Professor Alec Ryrie
I am a historian of Protestant Christianity. My specialism is the history of England and Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but I have interests in the emergence and development of Protestant and radical beliefs, identities and spiritualities more widely in that era and beyond.
In addition to my role in Durham, I am Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, for 2018-21; I am one of the co-editors of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and in 2019-20 will be president of the Ecclesiastical History Society. My blog occasionally discusses how I hold all this together.
Historical theology is one of Durham's traditional strengths. Within the Department, my own work complements that of my colleagues Krastu Banev, Rik van Nieuwenhove, Mike Snape and Clare Stancliffe, and I also find things to argue about with Lewis Ayres, Douglas Davies, Mathew Guest and others. Through the University's Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, there are also links with specialists in related fields in the departments of History, English, Music, Archaeology and elsewhere. I co-convene the History of Christianity seminar.
I am happy to supervise research students on subjects relating to religion, theology, culture, society and politics in late medieval and early modern Britain, and on many topics relating to the wider European Reformation. My recent and current research students' projects include:
- the career and theological milieu of Archbishop Matthew Parker
- Anglican concepts of episcopacy and authority
- Church and child in early modern England
- the work of early modern English theologians including Richard Hooker, Thomas Goodwin, Ralph Venning and John Flavel
- the careers of chantry clergy in the sixteenth century
- the devotional significance of shifting ecclesiastical material culture in the English Reformation
- the reformation of the liturgy under Henry VIII
- religious deviance in the Elizabethan diocese of Durham
- apocalypticism in Restoration England
- sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant views of Lollardy
- the theology of death and dying in early modern Scotland
- Calvin's eucharistic theology
- the printing industry and religion in the reign of Edward VI
- the material culture of the sixteenth-century parish church
- the material culture of seventeenth-century English Catholicism
- pastoral theology in sixteenth-century Lutheranism
- the metrical psalms in the English Reformation
My research interests have focused on the culture and politics of religious reform in England and Scotland, and have moved out in widening circles from there. My doctoral work, eventually published as The Gospel and Henry VIII, examined how early evangelical reformers in England dealt with the peculiar political pressures of Henry VIII's reign, and argued that this period was decisive in forming the politically radical strand of English Protestantism's character. My work on the early English Reformation drew my interest to the very different path of events in the neighbouring kingdom of Scotland. My second book, The Origins of the Scottish Reformation, examined how the culture and politics of Scottish Protestantism slowly took shape, arguing that the process was contingent and shaped decisively by the use and threat of violence.
In 2013 I published Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (OUP), a study of the spirituality of English and Scottish Protestantism c. 1530-1640, winner of the Society for Renaissance Studies' book prize and of the triennial Richard L. Greaves Prize. This grew in part out of the AHRC Research Network on worship in the early modern world which I administered during 2008-09. Several of the papers from the Network's conferences are published by Ashgate as Private and Domestic Devotion in Early Modern Britain (ed. Jessica Martin and Alec Ryrie, 2012) and Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain (ed. Natalie Mears and Alec Ryrie, 2013).
My most recent book is a history of Protestantism worldwide from Luther to the present, published in the UK as Protestants: The Radicals Who Made the Modern World (2017). Doing this book took me into the realm of public history, with several broadcast and print media contributions in both Britain and the United States.
I recently completed a three-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship focusing on the experience of doubt, scepticism and 'atheism' during the period before such things became intellectually respectable, with a particular focus on mid-seventeenth century England. A book on this theme titled Unbelievers is forthcoming with HarperCollins.
I am currently beginning a new research project on the early history of Protestant cross-cultural mission in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
My other interests include:
- the history of religious radicalism and its spirituality
- religion and the history of the emotions, a theme explored in a 2016 edited volume titled Puritanism and the Emotions in the Early Modern World (ed. with Tom Schwanda)
- Puritanism, its meaning and character
- the porous frontier between religion and magic in this period, which was one of the themes I explored in a microstudy published in 2008: The Sorcerer's Tale described one individual's career in the medical, criminal and magical underworlds of Tudor London.
- religious moderation, religious violence, and the commemoration of martyrs, which I have explored in several articles and in an edited collection, Moderate Voices in the European Reformation (ed. with Luc Racaut, 2005) .
My other publications include The Age of Reformation (2009; 2nd edn 2017), a textbook on religion, politics and society in the British Isles in the Tudor age.
I am on the editorial boards of St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Ashgate) and the Royal Historical Society's Studies in History. Since 1997 I have been a Reader in the Church of England, and I am licenced to the parish of Shotley St. John (diocese of Newcastle).
I studied History as an undergraduate, at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, before completing a Master's in Reformation Studies at St. Andrews and a D.Phil in Theology at St. Cross College, Oxford (completed in 2000). From 1999 to 2006 I taught in the Department of Modern History at Birmingham University.
- History and theology of the English Reformation
- History and theology of the Scottish Reformation
- Piety, prayer and spirituality in Protestantism
- Moderation in the Reformation era
- Magic and faith in early modern Europe
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). Protestants: The Radicals who Made the Modern World. London: William Collins.
