2011-12 Conferences: The Church on its Past

Theme for 2011-12: The Church on its Past

Christ Church, Oxford, 17-20 August 2011

London, 14 January 2012

Our fiftieth anniversary summer conference offers the Society an exciting opportunity to celebrate its own past and to reflect on developments in Ecclesiastical History as a discipline over the past fifty years. We shall mark the Society’s own history in the publication of Stella Fletcher’s history of the Society, which will be launched during the conference.  Plenary speakers will address specific areas of the writing of Ecclesiastical History in the second half of the twentieth century, setting the debates and issues that have preoccupied Church historians in the wider context of developments in History (and to some extent also Theology) over the same period.  At the Winter Meeting, all three papers will consider shifts in historical perceptions of the relations between Church and State.  Communications to the summer conference are therefore invited under two heads: historiographical reflections on particular areas of the churches’ history; and discussion of periods in Church History where churches have looked to the past to explain the present, or legitimate visions for the future.

Among the more significant changes to affect the discipline of History over the last half century has been a growth of interest in historiography.  From its former status as a marginal branch of History pursued only by a few, it has become a growing area of historical enquiry, taking a central place in undergraduate curricula in History.  Historians’ increased reflexivity on their own discipline has arisen, in part, out of the substantial changes that History has experienced methodologically and conceptually over the second half of the twentieth century.  Other disciplines – sociology, anthropology, literary theory, cultural studies – have significantly affected the ways in which historians approach the past.  To what extent are those same shifts visible in Ecclesiastical History?  The influence of anthropology is perhaps the most immediately obvious to a medievalist, but social and literary theories also have had a substantial impact.  We might want to reflect on whether we, as a Society, have kept pace with these wider changes and ask where Ecclesiastical History stands in relation to other branches of the discipline, particularly to the burgeoning study of religion.

Sessions for communications will be organised thematically, not chronologically, and we welcome collaborative applications from groups of scholars offering papers on a single theme. Members might choose to suggest papers addressing areas of Church History to which previous conferences were devoted; all are encouraged to ensure that their papers are equally accessible to historians of all periods of the Church. The conference will open with a round-table ecumenical discussion on the question ‘What has Church history ever done for the Church?’

Plenary speakers at the Summer Conference and Winter Meeting are David Bebbington, Sarah Foot, Matthew Grimley, Judith Lieu, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Anthony Milton, Ken Parker, and Claudia Rapp.

Sarah Foot

President-elect for 2011-12

For the programme of the Summer Conference, click here.

For the programme of the Winter Meeting, click here.

The resulting volume was published as Peter D. Clarke and Charlotte Methuen, eds, The Church on its Past, SCH 49 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2013)