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Professor John Morrill

Professor John Morrill

Professor of British and Irish History

Selwyn College
Cambridge CB3 9DQ


John Morrill was educated at Altrincham Grammar School (Cheshire) and at Trinity College Oxford (BA 1967, DPhil 1971). He was a Research Fellow there (1970-4) and a Lecturer at Stirling University (1974-5) before moving to Cambridge in 1975 as Lecturer, Reader and now Professor. He has been a Fellow of Selwyn College since 1975 and was Director of Studies in History 1975-92, Tutor 1979-92, Admissions Tutor 1982-7, Senior Tutor 1987-92 and Vice Master 1992-2001. He was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995 and served as Vice President from 2001-9. He is also an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Academy of Finland, and he holds honorary degrees from several universities and is an Hon. Fellow of Trinity College Oxford and Trinity College Dublin. He is also a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and holds several senior positions in the Diocese of East Anglia (eg Chair of the Commission for Evangelisation and Assistant Director for Diaconal Formation) and he teaches Church History and pastoral theology one weekend a month at St John's Seminary, Wonersh.

Departments and Institutes

Selwyn College:

Research Interests

John Morrill has research interests across the period 1500-1750, and in many aspects of the period – religious, political, social and cultural. He has written more than a dozen articles in the past decade exploring the historical relationship between the peoples of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, most easily approached through his short book Uneasy Lies the head that wears a Crown: dynastic crises in Tudor and Stewart Britain 1504-1746 (2005) and in his Ford Lectures in Oxford in 2005, entitled Living with Revolution: the peoples of Britain and Ireland and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms which he is preparing for publication. He is the co-editor with John Saward and Michael Tomko of an 800-page anthology entitled Firmly I Believe and Truly: The English Catholic Spiritual Tradition 1483-2000 (OUP, 2011).

He is also deeply concerned about the religious dynamics of early modern British History, and especially about the religious psychology of leading actors in the events of the period, most notably Oliver Cromwell as can be seen in his biography of Oliver Cromwell (2007) and in many papers including forthcoming essays on Cromwell and the Bible and on Cromwell’s massacre of the garrison of Drogheda. He has been heavily involved in several major projects leading to electronic publications – he was the founding editor (1991-9) of the Royal Historical Society Bibliography Online, which itemises and indexes (a contents index not just a title index) nearly half a million books, articles and essays on the history of Britain, Ireland and the British Overseas (; and he is currently one of three senior scholars managing the preparation of an edition of several thousand depositions of witnesses (survivors) to the massacres in Ireland in 1641 funded by Research Councils in the UK and in Ireland (all now available online at He has been the Consultant Editor for 6,000+ seventeenth-century lives in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He is currently serving as General Editor, heading a team based in Cambridge of eight leading scholars and three post-doctoral researchers and preparing a completely new five-volume edition of all the recorded words (writings and recorded speech-acts) of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).


He has supervised more than 100 graduate students of sixteen nationalities, and his research supervision covers all the areas of his research, mainly but not exclusively in the seventeenth century. His current undergraduate teaching includes a Special Subject on The Irish Rebellion of 1641: origins, course, consequences.

Key Publications

Representative examples of his recent work include:


  • The Nature of the English Revolution (Longman, 1994)
  • The British Problem 1534-1707 (with Brendan Bradshaw, Macmillan, 1996)
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain (Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • Revolt in the Provinces: The English People and the Tragedies of War 1634-48 (Longman, 1999)
  • Uneasy Lies the head that wears a Crown: dynastic crises in Tudor and Stewart Britain 1504-1746 (University of Reading Press: 2005)
  • Oliver Cromwell (OUP, VIP series, 2007)
  • Firmly I Believe and Truly: the Catholic Spiritual Tradition in England 1483-2000 (with John Saward, Michael Tomko, OUP, 2011)

Other Publications

A complete list of 114 'major publications' between 1967 and 2009 can be found in a festschrift presented to John Morrill on his 65th birthday - eds. Michael J.Braddick and David L. Smith, The Experience of Revolution in Stuart Britain and Ireland (CUP, 2011), pp.291-8, but there are already seven more publications, most prominently 'Cromwell, Parliament, Ireland and a Commonwealth in crisis: 1652 revisited', Parliamentary History 30:2 (2011), 193-214; 'Renaming England's Wars of Religion' in eds.C.Prior and G.Burgess, England's Wars of Religion, Revisited (Ashgate, 2011), pp.307-26 and 'The causes of  Penal Laws: paradoxes and inevitabilities' in Eighteenth-Century Ireland 26 (2011); 55-73