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stewart Realms 1485-1603. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
- Alec Ryrie (2013). Being Protestant in Reformation Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Ryrie, Alec (2009). The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stewart Realms, 1485-1603. Harlow: Pearson.
- Ryrie, Alec (2008). The Sorcerer's Tale: Faith and Fraud in Tudor England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2006). The Origins of the Scottish Reformation. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2003). The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Ryrie, Alec & Schwanda, Tom (2016). Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World. Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500-1800. Palgrave.
- Jessica Martin & Alec Ryrie (2013). Private and Domestic Devotion in Early Modern Britain. Ashgate.
- Natalie Mears & Alec Ryrie (2013). Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain. Ashgate.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2006). Palgrave Advances in the European Reformations. Palgrave Advances. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
- Racaut, Luc. & Ryrie, Alec. (2005). Moderate Voices in the European Reformation. St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot: Ashgate.
- Marshall, Peter. & Ryrie, Alec. (2002). The Beginnings of English Protestantism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chapter in book
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). Reformations. In A Social History of England 1500-1750. Wrightson, Keith Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 107-128.
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). Scripture, the Spirit and the Meaning of Radicalism in the English Revolution. In Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform. Heal, Bridget & Kremers, Anorthe Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 100-117.
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). The Nature of Spiritual Experience. In The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Rublack, Ulinka Oxford: Oxford University Press. 47-63.
- Ryrie, Alec (2016). Facing Childhood Death in English Protestant Spirituality. In Death, Emotion and Childhood in Premodern Europe. Barclay, Katie, Rawnsley, Ciara & Reynolds, Kimberley London: Palgrave Macmillan. 109-127.
- Ryrie, Alec & Schwanda, Tom (2016). Introduction. In Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World. Ryrie, Alec & Schwanda, Tom Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. 1-12.
- Ryrie, Alec (2016). Religion and religious change. In Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources. Sangha, Laura & Willis, Jonathan Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 170-186.
- Alec Ryrie (2013). The fall and rise of fasting in the British Reformations. In Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain. Natalie Mears & Alec Ryrie Farnham, England: Ashgate. 89-108.
- Alec Ryrie (2012). Sleeping, waking and dreaming in Protestant piety. In Private and Domestic Devotion in Early Modern Britain. Jessica Martin & Alec Ryrie Farnham: Ashgate. 73-92.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2010). The Afterlife of Lutheran England. In Sister Reformations: The Reformation in Germany and England = Schwesterreformationen Die Reformation in Deutschland und in England. Wendebourg, Dorothea. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 213-234.
- Ryrie, Alec (2009). The slow death of a tyrant: learning to live without Henry VIII, 1547-1563. In Henry VIII and his Afterlives: Literature, Politics and Art. Rankin, Mark, Highley, Christopher & King, John N. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 75-93.
- Ryrie, Alec & Ó hAnnráchain, Tadhg (2008). Les îles Britanniques et l'Irlande. In L'Europe en conflits: les affrontements religieux et la genèse de l'Europe moderne vers 1500-vers 1630. Kaiser, Wolfgang Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes. 287-319.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2002). Counting sheep, counting shepherds the problem of allegiance in the English Reformation. In The Beginnings of English Protestantism. Marshall, Peter. & Ryrie, Alec. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 84-110.
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). Prologue: When did the English Reformation happen? A historiographical curiosity and its interpretative consequences. Études Épistémè (32).
- Ryrie, Alec (2017). The Protestant Apolitical Tradition and its Legacy. Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 108(1): 234-244.
- Ryrie, Alec (2016). ‘PROTESTANTISM’ AS A HISTORICAL CATEGORY. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 26: 59-77.
- Ryrie, Alec (2010). The Psalms and Confrontation in English and Scottish Protestantism. Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 101: 114-137.
- Ryrie, Alec (2009). Calvin and Ecumenism. One in Christ 43(2): 25-34.
- Ryrie, Alec (2009). Paths not taken in the British Reformations. Historical Journal 52(1): 1-22.
- Ryrie, Alec (2008). The Reinvention of Devotion in the British Reformations. Studies in Church History 44: Revival and Resurgence in Christian History: 87-105.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2006). Congregations, Conventicles and the Nature of Early Scottish Protestantism. Past & Present 191(1): 45-76.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2005). England's Last Medieval Heresy Hunt: Gloucestershire 1540. Midland History 30: 37-52.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2004). Reform without frontiers in the last years of Catholic Scotland. The English Historical Review 119(480): 27-56.
- Riordan, Michael. & Ryrie, Alec. (2003). Stephen Gardiner and the Making of a Protestant Villain. The Sixteenth Century Journal 34(4): 1039-1063.
- Ryrie, Alec. (2002). Divine Kingship and Royal Theology in Henry VIII's Reformation. Reformation 7: 49-77.
- Ryrie, Alec (2002). The strange death of Lutheran England. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53(1): 64-92.
Available for media contact about:
- Middle Ages & Early Modern History: History of Tudor England
- Religion: History of the Reformation
- Theology: History of the Reformation
- Middle Ages & Early Modern History: History of the Reformation
- Middle Ages & Early Modern History: Reign of Henry VIII
- 2015: Monks in Motion: A prosopographical study of the English and Welsh Benedictines in exile, 1553-1800 (£185190.20 from AHRC)