Skip to main content
Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion+44 (0) 191 33 43926
Departmental Rep (Theology) in the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies+44 (0) 191 33 43942


I am Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham: my field is the history of the Reformation and of Protestantism more widely, including how those histories have made themselves felt down to the present. My first book, twenty years ago, was on the early history of the English Reformation, but I have since ranged further into the history of the Protestant tradition in England, Scotland and internationally. Persistent themes in my work have been the emotional history of religion; religion and politics, war, violence and martyrdom; the Protestant encounter with other faiths, with empire and with the wider world; the relationship between Protestantism and Anglicanism; the history of pious practice and devotion; and histories of religious unorthodoxy, including magic, radical dissent and ‘atheism’, issues that were explored in my most recent major book, Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt (2019), the fruit of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship I held from 2015-18.

I am currently engaged on two main research projects. I am completing a major history of how Protestantism became a missionary religion in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and in January and February 2024 I will be delivering the James Ford Lectures at Oxford on that theme, under the title The World's Reformation.

I am also working on a shorter and more polemical history of how our supposedly 'secular' age, with its many peculiarities, has come about and where it might go next. I delivered the Bampton Lectures at Oxford on this theme in 2022, under the title The Age of Hitler.

I studied History at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (1990-3) and Reformation Studies at St Andrews (1993-4) before completing a DPhil in Theology at Oxford (1996-99) under the supervision of Diarmaid MacCulloch. I taught in the History department at the University of Birmingham from 1999-2006 before moving to Durham in 2007. I served as Head of Department here from 2012-15. I am now the lead convenor of the History of Christianity seminar. I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2019.

In addition to my role in Durham, I was Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, for 2018-22, and am now a Fellow of the College; I am one of the co-editors of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and am president of the Church of England Record Society. In 2019-21 I was president of the Ecclesiastical History Society. I have held research fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library (three times), the Huntington Library and the Leibniz Institute for European History. I have also done a wide range of work on radio, television and podcasts, including six series of lectures for Gresham College, and both print and online journalism. I am a licenced Reader (lay minister) in the Church of England.

In Durham I teach modules including Introduction to the History of Christianity, The Reformation and its Legacy and The Globalisation of Christianity, and I find I derive a lot of my energy as a historian from working with our excellent students on these and other modules. I have also been lucky enough to supervise some outstanding research students here and am always on the lookout for more. My current and recent students’ topics include:

  • Church and child in early modern England
  • The emergence of early evangelical beliefs in the English Reformation
  • The careers of chantry clergy in the sixteenth century
  • The reformation of the liturgy under Henry VIII
  • The metrical psalms in the English Reformation
  • The Church of England's official Homilies and their impact
  • The printing industry and religion in the reign of Edward VI
  • The material culture of the sixteenth-century parish church
  • Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant views of Lollardy
  • The historiography of Lollardy and Wyclif in the 18th-20th centuries
  • The diplomatic and political history of the Scottish Reformation
  • The theology of death and dying in early modern Scotland
  • Calvin's eucharistic theology
  • The material culture of seventeenth-century English Catholicism
  • Pastoral theology in sixteenth-century Lutheranism
  • Studies of various early modern English theologians including Richard Hooker, Thomas Goodwin, Ralph Venning and John Flavel

Research interests

  • History and theology of the English Reformation
  • History and theology of the Scottish Reformation
  • Piety, prayer and spirituality in Protestantism
  • Moderation in the Reformation era
  • Magic and faith in early modern Europe


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Supervision students