After completing an MPhil in Early Modern History at Clare College, Cambridge, in 2015, I went on to study for a PhD under the supervision of Professor Alexandra Walsham. In 2019, after working for six months at the British Library as part of a project digitizing and cataloguing King George III’s extensive collection of maps, I returned to Cambridge as a Junior Research Fellow at Clare College. I began my fellowship at Balliol in October 2021.
My PhD research highlighted the importance of exile, displacement and mobility in shaping the development of mid sixteenth-century English Catholicism. Focusing upon English Catholic exiles from the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, it explored the ways in which these emigres' experiences of displacement and dislocation, as well as their contact with Catholics from throughout Europe, influenced the development of their religious and political beliefs and identities. Through investigating the influential roles many of these exiles went on to fulfill after their return home during the reign of Mary I, as well as their longer-term legacies at home and abroad, my PhD sought to reconnect the history of mid-Tudor English Catholicism to the religious history of the continent and the rest of the British Isles. This research forms the basis of my forthcoming book.
My new research project explores perceptions of religious radicalism in early modern Britain, focussing particularly upon perceptions of Anabaptism – a religious sect which emerged in Northern Europe in the early sixteenth century and endorsed a range of radical religious and social ideas. Historians maintain that Anabaptism, and the so-called ‘Radical Reformation’ of which it formed a constituent part, was of little significance for religious developments in early modern England. Indeed, there is little evidence to suggest that there were any Anabaptists on English soil until at least the mid-seventeenth century. However, despite its apparent absence, Anabaptism very quickly became the monster under the bed of the English Church, provoking a near-constant stream of anti-Anabaptist polemic in press, pulpit and private correspondence throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
It is the intriguing disparity between the scarcity of Anabaptists in England and the intensity of contemporary fears about their existence that forms the central focus of my project. Why did the phantom menace of Anabaptism provoke such widespread consternation? Some historians have dismissed this question, citing widespread ‘irrationality’ or ‘hysteria’. However, my project instead seeks to uncover and understand the religious, social and political assumptions upon which fears of Anabaptism rested, and to explore the effects such fears had upon the development of early modern English society. Ultimately, it suggests that perceptions of European religious radicalism, and Anabaptism in particular, had far-reaching effects upon the religious history of Tudor and Stuart Britain, channeling and diverting the development of religious identities and Church policy in a number of unexpected ways. This project thereby hopes not only to turn prevailing assumptions that religious radicalism on the continent was of little significance to the English Reformation on their head, but also to shed valuable new light on the mechanisms through which religious identities were created, consolidated and contested in this period – mechanisms which drove the religious changes that rocked the early modern world.