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Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the literary cultures of early modern religion, especially in relation to such individuals as John Owen and John Nelson Darby, and such movements as Puritanism and the so-called Plymouth Brethren.


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Personal profile


I am an historian of early modern religion, and the author of books including most recently The rise and fall of Christian Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2021).

I have held posts in early modern literature and history at the University of Manchester (2004-2007) and Trinity College Dublin (2000-2004, 2007-2012). After taking up my current position at Queen's (2013), I acted as head of the School of History and Anthropology (2015-16) and as Queen's director of the AHRC Northern Bridge PhD programme (2017-2020). My work has been supported by fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC; the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester; and Marsh's Library, Dublin. I have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2004), a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin (2011), and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2022). I have held visiting positions at the University of Lausanne, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Sciences Po, Lille, and in the latter two institutions I continue to serve as a visiting professor. In 2022, I will be directing the Folger Institute course, "Teaching intermediate palaeography."

With a particular interest in Calvinist literary cultures, my work focuses on John Owen and John Nelson Darby. My current projects include work on John Owen, especially looking at his relationships with John Milton, John Locke, Andrew Marvell, and Lucy Hutchinson, the first fruits of which have appeared as articles in Review of English Studies (2020, 2022) and Milton Quarterly (2020). An introduction to John Owen has been translated into Korean and Portuguese. I am also researching a new project on John Nelson Darby, which I have discussed on BBC Radio 4's "In our Time" programme. 

The Scottish dimensions of my work have been explored in The ghost at the feast: Religion and Scottish literary criticism, ed. Patrick Scott (2020). 

I serve as co-editor of Studies in Puritanism and Piety, and of two series of monographs and edited collections entitled 'Christianities in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1800' (Palgrave Macmillan) and 'Scottish religious cultures: Historical perspectives' (Edinburgh University Press). I serve on the editorial board of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller (De Gruyter) and the Brethren Historical Review, as well as on the advisory editorial board of the Scottish Literary Review and the advisory board of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS) at the University of Aberdeen. I host an occasional podcast on religious nationalism, as well as a regular religious history podcast on the New Books Network. I regularly review books for the Wall Street Journal (examples herehereherehere and here). 


Co-authored volumes:

Critical edition:

Edited collections:

Some recent articles

  • "Puritanism and poetry," in Francis Bremer et al (eds), Oxford Handbook of Puritanism (forthcoming).
  • "Poetry and prophecy," in Jason Scott-Warren and Andrew Zurcher (eds), Oxford Handbook of Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: OUP, forthcoming).
  • "John Owen's politics," in Crawford Gribben and John Tweeddale (eds), T&T Clark Handbook on John Owen (London: T&T Clark, 2022), pp. 81-117.
  • “Bible reading among early evangelicals in the trans-Atlantic world,” in Jan Stievermann, Douglas A. Sweeney, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Ryan P. Hoselton (eds), The Bible in transatlantic Pietism and Evangelicalism: Eighteenth-century trends and exchanges (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022), pp. 73-90.
  • "Lucy Hutchinson, John Owen's congregation, and the literary culture of nonconformity," Review of English Studies (2022).
  • "Brethren and separation,” The Journal of CESNUR 5:2 (2021), pp. 18-36.
  • "'Inexpressible horror’: The devil and Baptist life writing in Cromwellian Ireland,” Church History 89 (2021), pp. 531-48.
  • Andrew Fuller and the millennium,” Jonathan Edwards Online Journal 10:2 (2020), pp. 180-92.
  • "John Owen's Milton," Milton Quarterly 54:3 (2020), pp. 184-90.
  • “Ireland,” Oxford history of Protestant dissenting traditions, vol. 1, ed. John Coffey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 204-23.
  • "Lucy Hutchinson's theological writings," Review of English Studies 71:299 (2020), pp. 292-306.
  • “Calvin and Calvinism in early modern England, Scotland and Ireland,” in R. Ward Holder (ed.), John Calvin in context (Cambridge: CUP, 2019), pp. 383-90.
  • “Calvinism and the science of the self,” in Crawford Gribben and Graeme Murdock (eds), The cultures of Calvinism in early modern Europe (New York: OUP, 2019), pp. 37-56..
  • Finding religion in Scottish literary history,” Studies in Scottish Literature 45:2 (2019), pp. 75-80.
  • “John Owen, scholastic theology and congregational life,” in Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page and Joel Halcombe (eds), Church life in seventeenth-century England: Pastors, congregations, and the experience of dissent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 119-35.
  • “The church of God in Belfast: Needed Truth, the Vernalites, and the Howard Street Christians, 1890-1924,” Brethren Historical Review 14 (2018),pp. 120-48.
  • “Becoming John Owen: The making of an evangelical reputation,” Westminster Theological Journal 79 (2017), pp. 311-25.
  • “John N. Darby, dispensational eschatology, and the formation of trans-Atlantic evangelicalism,” Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- and Kulturgeschichte 110 (2016), pp. 99-109.
  • “John Owen, Lucy Hutchinson, and the experience of defeat,” The Seventeenth Century 30 (2015), pp. 179-90.
  • “Reformed eschatology,” in Richard Muller et al (eds), The Oxford handbook of early modern theology(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 259-74.
  • “The commodification of Scripture, 1640-1660: Politics, ecclesiology and the cultures of print,” in Kevin Killeen et al (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, 1530-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 224-36.
  • “Scottish Romanticism, evangelicalism and Robert Pollok’s The Course of Time (1827),” Romanticism 21:1 (2015), pp. 25-36.
  • “Polemic and apocalyptic in the Cromwellian invasion of Scotland,” Literature & History 23:1 (2014), pp. 1-18.
  • “Angels and demons in Cromwellian and Restoration Ireland: Heresy and the supernatural,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 76 (2013), pp. 377-92.

