skip to primary navigationskip to content

Professor Alexandra Walsham CBE FBA

Professor Alexandra Walsham, CBE FBA

Professor of Modern History and Chair of the Faculty of History

Faculty of History
West Road
Emmanuel College



Alexandra Walsham is Professor of Modern History. She currently serves as Chair of the Faculty of History. She was an undergraduate and Masters student at the University of Melbourne and was then awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where she wrote her PhD under the supervision of Professor Patrick Collinson. She held a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College between 1993 and 1996 and became Lecturer in History at the University of Exeter in 1996. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2000 and to a personal chair in Reformation History in 2005, she served as Head of Department at Exeter between 2007 and 2010. She was appointed to her current position at Cambridge in 2010. Professor Walsham has been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1999 and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2009 and of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2013. She was appointed a CBE for services to History in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2017.

She is co-editor, with Matthew Hilton, of the journal Past and Present, and has served as General Editor of the Past and Present Book Series and Past and Present Supplements (OUP). She is one the Series Editors of Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History (CUP) and also serves on the editorial boards of a number of other journals, including Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, and British Catholic History. She has served as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Historical Research. 

Subject groups/Research projects

Early Modern History:

Early modern British religious and cultural history

Departments and Institutes

Emmanuel College:

Research Interests

Her research interests fall within the field of the religious and cultural history of early modern Britain and focus on the immediate impact and long-term repercussions of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations set within their European context. She has published extensively on a range of themes, including post-Reformation Roman Catholicism; religious tolerance and intolerance between 1500 and 1700; providence, miracles and the supernatural in post-Reformation society and culture; the history of the book, the advent of printing, and the interconnections between oral, visual and written culture; religion and the landscape; the memory of the Reformation; age, ancestry and the relationship between religious and generational change. Her major project at present is a monograph based on the Ford Lectures she delivered at the University of Oxford in 2018, entitled The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry and Memory in Early Modern England. The research for this was funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2015-2018. She was Principal Investigator of the AHRC collaborative project, 'Remembering the Reformation' which ran from 2016-2019 and was jointly based as the Universities of Cambridge and York.


Research Supervision

Professor Walsham is willing to supervise a range of topics in early modern British history, especially religious and ecclesiastical, intellectual and cultural history, at both MPhil and PhD level. She would particularly welcome enquiries about research on the following themes:

the implementation, reception and impact of the Reformation in the British Isles

post-Reformation Roman Catholicism

religious tolerance and intolerance between 1500 and 1700

providence, miracles and the supernatural in post-Reformation society and culture

the history of the book, the advent of printing, and the interconnections between oral, visual and written culture

religion, sacred space and the landscape

religion, healing and medicine

religion and generational change

historical consciousness, record-keeping and the formation of memory

Theses completed under her supervision include Tom Blaen (‘Lapidaries in Early Modern Britain’), David Davis ('Printed Images in Elizabethan England', Exeter Research Studentship; now Assistant Professor at Houston Baptist University), Hannah Newton (‘The Sick Child in England, c. 1580-1720’, Wellcome Trust Studentship; now Lecturer at the University of Reading), Sarah Scutts (‘Perceptions of the Anglo-Saxon Past in Early Modern Religious Polemical Literature’, AHRC Studentship), Jennifer Evans (‘Aphrodisiacs in Early Modern England’, Exeter Research Studentship; now Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire), Sarah Parsons (‘Religious Culture and the Sea in Early Modern England’, AHRC Studentship), Natasha Mihailovic (‘The Social History of Death in Eighteenth-Century England’, AHRC Studentship); Liesbeth Corens ('Confessional Mobility, English Catholics and the Southern Netherlands 1660-1720', AHRC Studentship, now British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen Mary University of London); Aislinn Muller, 'The Excommunication of Elizabeth I' (Catholic Record Society studentship); Morgan Ring, 'The Golden Legend in Post-Reformation England' (Gonville and Caius Studentship); Coral Stoakes, 'Catholic Apocalypticism in Elizabethan England';  Greg Salazar, 'Daniel Featley and Calvinist Conformity in Early Stuart England' (now Assistant Professor, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminar, Grand Rapids); Steven Tong, 'Liturgy, Worship and Ecclesiology in the Edwardian Reformation', Harriet Lyon, 'The Memory of the Dissolution of the Monasteries' (AHRC Studentship, now A.J. Lloyd Junior Research Fellow, Christ's College, Cambridge), Alice Soulieux-Evans, 'Cathedrals and the Church of England c. 1660-1714'; Jens Aklundh, 'Church Courts and Toleration in Restoration England' (AHRC Studentship); Carys Brown, 'Religious Coexistence after the Act of Toleration' (AHRC Studentship; now Junior Research Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge); Simone Hanebaum, 'History, Memory and Identity in England 1500-1700' (Cambridge International Scholarship); Patrick McGhee, 'Heathenism in Protestant Atlantic World' (AHRC Studentship); Frederick Smith, 'Catholic Exile in mid Sixteenth-Century England' (AHRC Studentship; now Junior Research Fellow, Clare College) .

