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MacCulloch, Diarmaid 1951-

MacCulloch, Diarmaid 1951-

PERSONAL: Given name pronounced "Der-mid"; born October 31, 1951, in Folkestone, England; son of Nigel (an Anglican priest) and Jennie (a homemaker; maiden name, Chappell) MacCulloch. Education: Cambridge University, M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1976; University of Liverpool, diploma in archive administration, 1973; Oxford University, diploma in theology, 1987, D.D., 2000. Politics: "Left-liberal".

ADDRESSES: Office—Faculty of Theology, Oxford University, St. Giles, Oxford OX1 3LW, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Ordained deacon of the Church of England, 1987. Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, junior research fellow at Churchill College, 1976–78; Wesley College, Bristol, England, tutor in history, 1978–90; University of Bristol, lecturer in theology, 1978–95; St. Cross College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, lecturer in theology, 1995–97, senior tutor, 1996–2000, professor of the History of the Church, 1997–.

MEMBER: Royal Historical Society (fellow), Society of Antiquaries of London (fellow), British Academy (fellow).

AWARDS, HONORS: Whitfield Prize, Royal Historical Society, 1986, for Suffolk and the Tudors: Politics and Religion in an English County, 1500–1600; Whitfield Biography Prize, Duff Cooper Prize, and James Tait Prize, all 1996, all for Thomas Cranmer: A Life; Wolfson History Prize and British Academy Prize, both both for Reformation: House Divided; National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, 2004, for The Reformation: A History.


(Editor) The Chorography of Suffolk, Suffolk Records Society (Ipswich, England), 1976.

Suffolk and the Tudors: Politics and Religion in an English County, 1500–1600, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Groundwork of Christian History, Epworth (London, England), 1987.

(With J. Comby) How to Read Church History, Volume II, SCM Press (London, England), 1988.

The Later Reformation in England, 1547–1603, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor) The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1995.

Thomas Cranmer: A Life, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1996.

(With Anthony Fletcher) Tudor Rebellions, 4th edition, Longman (New York, NY), 1997.

Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, Allen Lane (London, England), 1999, published as The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2001.

Reformation: Europe's House Divided, 1490–1700, Allen Lane (London, England), 2003, published as The Reformation: A History, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.

Coeditor of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1995–. Contributor to history magazines and scholarly periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: Diarmaid MacCulloch is a historian of the English Reformation, particularly in its earliest phases during the reigns of Henry VIII and his successor, Edward VI. Of particular interest to MacCulloch are the life and contributions of Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), who, as Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI, guided the formation of the Anglican church and wrote the first two versions of the Book of Common Prayer. Critics have hailed MacCulloch's Thomas Cranmer: A Life as perhaps the best scholarly study of the clergyman. In Renaissance Quarterly, Margaret Christian declared that the six-hundred-plus-page work "revises the traditional picture of Cranmer's early career." Christian called the book "a work destined to become the standard" and added: "MacCulloch has given us an important biography which substantially advances our understanding of a complex man and the complicated details of his life."

Christian was not alone in her praise of Thomas Cranmer. History Today contributor A.G.R. Smith pointed to the book's "splendidly clear and elegant language" and concluded that MacCulloch makes "many convincing judgements" in his "excellent biography, by far the best study of Cranmer's life which we have." In Contemporary Review, critic James Munson noted: "The author handles the theological discussions extremely well and always seems to remember that many readers will not be theologians. One doubts that this book will be replaced for many years to come." William L. Sachs, writing in Christian Century, maintained that the book provides "a greatly enhanced picture of this complex figure. Cranmer emerges as a distinctive reformer, one who first crafted the kind of religious and political balance that has been characteristic of Anglicanism." Sachs concluded: "MacCulloch's ability to depict both the man and his times with such clarity and dynamism marks this as a work of rare quality."

