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History of Christianity subject area overview

History of Christianity

Joseph Barber Lightfoot

The History of Christianity has been a major topic of study at Cambridge since Mandell Creighton (1843-1901) became the first Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 1884. Eminent successors such as Norman Sykes, Owen Chadwick, and Christopher Brooke have secured and advanced Cambridge’s high reputation in this area.

Reformation history has long been a particular strength, as befits the University that sent forth such early English Reformers as Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer. The finest public monument in Oxford, after all, commemorates the burning of those three men for heresy there in the reign of Queen Mary I. Until recently, the subject was led by Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity. The Faculty's teaching and research in this ares is currently delivered by Richard RexReader in Reformation History.

Patristics has arguably been studied at Cambridge even longer than ‘ecclesiastical history’, in that serious critical work in this area was first attempted by Cambridge theologians amidst the controversies of the seventeenth century. The subject overlaps with the broader study of religion in the ancient world, which has led in recent years to collaboration with the Faculty of Classics, as well as with the study of the Apostolic era, a rich area pioneered at Cambridge by the great JB Lightfoot. The subject is currently led at Cambridge by Thomas Graumann.

In recent years, the study of World Christianities has become a central feature of research and teaching. David Maxwell, a specialist in this area, is the current Dixie Professor, and the field has been strengthened by the appointment of Joel Cabrita, an expert on Christianity in Southern Africa, as a University Lecturer in the Faculty. Again, this is an interdisciplinary area, with scholars active in the Faculty of History and the Centre of South Asian Studies, as well as in the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide directed by Emma Wild-Wood.