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Religious Studies

Professor John Wolffe

Professor of Religious History

I was an undergraduate  and doctoral student at the University of Oxford, then held temporary posts at the University of York for 5 years. I first joined the Open University as an Associate Lecturer in the Yorkshire region in 1990, and joined the full time staff as Lexturer in Religious Studies in 1990. I was promoted Professor of Religious History in 2004. During my years at the OU I have been a member of numerous course teams and have chaired two production course teams in Religious Studies (AA313 Religion in Victorian Britain) and AA307 Religion in History. I have also served two terms as Sub/Associate Dean (Research) in Arts from 1994 to 1997 and from 2007 to 2009. I was Head of Department of Religious Studies from 1998 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2007. Between 2009 and 2011 I led the initial development of the Digital Humanities thematic research network.  I currently have significant external roles as President of the Ecclesiastical History Society and a member of the REF sub-panel for Theology and Religious Studies.

Dr John Wolffe
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Walton Hall


Research interests

My research interests relate to British (and to some extent English-speaking world) religious history since the late 18th century. More specifically I am interested in anti-Catholicism, evangelicalism, responses to prominent deaths, and other interfaces between religion and nationalism/national identity. In recent years I have led the following major externally-funded projects:

  • Building on History, funded by the AHRC for knowledge exchange/public engagement projects in collaboration with the Anglican Diocese of London and other religious groups in the London area. For further information see and
  • Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Realities funded by the RCUK Global Uncertainties programme. For further information see the project website and  Beyond the ‘dreary steeples’? Reassessing the role of religion in Northern Ireland for a briefing paper recently prepared for the Northern Ireland Assembly which summarizes some key insights from the project. 
  • I currently hold a Global Uncertainties ious-st‘Leadership Fellowship, entitled Religion, Martyrdom and Global Uncertainties entailing endeavours to take and overview of the interface between ‘religion’ and ‘security’ alongside new research on ideas of martyrdom/sacrificial death, engaging with issues raised by the centenary of the First World War.


My recent publications include:

(with Mark Hutchinson), A Short History of Global Evangelicalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

(edited), Protestant-Catholic Conflict from the Reformation to the Twenty-First Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013).

'The mutations of martyrdom in Britain and Ireland c1850-1920', in Kelly, James and Lyons, Marian eds. Death and Dying in Ireland and Europe: Historical Perspectives  (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2013), pp. 349–368.

'The chicken or the egg? Building Anglican churches and building congregations in a Victorian London suburb', Material Religion, 9 (2013) pp. 36–59.

(edited), Irish Religious Conflict in Comparative Perspective : Catholics, Protestants and Muslims (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014, forthcoming).

See also Open Research Online for further details of my research publications.

Great Deaths book cover
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