Reformation and Religious Toleration; Early Modern Political Thought and Intellectual History; State Theory and Colonialism; Early Modern Ireland & England, New England and the Palatinate in the Holy Roman Empire; Reformation Historiography.
Currently, I am a Fellow-in-Residence in Early Modern History at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg. Prior to this I was an Assistant Professor at Durham University (2016-17) and a Lecturer in Early Modern History at Lancaster University (2015-16). I have also held a Junior Research Fellowship at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg (2014-15) and a Government of Ireland Fellowship at University College Cork (2011-2013).
My research explores the relationship between reformation thought and ideas of ‘state’, ‘commonwealth’, ‘liberty’ and ‘free will’. I am primarily concerned with the way in which the problem of a sinful humanity reshaped early modern political vocabulary; and my research explores the manner in which different groups of Calvinists (or reformed protestants) responded to this problem in Ireland, New England and the Palatinate in the Holy Roman Empire from the late sixteenth into the first half of the seventeenth century.
Here the question of original sin, I would suggest, tends to be sidestepped in scholarly discussions, because of the emphasis placed on reason and natural law. The failure of different evangelical agendas, however, left reformed protestants facing a humanity, whose will, according to reformed theology, remained bound in sin in the absence of God’s saving grace. How then could reformed protestants talk constructively about civil society? For example, what did it mean to talk of liberty, if this no longer meant the freedom to act for God, but entailed the freedom to act on basis of an individual and self-interested will?
In examining such problems, my work makes use of comparative geographical and linguistic contexts in order to compare the manner in which the use of political vocabulary changed according to different godly contexts. It is hoped that this will allow the different presuppositions, concerning the nature of humanity, which rest below vocabulary use, to be more fully interrogated.
This project forms the basis of a monograph, provisionally entitled Sin and Civil Society: the absence of redemption in Early Modern British and European protestant thought. This follows on from my first monograph Calvinism, Reform and the Absolutist State in Elizabethan Ireland (2015; paperback 2017).
Furthermore, I have a second research interest in how History is written; and in particular the manner in which the explanatory apparatus of Reformation Historiography differs in the German and English languages and how this connects with the manner in which early modern theology was translated into the respective vernaculars.
- Calvinism, Reform and the Absolutist State in Elizabethan Ireland (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2015) re-issued in paperback (London: Routledge, 2017), 219p.
- ‘The Emergence of the State in Elizabethan Ireland and England, ca 1575–99’, Sixteenth Century Journal 45:3 (2014), pp. 659–82.
- ‘An Irish Perspective on Elizabeth’s Religion: Reformation Thought and Henry Sidney’s Irish Deputyship, c. 1560 to 1580’, in Brendan Kane and Valerie McGowan-Doyle, eds., Elizabeth I and Ireland(Cambridge: CUP, 2014), pp. 142–62.
- ‘Reformed Protestantism and the Government of Ireland, c. 1565 to 1580: the Lord Deputyships of Henry Sidney and Arthur Grey’, Sidney Journal, 29: 1&2 (2011), pp. 71-104.