Similar commendations have been given to other works by MacCulloch. In a History Today piece on The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety, C.D.C. Armstrong noted that the book "is not quite a comprehensive account of its subject … but it provides an excellent introduction to the period and should be of value for years to come." History Today reviewer Simon Adams called MacCulloch's Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation "polished and sophisticated." The critic continued: "Tudor Church Militant bristles with stimulating ideas. Here, as he did in Cranmer, Mac-Culloch displays the facility in explaining complex issues of theology and the sensitivity to the nuances in religious observance that have marked him out as the best of the Tudor ecclesiastical historians of his generation."

In 2003 MacCulloch made a departure from his examinations of the individuals of the Reformation period to write about the period itself in Reformation: Europe's House Divided, 1490–1700, which was published in the United States the following year as The Reformation: A History. In this book, MacCulloch addresses the most important causes and effects of the Reformation—the clash between traditional Christianity and early Protestantism. Major conflicts developed over official church views and beliefs on topics such as purgatory, papal infallibility, sex roles, colonization, calendar reform, witchcraft, and the general notion of tolerating dissent. The Protestants revolted against the Church, which in turn led to counterrevolutions by Catholics.

Some critics question whether further research into the much-discussed Reformation period was truly necessary. In a Library Journal review, Christopher Brennan wrote that MacCulloch has surpassed previous authors and "has produced the definitive survey for this generation." H.G. Koenigsberger, writing in the English Historical Review, noted: "This is a magnificent book … written with admirable clarity." Some reviewers consider The Reformation to have just one drawback: the intellectual depths to which it follows its complex subject matter. Despite the clarity of the writing style, the book "is not altogether easy to read, partly because MacCulloch does not simplify theology and partly because it presupposes quite extensive knowledge of the general history of Europe in the two centuries it covers," explained Koenigsberger. The Reformation received its highest recommendations as an addition to scholarly libraries, not necessarily as a book for general readers.



Albion, fall, 2002, review of The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, p. 468.

Christian Century, December 11, 1996, William L. Sachs, review of Thomas Cranmer: A Life, p. 1231; February 8, 2005, Hans J. Hillerbrand, review of The Reformation: A History, p. 41.

Contemporary Review, July, 1997, James Munson, review of Thomas Cranmer, p. 50.

English Historical Review, September, 2001, review of Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, p. 903; June, 2004, H.G. Koenigsberger, review of Reformation: Europe's House Divided, 1490–1700, p. 706.

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, November, 2004, review of The Reformation, p. 62.

History: Review of New Books, fall, 2001, Ronald H. Fritze, review of The Boy King, p. 20; winter, 2005, Christopher M. Bellitto, review of The Reformation, p. 76.

History Today, February, 1997, C.D.C. Armstrong, review of The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety, p. 59; November, 1997, A.G.R. Smith, review of Thomas Cranmer, p. 58; August, 2000, Simon Adams, review of Tudor Church Militant, p. 59.

Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1997, review of Thomas Cranmer, p. 323.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of The Reformation, p. 167.

Library Journal, April 1, 2001, Elizabeth Mellett, review of The Boy King, p. 110; April 1, 2004, Christopher Brennan, review of The Reformation, p. 107.

New Statesman and Society, June 14, 1996, David Starkey, review of Thomas Cranmer, p. 46.

New York Times Book Review, December 15, 1996, Allen D. Boyer, review of Thomas Cranmer.

Publishers Weekly, March 29, 2004, review of The Reformation, p. 58.

Quadrant, July-August, 2005, Ephraem Chifley, review of Reformation, p. 120.

Renaissance Quarterly, autumn, 1998, Margaret Christian, review of Thomas Cranmer, p. 1017.

Sunday Times (London, England), January 30, 2000, Kevin Sharpe, review of Tudor Church Militant, p. 42.

Theological Studies, June, 2005, Donald K. McKim, review of The Reformation, p. 454.


Guardian Unlimited, (March 23, 2006), Lisa Jardine, review of Reformation.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network Web site, (March 23, 2006).

St. Cross College, University of Oxford Web site, (March 23, 2006.)

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