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Image of Dr James Kelly and others at the launch of the new book in Rome

The City of Rome was the venue for an embassy-hosted event to celebrate a ground-breaking new publication exploring the history of British and Irish Catholicism.

Launching in the home of Catholicism

Dr James Kelly, from our Department of Theology and Religion, is one of two general editors for the newly published Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism.

The work, which spans five volumes and includes over 80 contributors, is the first of its kind. It explores the history of Catholicism in the two countries between 1530 and 2021.

Its publication was celebrated at an event jointly hosted by the British Embassy to the Holy See and the Embassy of Ireland to the Holy See. The event was held at St Isidore’s College, and was addressed by the UK ambassador, Chris Trott, and the Irish ambassador, Frances Collins.

Unique historical insight

The new book is the first to track the story of Catholicism over such a long period, across both the UK and Ireland.

Whilst Catholicism is a global religion, there is a huge variety of human experiences across different countries over six centuries.

The new volumes show how Catholics and Catholic culture have been central to political, cultural and social affairs across the UK and Ireland.

Revealing hidden histories

The book reveals, amongst other histories:

  • The role of Catholics in the British Empire.
  • The huge role of women in shaping and defining the church.
  • The power of the laity within the Catholic church.
  • The significant participation of Catholics in the British Armed Forces.

The books also explore how deeply the UK and Ireland influenced each other and how they influenced Catholicism in other parts of the world.

As a thorough historical overview, the volumes also examine the sexual, social and economic conventions of Catholics, and address for the first time the historical timeline of clerical abuse.

Find out more:

Our Department of Theology and Religion is ranked 7th globally in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024 and is consistently rated as one of the top Departments in the world. 

One of the most varied and dynamic in the UK, our Department is a place where ‘belief’ and ‘beliefs’ are taken seriously, respected, and studied. Together, we form a lively and welcoming community to those of all faiths and to those of none. 

Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally. 

Image details:

Left to right in the photo: Christ Trott (British ambassador), Dr James Kelly (general editor), Rev Professor Mícheál Mac Craith, OFM (Guardian of St Isidore's), Professor John McCafferty (general editor), Frances Collins (Irish ambassador).