Professor Anthony Grafton delivered an enthralling plenary lecture to a memorable conference on ‘Historians and the Sacred: Late Medieval to Early Enlightenment’, organized by Felicity Heal and Paulina Kewes for the Centre for Early Modern Studies and the Centre for Early Modern British and Irish History (Jesus College, 19 June). Ecclesiastical history, he argued, was a distinctively innovative genre, bringing in new techniques of documentary research and also opening up the study of comparative religion, with deepening research into Hebrew studies and later into the religions of East Asia. The other papers were appropriately wide-ranging. Felicity Heal and George Southcombe discussed the languages of religious polemic in England, Diarmaid MacCulloch exposed a much-used source for ecclesiastical historians as a forgery, and Lori Anne Ferrell examined the role of the Parker Society editions in forming views of the English past. Peter McCullough demonstrated the breadth of Lancelot Andrewes’ scholarship including his Hebrew learning which, he concluded, prepared the way for Selden’s. Ian Maclean discussed the  role of church history in the European book trade. Nicholas Davidson explored reasons for the absence of ‘the sacred’ in Paolo Sarpi’s church history, while Irena Backus opened up the neglected area of Leibniz’s extensive writings on church history (her paper is available here). Discussing Alessandro Valignano, a leader of the Jesuit mission in Japan, M.Antoni J.Ucerler was struck by common concerns on the writing of church history with many of the other writers discussed in the conference. Such connections were a striking feature of a lively and productive conference. Originally planned to inaugurate Professor Grafton’s visit this term, in which he has been so generous in creating dialogue with Oxford scholars and graduate students, the postponed conference now formed a prelude to the swiftly-ensuing conferences on John Selden and on ‘Reading Hebrew and Jewish Texts in Early Modern Europe’.


John Selden, 1584-1654: Scholarship in Context

© National Portrait Gallery

24th-26th June, 2010

Magdalen College, Oxford

Oxford Centre for Early Modern Studies

Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book

Keynote speakers: G.J. Toomer, Mordechai Feingold, Peter Miller, Jason Rosenblatt, Richard Tuck

Registration is now open for the first major international conference on John Selden (1584-1654), to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his first publications: early booking is recommended for an event with a remarkable international and interdisciplinary range.

John Selden, ‘the monarch in letters’ (Jonson) and England’s ‘chief of learned men’ (Milton) was Britain’s leading scholar, antiquary and jurist.  He was a key figure in the advance of Oriental learning in the West: his achievements in Hebraic studies were unparalleled, and he promoted the study of Arabic and Islamic culture.  He was a renowned theorist of international law (with his Mare Clausum) and of natural law (with his De Iure Naturali & Gentium). He was also a leading Member of Parliament, especially during the Civil War, and an active member of the Westminster Assembly. His work provoked praise and polemic from scholars, theologians and philosophers. His correspondence ranged throughout the European Republic of Letters and reached to Aleppo in Syria. He was the greatest scholarly book collector in England; more than 8000 volumes of his library were deposited in the Bodleian, where he gave his name to the ‘Selden End’ of Duke Humfrey’s library. This conference aims to build on G.J. Toomer’s recent magnum opus, John Selden: A Life in Scholarship (OUP, 2009), to return Selden to the centre of the intellectual culture of his age.

Speakers: Sharon Achinstein, Sir John Baker, Mark Bland, Hans Blom, Elizabethanne Boran, Christopher Brooks, Alan Coates, Theodor Dunkelgrün, Anthony Grafton, Simon Keynes, Vivienne Larminie, Jan Loop, Scott Mandelbrote, Anthony Milton, Sarah Mortimer, Martin Mulsow, Eric Nelson, Paul Nelles, Graham Parry, Annabel Patterson, Jean-Louis Quantin, Julian Roberts, Richard Sharpe, Harvey Shoolman, Colin Tite, Chad van Dixhoorn, Dirk van Miert, Joanna Weinberg

A conference on ‘Historians and the Sacred: Late Medieval to Early Enlightenment”, sponsored by CEMS and the Centre for Early Modern British and Irish History, will be held at Jesus College, Oxford, on Saturday 24 April. Registration by 15 April  is payable in advance (£20, graduate students £10): please email for a registration form.

9.30–11.30 am SESSION I
Nicholas Davidson, ‘Paolo Sarpi and the Use of History’
Irena Backus, ‘Leibniz and Sacred History’
M. Antoni J. Ucerler, ‘Sacred Historiography and its Rhetoric in Early
Modern Japan’
Where did the Christian Church Come From? Tradition and
Innovation in Early Modern Church History
1–2 pm LUNCH
Felicity Heal, ‘Catholic and Protestant Use of History: A Case of English
Diarmaid MacCulloch, ‘Foxes, Firebrands and Forgery: A Source
Pollution in Reformation History’
Peter McCullough, ‘Lancelot Andrewes and Sacred History’
4–4.30 pm TEA
4.30–6.30 pm SESSION III
Ian Maclean, ‘Church History and the Book Trade, 1560–1630’
George Southcombe, ‘The Polemics of Moderation in the Late Seventeenth
Lori Anne Ferrell, ‘The Parker Society and the nineteenth-century Battle for
the History of the Church of England’