Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Themes & Approaches in the Historical Study of Religious Cultures (HI993)

Convenor: Dr Naomi Pullin

Office: FAB 3.42 (third floor)


Office hours: dedicated PG Office Hour 11-12 Fridays in-person, but happy to set up a Teams meeting. You can book a slot here:

Standard office hours: Thursdays 10-11 and Fridays 10-11. You can book a slot here: 

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Past Student Feedback
Reading ListLink opens in a new window

Context of Module

This team-taught 1-term option complements other modules by focusing on the meanings and significance of 'religion' in a variety of historical settings. Rather than following a chronological structure or dealing with individual denominations, it examines religious issues through (a) the perspectives of different academic disciplines and (b) coverage of key themes. Students will be able to engage with the multiplicity of approaches pursued in the field more generally and by members of the History department in particular.

Module Aims

This postgraduate option aims to:

  • Widen and deepen students’ understanding of themes in the study of religious cultures across space and time.
  • Help students develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills required by historians and scholars from neighbouring disciplines.
  • Foster students' ability to undertake critical analysis and formulate hypotheses.
  • Enable students to produce a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing.

Intended Learning Outcomes

After completion of this option, students should be in a position to:

  • Understand the pervasive significance of religion in past societies.
  • Place European developments into a wider global perspective.
  • Recognize key approaches and interpretations which different disciplines can bring to the study of religion.
  • Demonstrate a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills required by Humanities scholars.
  • Formulate and test hypotheses in a piece of critical and reflective writing.


Week 1: Introduction to the Study of Global Religions (Naomi Pullin) 

Week 2: Sources and Concepts (Naomi Pullin) in the Modern Records Centre Seminar Room

Week 3: Religion, Emotions and the Senses (Sarah Johanesen)

Week 4: Religion and Imperialism (Rosie Doyle) NB this class will be held 10-12pm in FAB 1.14.

Week 5: Religion and Magic (Peter Marshall)

[Reading Week]

Week 7: Religion and Violence (Vic Clarke)

Week 8: Gender and Religion (Natalie Hanley-Smith)

Week 9: Tolerance and Intolerance (Mark Knights)

Week 10: Conclusions: The Future of Religion (Naomi Pullin)


One 6000-word assessed essay. This essay can explore any aspect of the module.

You will be encouraged to formulate your own question under the guidance of one of the tutors. This essay is normally based on one of the module's weekly themes. Students interested in writing on different topics should consult with the module convenor well before the essay deadline. Please go here for further details and guidance.

Please visit the PG Taught Handbook for information about the deadline and submission process.

Student Feedback

What had the most impact on your learning?

"I think in particular it was the range of texts offered each week in the module. There was a range of religious backgrounds involved in the readings which allowed for a wider understanding of religious history. It provided further knowledge and backgrounds to my reading and understanding of religion." (2022-23 cohort)

"I have very much enjoyed that this module is team taught. The range of research specialties is very beneficial, interesting, and provides range of opinions. PG specific office hours [from the module convenor] very useful and appreciated." (2022-23 cohort)

"New methodological approaches - such as the history of the emotions. Has improved the way I understand the practice of history and history writing." (2022-23 cohort)

"It was all good. Every week there was something new. Great lectures and great tutors". (2022-23 cohort)

Illustrative Bibliography

Week 1: Introduction to the Study of Global Religions

P. Collinson, ‘Religion, Society and the Historian’, Journal of Religious HistoryLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window 23 (1999), 149-67

Alkhateeb, Firas, Lost Islamic History (London, 2014).

Armstrong, Karen, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (London, 2004).

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, A History of Christianity (London, 2009).

Nirenberg, David, Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today (Chicago, 2014).

Miri Rubin, 'How Do We Write the History of Religion?', in Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (eds.), What is History Now? How the Past and Present Speak to Each Other (London, 2021), pp. 197-212.

Week 2: Emotions and religion

K. Barclay et al., Sources for the History of the Emotions: A Guide (London: Routledge, 2020), pp. 41-53.

Susan Broomhall, 'Beliefs' in Early Modern Emotions: An Introduction pp. 277-303.

John Corrigan, 'Religion and Emotions,’ in Susan J. Matt and Peter N. Stearns (eds.), Doing Emotions History (2014), pp.143–62.

Ole Riis and Linda Woodhead, 'Religious Emotion', in A Sociology of Religious Emotion (2010), pp. 54-94.

Week 3: Sources & Concepts for Pre-Modern Religion

T. Johnson, ‘Religion’, in: G. Walker (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (London, 2005), 139-58

P. Marshall, ‘Religious Cultures’, in: B. Kümin (ed.), The European World 1500-1800 (2nd edn, London, 2014), 134-45; (3rd edn, London 2018), 135-46

L. Sangha & J. Willis (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (London, 2016)

H. Schilling, ‘Confessionalization’, in his: Religion, Political Culture and the Emergence of Early Modern Society (1992)

Week 4: Religion and Imperialism

C.A. Bayly, ‘Religion, Liberalism and Empires: British Historians and Their Indian Critics in the Nineteenth Century’, in: Peter Fibiger Bang and C.A. Bayly (eds.), Tributary Empires in Global History (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 21-47.

Alberto Flores Galindo. In Search of an Inca: Identity and Utopia in the Andes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.) 'Chapter 2'

Linda Gregerson and Susan Juster (eds.), Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), ‘Introduction’, and pp. 1-15 and 'Chapter 1'. pp 19-36

Charles H. Parker, Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), Ch. 6: ‘The Transmission of Religion and Culture’, pp. 182-221

Week 5: Religion and Magic

Michael Bailey, ‘The Meanings of Magic’, Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft, 1 (2006), 1-23.

Owen Davies, Magic: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Ronald Hutton, The Witch: A History of Fear, From Ancient Times to the Present (2017), chap. 1, ‘The Global Context’, pp. 3-43.

Week 7: Religion and Violence

Susan Dwyer Amussen, ‘Punishment, Discipline and Power: the Social Meanings of Violence in Early Modern England’, Journal of British Studies 34: 1 (1995), pp. 1-34

Susan Broomhall, 'Reasons and identities to remember: composing personal accounts of religious violence in sixteenth-century France', French History 27/1 (2013), 1-20.

Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (2001), esp ch. 5 and 7.

Peter Lake, with Michael Questier, The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and players in post-Reformation England (2002).

Zemon Davis, Natalie, ‘The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth Century France’, Past and Present 59 (1973), pp. 51-91.

Week 8: Gender and Religion

S. Apetrei, Women, Feminism and Religion in Early Enlightenment England (2010)

S. Morgan, Women, Religion and Feminism in Britain 1750-1900 (2002)

Laura Schwartz, Infidel Feminism: Secularism, Religion and Women’s Emancipation, England 1830-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), Introduction, Chapter 6 and Conclusion.

Joan Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007)

Week 9: Tolerance and Intolerance

John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558-1689 (2000) esp chapter 2

Mark Goldie, 'John Locke, Jonas Proast and Religious Toleration 1688-92', in John Walsh, Colin Haydon, and Stephen Taylor, (eds.), The Church of England c.1689-.c1833 (Cambridge, 1993).

O.P. Grell & R. W. Scribner (eds), Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation (2002)

B. Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2007)


Tutors Naomi Pullin (convenor); Sarah Johanesen; Rosie Doyle; Peter Marshall; Vic Clarke; Natalie Hanley-Smith; Mark Knights
Term Spring
Tutorial Day Monday
Time 2-4 pm (note exceptions)
Room FAB 1.11 (Faculty of Arts Building) (note exceptions)