My research focuses on how the ideas of the English Reformation functioned within their historical context, both on a cultural and personal/psychological level. I have been particularly interested in how the doctrine of predestination was communicated to everyday Protestants through printed sermons and other forms of accessible literature. More recently, I have been exploring the subject of atheism in the early modern period. I am interested less in whether ‘real’ atheists existed (people who did not believe in God tended to keep this opinion secret), and more in why religious people became increasingly anxious about the danger of atheism. I am also interested in the history of emotions, and am currently looking at the ways in which emotions interacted with radical political and religious ideas in the aftermath of the execution of Charles I in 1649.
As an undergraduate, I read History at the University of Sussex (BA, 2000), followed by postgraduate studies at Oxford (MSt, 2001; DPhil, 2006), and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2008-11). I have spent the majority of my professional career in Oxford, as a lecturer at a number of different colleges, and arrived at Regent’s Park in 2013.
My role in College
As the Director of Studies for History and the History joint schools, my job is to ensure that my students receive the best possible education during their three-year degrees. I am passionate about providing high quality teaching, within an intellectually stimulating and supportive environment. I always welcome applications from young people who have a passion for the study of History and an independent mind, even if – indeed, especially if – they do not think that Oxford is for people ‘like them’.
Teaching is my great passion, and I was deeply honoured to win the Oxford University Student Union’s award for ‘Outstanding Tutor in the Humanities’ in 2016, which was based on nominations by students, and to be shortlisted for the award again in 2018. I was also shortlisted for the award of Outstanding Pastoral Support in 2017, which I think reflects the commitment of all the History tutors at Regent’s to putting student welfare first, and to seeing academic success as something which springs from a sense of feeling secure and supported in one’s wider life. For undergraduates, the bulk of my teaching is in early modern British and European history, between around 1400 and 1700, and I also teach a specialist paper on Witchcraft. For the Approaches to History paper, I teach the Sociology and Gender strands.
“History: an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which were brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.” Ambrose Beirce
- Practical Predestinarians in England, c. 1590-1640 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013)
Articles and Research Papers
- 'William Perkins: The Ambivalent Demonologist', in J. Machielsen, ed., The Science of Demons (forthcoming, 2019)
- 'England’s ‘atheisticall generation’: Orthodoxy and unbelief in the revolutionary period', in G. Southcombe and G. Tapsell, eds, Revolutionary England, c. 1630-c. 1660: Essays for Clive Holmes (London: Routledge, 2017)
- 'William Perkins, "Atheisme," and the Crises of England’s Long Reformation', Journal of British Studies 50.4 (2011), pp. 790-812
- 'Richard Greenham and the Calvinist Construction of God', The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 61.4 (2010), pp. 729-45
- 'Calvinist Theology and Pastoral Reality in the Reign of King James I: The Perspective of Thomas Wilson', The Seventeenth Century 23.2 (2008), pp. 173-97