Bruce is an intellectual historian whose work traces the entanglement of European political thought with the experience of empire and colonisation, focussing on the Early Modern and Enlightenment periods. Bruce's research seeks an understanding of concepts by bringing different fields of historical enquiry into productive conversation, most notably colonial history, histories of sound and noise, the history of science and medicine, and the history of ideas and political thought. His previous research on European perceptions of Indigenous government, the conceptual history of asymmetric warfare, and the meanings of civility, savagery and civilisation have appeared in a wide range of journals. Bruce's research has been supported by a competitively awarded Discovery grants and a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council. His current research (with Linda Andersson Burnett) focusses on the conceptual prehistory of race in the teaching of medicine and moral philosophy, and in colonial travel during the Scottish Enlightenment. This research has been supported by a Riksbankens Jubileumsfond grant (2015-2019), and a new Swedish Research Council grant (2020-2024).