Diarmaid MacCulloch

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The Reverend
Diarmaid MacCulloch
Diarmaid MacCulloch.jpg
Born (1951-10-31) 31 October 1951 (age 66)
Kent, England
Nationality British
Title Professor of the History of the Church
Academic background
Alma mater Churchill College, Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Geoffrey Elton
Academic work
Discipline History
Sub-discipline Ecclesiastical history
Institutions St Cross College, Oxford
Notable works

Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch[needs IPA] 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, he declined ordination to the priesthood because of the church's attitude to 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] MacCulloch co-edits the Journal of Ecclesiastical History.


Diarmaid MacCulloch was born in Kent, England, to parents Nigel J. H. MacCulloch (an Anglican priest) and Jennie MacCulloch (née Chappell).[3] He attended Hillcroft Preparatory School and Stowmarket Grammar School in Suffolk. He subsequently studied history at Churchill College, Cambridge, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972; this was promoted to a Master of Arts degree in 1976. During that period, he was also organ scholar at the college. After completing a Diploma in Archive Administration at Liverpool University in 1973, he then returned to Cambridge to complete a PhD degree in 1977 on Tudor history under the supervision of Geoffrey 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 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]

MacCulloch was awarded a Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree by the University of Oxford in 2001; the DD is the highest degree awarded by the university.

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 BBC4 in 2009 and then on BBC2 and BBC4 in 2010. The book won McGill University's Cundill Prize, a $75,000 prize, the largest such prize in Canada at the time.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

He sits on the European Advisory Board of Princeton University Press.[7]


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). In 2003, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree by the University of East Anglia. He was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to scholarship.[8] While Debretts gives his formal style as "Prof Sir",[9] 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.[10][11]

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. 
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1987). Groundwork of Christian History. London: Epworth 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. 


  1. ^ a b BBC Press Office (2009): A History Of Christianity
  2. ^ A History of Christianity, 11.
  3. ^ MacCulloch, Diarmaid (c. 2011). Curriculum Vitae: Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch (PDF). Retrieved 13 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "Search". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 15 November 2010. 
  5. ^ How God Made the English at BBC Programmes
  6. ^ MacCulloch, Diarmaid (Apr 2015). "Sex and the Church". BBC 2. Retrieved Apr 23, 2015. 
  7. ^ Princeton University Press, European Advisory Board
  8. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 1. 
  9. ^ "Prof Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch's Biography". Debrett's. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Tim Walker (9 January 2012). "Please, not Sir". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  11. ^ 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
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch on IMDb
  • A History Of Christianity on BBC website
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