Diarmaid MacCulloch

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The Reverend Professor
Diarmaid MacCulloch
Diarmaid MacCulloch.jpg
MacCulloch in 2007
Born Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch
(1951-10-31) 31 October 1951 (age 65)
Kent, England
Nationality British
Alma mater Churchill College, Cambridge
Occupation Historian
Employer University of Oxford
Notable work The Reformation: A History (2003)
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (2009)
Awards Knight Bachelor (2012)

Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch, Kt, FSA, FRHistS, FBA (born 31 October 1951) is a British historian and academic, specialising in church history and the history of Christianity. Since 1995, he has been a fellow of St Cross College, Oxford; he was formerly the senior tutor. Since 1997, he has been Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford.

Though ordained a deacon in the Church of England, MacCulloch declined ordination to the priesthood because of the church's attitude to his homosexuality.[1] In 2009 he encapsulated the evolution of his religious beliefs: "I was brought up in the presence of the Bible, and I remember with affection what it was like to hold a dogmatic position on the statements of Christian belief. I would now describe myself as a candid friend of Christianity."[2]

He co-edits the Journal of Ecclesiastical History.


Diarmaid MacCulloch was born in Kent, England. He attended Hillcroft Preparatory School and Stowmarket Grammar school in Suffolk. He subsequently studied history at Churchill College, Cambridge, where he obtained a BA degree in 1972; this was promoted to an MA degree 1976. During that period, he was also organ scholar at the college. He then completed a Diploma in Archive Administration at Liverpool University in 1973 and then returned to Cambridge to complete a PhD degree in 1977 on Tudor history under the supervision of Sir Geoffrey Rudolph Elton, combining this with a position as Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College.

MacCulloch joined the Gay Christian Movement in 1976, serving twice on its committee and briefly as honorary secretary. From 1978 to 1990 he tutored at Wesley College, Bristol and taught church history in the department of theology at the University of Bristol. He interrupted his teaching to study for the Oxford Diploma in Theology (awarded 1987) at Ripon College Cuddesdon. In 1987 he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England and from 1987 to 1988 he served as a non-stipendiary minister at All Saints' Clifton with St John's in the Diocese of Bristol. However, in response to a motion put before the General Synod in 1987 by the Revd Tony Higton regarding the sexuality of clergy, he declined ordination to the priesthood and ceased to minister at Clifton.

Regarding the conflict between his homosexuality and the Church of England and his own retreat from orthodoxy he said:

I was ordained Deacon. But, being a gay man, it was just impossible to proceed further, within the conditions of the Anglican set-up, because I was determined that I would make no bones about who I was; I was brought up to be truthful, and truth has always mattered to me. The Church couldn't cope and so we parted company. It was a miserable experience.[1]

His book Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490–1700 (2003) won the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award and 2004 British Academy Book Prize, adding to his earlier success in carrying off the 1996 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Thomas Cranmer: A Life. A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, was published in September 2009 with a related 6-part television series called A History of Christianity which first aired on BBC 4 in 2009 and then on BBC 2 and BBC 4 in 2010. The book won McGill University's Cundill Prize, a $75,000 prize, the largest such prize in Canada at the time.[3]

In 2012, he wrote and presented How God Made the English, a three-part documentary series tracing the history of English identity from the Dark Ages to the present day.[4] In 2013 he presented a documentary on Thomas Cromwell and his place in English ecclesiastical and political history. His 2015 series Sex and the Church explored how Christianity has shaped western attitudes to sex, gender and sexuality throughout history.[5]

He sits on the European Advisory Board of Princeton University Press.[6]


MacCulloch was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1978 (FSA), a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1982 (FRHistS), and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2001 (FBA).

MacCulloch was awarded a Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree by the University of Oxford in 2001; the DD is the highest degree awarded by Oxford. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree by the University of East Anglia.

MacCulloch was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to scholarship.[7] While Debretts gives his formal style as "Prof Sir",[8] MacCulloch has expressed the preference that he not be addressed in that manner, in accordance with protocol which dictates that clergy holding knighthoods are addressed as "Sir" (or Dame) only if so honoured before their ordination.[9][10]

Selected works


  • A History of Christianity 2009
  • Henry VIII's Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell 2013
  • Sex and the Church 2015


  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1986). Suffolk and the Tudors : politics and religion in an English county 1500-1600. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 
  • The Later Reformation in England (1990)
  • Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety (1995)
  • Thomas Cranmer: A Life (1996)
  • Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (1999)
    • republished as The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (2001)
  • Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490–1700 (2003)
    • republished as The Reformation: A History (2005)
  • A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. London, Allen Lane. (2009) ISBN 978-0-7139-9869-6
  • Silence: A Christian History. London, Allen Lane. (2013)
  • All Things Made New: The Reformation and its Legacy. London, Allen Lane. (2016)

Critical studies, reviews and biography

  • Rubin, Miri (November 2013). "[Review of Silence : a Christian history]". Reviews. History Today. 63 (11): 63–64. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 

See also


  1. ^ a b BBC Press Office (2009): A History Of Christianity
  2. ^ A History of Christianity, 11.
  3. ^ "Search". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 15 November 2010. 
  4. ^ How God Made the English at BBC Programmes
  5. ^ MacCulloch, Diarmaid (Apr 2015). "Sex and the Church". BBC 2. Retrieved Apr 23, 2015. 
  6. ^ Princeton University Press, European Advisory Board
  7. ^ "(Supplement) no. 60009". The London Gazette. 31 December 2011. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "Prof Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch's Biography". Debrett's. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Tim Walker (9 January 2012). "Please, not Sir". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Matt Pickles (5 January 2012). "Behind the shining armour". Arts at Oxford. University of Oxford. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 


  • Crockford's Clerical Directory; 97th edition (London: Church House Publishing, 2001), p. 477.
  • LGBT Religious Archives Network: profile: Diarmaid MacCulloch

External links

  • Profile on the website of St Cross College, Oxford
  • Curriculum vitæ provided by Saint Cross College, Oxford
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch at the Internet Movie Database
  • A History Of Christianity on BBC website
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