She is currently supervising Philippa Carter, Simen Kallevik-Nielsen, Harry Spillane, Jacob Hendry and Emily Robson.


Alexandra Walsham currently teaches a Part II Special Subject on 'Memory in Early Modern England'. She has taught a Specified Subject on ‘Persecution and Toleration in Britain 1400-1700’. She contributes lectures for Part I Paper 4 (British Political History 1450-1750) and Paper 9 (British Economic and Social History 1500-1750) and offers an option on 'Space, Place and Landscape in Early Modern History' to students on the MPhil in Early Modern History.


Other Professional Activities

Alexandra Walsham co-organised (with Kate Peters and Liesbeth Corens) a conference on 'Transforming Information: Record Keeping in the Early Modern World' (The British Academy, 9-10 April 2014), sponsored by The British Academy and supported by CRASSH, the Society for Renaissance Studies, Past and Present, and the Royal Historical Society. This has generated two volumes of essays, The Social History of the Archive (Past and Present Supplement, 2016) and Archives and Information in the Early Modern World (forthcoming).

Professor Walsham held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2015-18. This fellowship was awarded to support her work on ‘The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry and Memory in England c. 1500-1700’, which was the subject of her Ford Lectures at the University of Oxford in 2018.

She was also the Principal Investigator on a major collaborative project on 'Remembering the Reformation'  based jointly at the Universities of Cambridge and York, involving Professor Brian Cummings and Drs Ceri Law and Bronwyn Wallace. This interdisciplinary project, which was awarded £831,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ran from 1 January 2016 to 30 September 2019. For further details, see

She has held Visiting Fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and the Huntington Library. 

She has delivered lectures and papers in many countries, including Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.


  • Early Modern History

Key Publications


Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England (Royal Historical Society Studies in History, 1993)

Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 1999). Winner of the Longman-History Today Prize 2000 and the American Historical Association’s Morris D. Forkosch Prize 2000.

Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England 1500-1700 (Manchester UP, 2006)

The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland (Oxford UP, 2011). Joint winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2011; winner of the American Historical Association's Leo Gershoy Award 2011;winner of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference Roland H. Bainton Prize 2011.

Catholic Reformation in Protestant Britain (Ashgate, 2014)


Edited Books

ed. with Julia Crick, The Uses of Script and Print 1300-1700 (Cambridge UP, 2004)

ed. with John Chynoweth and Nicholas Orme, Richard Carew, The Survey of Cornwall (Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2004)

ed. with Peter Marshall, Angels in the Early Modern World (Cambridge UP, 2006)

ed. with E.A. Jones, Syon Abbey and its Books: Reading, Writing and Religion 1400-1700 (Boydell and Brewer, 2010)

ed. Relics and Remains, Past and Present Supplement 5 (Oxford UP, 2010)

ed. with John Doran and Charlotte Methuen, Religion and the Household, Studies in Church History 50 (Boydell and Brewer, 2014)

ed. with Liesbeth Corens and Kate Peters, The Social History of the Archive: Record Keeping in Early Modern Europe, Past and Present Supplement (Oxford, 2016)

ed. with Liesbeth Corens and Kate Peters, Archives and Information in the Early Modern World (Oxford, 2018).


Selected Articles and Essays

‘“The Fatall Vesper”: Providentialism and Anti-Popery in Late Jacobean London’, Past and Present, no. 144 (1994), pp. 36-87.

‘“Frantick Hacket”: Prophecy, Sorcery, Insanity and the Elizabethan Puritan Movement’, Historical Journal, vol. 41 (1998), pp. 27-66.

‘Vox Piscis: Or, The Book Fish: Providence and the Uses of the Reformation Past in Caroline Cambridge’, English Historical Review, vol. 114 (1999), pp. 574-606.

‘“Domme Preachers”? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Culture of Print’, Past and Present, no. 168 (2000), pp. 72-123.

