and specialist alike.

  • Klein, Juergen. “Francis Bacon.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2011.

    A scholarly online resource that contains a good entry on Bacon and his ideas, in addition to primary and secondary source references.

  • Rossi, Paolo. “Baconianism.” In Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas. Vol. 1, Abstraction in the Formation of Concepts to Design Argument. Edited by Philip P. Wiener, 172–179. New York: Scribner’s, 1973–1974.

    A very good entry with extensive annotated bibliography. Emphasis in particular on the afterlife and influence of Bacon’s ideas across the centuries. Available online through the University of Virginia Library.

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