You can watch a recent lecture on a subject related to my John Owen project here. More information, including a full list of publications, is available on my blog.


Undergraduate teaching:

I am an enthusiastic teacher and supervisor of undergraduate students. Essays prepared by my students have been shortlisted for the Irish Undergraduate of the Year prize for history, have won the Irish Undergraduate of the Year prize for English and the undergraduate essay prize of the Irish Association for the Academic Study of Religion. 

  • HIS1002 "Cromwell and the British republic"
  • HIS2064 “Uniting kingdoms? Britain and Ireland, 1603-1815” 
  • HAP2065 “Apocalypse! The history and anthropology of the end of the world”   

PhDs and Postdocs:

I am a committed supervisor of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, and the winner of a Faculty prize for postgraduate supervision. I have first-supervised to completion 16 PhDs in a range of topics related to the literary cultures of Puritanism and evangelicalism, almost all of which have been published by or are forthcoming with Palgrave, Wipf & Stock, and Routledge, including two titles with Oxford University Press. PhD students within the School can attend specialist research training opportunities provided by the university's membership of the Folger Institute, Washington DC, which include regular courses on palaeography.

I particularly welcome proposals for studies of John Owen. We need much more work on Owen’s networks in Essex in the 1640s; his administration of the university of Oxford; his place in the booming print culture of the revolutionary period, especially in the second-hand market; his relationship with Marvell and Bunyan; the ways in which he was perceived by his critics, including Milton; his influence on Locke; his late-career political activity; and his reception in Scotland and New England. We need more theological studies of Owen’s reception of medieval theology; his habits of exegesis; his view of Scripture and tradition; his view of the church; his view of the Catholic church, especially of the Jansenist movement; and especially his doctrine of baptism. You can get a sense of my approach to Owen studies in various online lectures (some examples herehere and here) and podcasts (some examples herehere and here). Please contact me if you are interested in exploring any of these doctoral project possibilities.

I am currently first supervisor of PhDs in the following areas:

  • John Owen's political theology
  • John Owen's anti-Catholicism
  • Congregationalists and the "rise of the laity"
  • John Owen and natural theology
  • J. N. Darby's ecclesiology

During 2017-2022, I will be mentoring Kathleen Miller's EU Horizon 2020 funded postdoctoral fellowship on women and the writing of plague in early modern England, having previously supervised the PhD thesis that she published as The Literary Culture of Plague in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2016). I have previously mentored several postdoctoral research fellows whose projects have included The Minutes of the Antrim Ministers, 1654-8 (funded by the Ulster Scots Agency, 2008, and published by Four Courts, 2012); Christian Zionism and English national identity (funded by IRCHSS, 2011-13; Palgrave, 2018); and 'Memorialising the killing times: History, religion and nation in pre-Enlightenment Scotland' (funded by the Irish Research Council, 2011-14).

Belfast offers outstanding resources to students wishing to pursue doctoral or postdoctoral research in early modern and modern religious history, including missionary archives relating to Amy Carmichael and a multitude of denominational and inter-denominational societies, held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and in various denominational repositories. I am interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in pursuing doctoral or postdoctoral research on the literary cultures of Puritanism and evangelicalism in an inter-disciplinary context. 


I maintain a blog on my research interests at https://puritanhistory.wordpress.com.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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