‘Reformed Folklore? Cautionary Tales and Oral Tradition in Early Modern England’, in Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf (eds.), The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in the British Isles 1500-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 173-95.

‘Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Vernacular  Bible’, Journal of British Studies, vol. 42, no. 2(2003), pp. 141-67.

‘Miracles and the Counter Reformation Mission to England’, Historical Journal, 46 (2003), pp. 779-815.

‘Holywell: Contesting Sacred Space in Post-Reformation Wales’, in Will Coster and Andrew Spicer (eds.), Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 209-36.

‘Miracles in Post-Reformation England’, in Kate Cooper and Jeremy Gregory (eds.), Signs, Wonders, Miracles: Representations of Divine Power in the Life of the Church, Studies in Church History 41 (Boydell and Brewer for the Ecclesiastical Historical Society, 2005), pp. 273-306.

‘Translating Trent? English Catholicism and the Counter Reformation’, Historical Research, 78 (2005), pp. 288-310.

‘The Reformation and the Disenchantment of the World Reassessed’, Historical Journal, 51 (2) (2008), 497-528.

‘Recording Superstition in Early Modern Britain: The Origins of Folklore’, in S. A. Smith and Alan Knight (eds.), The Religion ofFools? Superstition Past and Present, Past and Present Supplement 3 (Oxford UP, 2008), pp. 178-206.

‘Like Fragments of a Shipwreck: Printed Images and Religious Antiquarianism in Early Modern England’, in Michael Hunter (ed.), Printed Images in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Interpretation (Ashgate, 2010), pp. 87-109.

‘Invisible Helpers: Angelic Intervention in Early Modern England’, Past and Present, 208 (2010), pp. 77-130. Winner of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference Harold Grimm Essay Prize 2011.

'The Reformation of the Generations: Youth, Age and Religious Change in England 1500-1700', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series 21 (2011), pp. 93-121.

‘Supping with Satan’s Disciples: Spiritual and Secular Sociability in Post-Reformation England’, in Nadine Lewycky and Adam Morton (eds), Getting Along? Religious Identities and Confessional Relations in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honour of Professor W. J. Sheils (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 29-55.

'History, Memory and the English Reformation', Historical Journal, 55 (2012), 899-938.

‘Cultures of Coexistence in Early Modern England: History, Literature, and Religious Toleration’, The Seventeenth Century, 28 (2013), 115-37.

‘Migrations of the Holy: Religious Change in Medieval and Early Modern Europe’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 44 (2014), 241-280.

‘Antiquities Cornu-Britannick: Language, Memory and Landscape in Early Modern Cornwall’, in Robert Armstrong and Tadhg O hAnnrachain (eds), Christianities in the Celtic World (Palgrave: Basingstoke, 2014), pp. 71-91.

'Wholesome Milk and Strong Meat: Peter Canisius's Catechisms and the Conversion of Protestant Britain', British Catholic History, 32 (2015), 293-314.

'The Pope’s Merchandise and the Jesuits’ Trumpery: Catholic Relics and Protestant Polemic in Early Modern England’, in Jennifer Spinks and Dagmar Eichberger (eds), Religion, the Supernatural and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe: An Album Amicorum for Charles Zika, Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions (Brill: Leiden, 2015), pp. 370-409.

‘Luis de Granada’s Mission to Protestant England: Translating the Devotional Literature of the Spanish Counter Reformation’, in Teresa Bela, Clarinda Calma and Jolanta Rzegocka (eds), Subversive Publishing in Early Modern England and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (Brill, 2016), pp. 129-54.

‘Domesticating the Reformation: Material Culture, Memory and Confessional Identity in Early Modern England’, Renaissance Quarterly (2016), 69 (2016): 566–616.

‘The Holy Maid of Wales: Visions, Catholicism, and Imposture in Early Modern Britain’, English Historical Review, vol. 132, no. 555(2017), pp. 250-85.

‘The Happiness of Suffering: Adversity, Providence and Agency in Early Modern England’, in Michael Braddick and Joanna Innes (ed.), Happiness and Suffering in Early Modern England. A festschrift for Paul Slack (Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 45-64.

‘Recycling the Sacred: Material Culture and Cultural Memory after the English Reformation’, Church History, 86:4 (December 2017), pp. 1121–1154.

‘Relics, Writing, and Memory in the English Counter Reformation: Thomas Maxfield and his Afterlives’, British Catholic History, 34(1) (May 2018), pp. 77–105.