My research focuses on the religious ideas and culture of the English Reformation. I have been particularly interested in how the doctrine of predestination – the idea that God chose who would go to heaven and hell before the world was even created – 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. It’s an interesting cultural puzzle; why did people become more and more worried about something which did not seem to exist, or at least for which there was no evidence?
I was an undergraduate at the University of Sussex, gained my PhD at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and was subsequently awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. 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 Director of Studies in History, my job is to ensure that my students receive the best education possible during their three-year degrees. I am passionate about providing high quality teaching, and about providing my students with an intellectually stimulating education within a 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’. The historians at Regent’s Park come from a tremendous range of backgrounds, and many attended schools that have little or no track record of sending their pupils to elite universities.
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. 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.
- Practical Predestinarians in England, c. 1590-1640 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013)
Articles and Research Papers
- '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