Professor John Coffey

Professor of History

School/Department: History Politics and International Relations, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3941



As Professor of History, I work on religion, politics and ideas in the Protestant Atlantic world, c. 1600-1850. I studied History at Cambridge and completed a PhD under the supervision of Mark Goldie at Churchill College, where I held a Junior Research Fellowship, before taking up a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at University College London. I have taught at Leicester since 1999, serving as Head of History from 2013 to 2016.


My research has shifted in focus over the years. From the 1990s to the 2010s my main field was seventeenth-century Britain where I worked on the politics of religion especially as related to Puritanism and Dissent. In recent years I have turned to the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I am currently the director of the Wilberforce Diaries Project which is working on a major OUP edition of the diaries and journals of the abolitionist politician William Wilberforce (almost a million words). For more on this project see our website: We also have a Twitter account:


Reliquiae Baxterianae, ed. N. H. Keeble, John Coffey, Tim Cooper, and Tom Charlton, 5 vols (OUP, 2020).  

Exodus and Liberation: Deliverance Politics from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr. (OUP, 2013).
John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution: Religion and Intellectual Change in Seventeenth-Century England (Boydell, 2006).
Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558-1689 (Longman, 2000).
Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (CUP, 1997).

The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, vol. I: The Post-Reformation Era, c.1559-1689, ed. John Coffey (OUP, 2020). 
Politics, Religion and Ideas in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Britain, ed. Justin Champion, John Coffey, Tim Harris and John Marshall (Boydell, 2019).
Heart Religion: Evangelical Piety in Britain and Ireland, 1690-1850, ed. John Coffey (OUP, 2016).
Seeing Things their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion, ed. Alister Chapman, John Coffey and Brad Gregory (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009).
The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, ed. John Coffey and Paul C-H. Lim (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

I have published over fifty papers in scholarly journals and edited collections, many of which are available on Here are some key publications from the past decade:
'The Intellectual Context' in Jonathan Yeager, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Early Evangelicalism (OUP, forthcoming).
'How Religious Freedom became a Natural Right: The Case of Post-Reformation England', in Marietta van der Tol, Carys Brown, John Adenitire and Emily Kempson, eds, From Toleration to Religious Freedom: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives (Peter Lang, 2021). 
'"A Bad and Dangerous Book": Biblical Identity Politics in the Demerara Slave Rebellion', in Gareth Atkins, Shinjini Das, Brian Murray, eds, Chosen Peoples: The Bible, Race and Empire in the Long Nineteenth Century (Manchester UP, 2020).
'Early Modern Protestants and the Problem of Catholic Overseas Missions', in Simone Maghenzani and Stefano Villani, eds, British Protestant Missions and the Conversion of Europe (1600-1900) (Routledge, 2020).
'The Assassination of Archbishop Sharp', in Justin Champion, John Coffey, Tim Harris and John Marshall, eds., Politics, Religion and Ideas in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Britain (Boydell, 2019).
'Evangelicals and Race' (with Stephen Tuck) in Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones, eds, The Routledge Companion to Evangelicalism (Routledge, 2018).
'"The Last and Greatest Triumph of the European Radical Reformation"? Anabaptism, Spiritualism, and Anti-Trinitarianism in the English Revolution' in Bridget Heal, Anorthe Kremers, eds, Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017).
'Exile and Return in Anglo-American Puritanism' in Yosef Kaplan, ed., Early Modern Ethnic and Religious Communities in Exile (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017). 
'Religious Thought', in Michael Braddick, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution (OUP, 2015). 
'"The Brand of Gentilism": Milton's Jesus and the Augustinian Critique of Pagan Kingship', Milton Quarterly, 48 (2014).
'The Language of Liberty in Calvinist Political Thought', in Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner, eds, Freedom and the Construction of Europe, 2 vols (CUP, 2013), vol. I.
'"Tremble Britannia!" The fear of God and the abolition of the slave trade', English Historical Review, 527 (2012). 


I supervise PhD projects on Anglophone religion, politics, and ideas from the Reformation to the twentieth century. Most of my students work on British history but I have had several researching American history too. Most study the 17th and 18th centuries but others have written on the 19th and 20th. I have particular expertise on the English (and Scottish) Revolution (the 1640s and 1650s) and on the abolitionist era from the 1780s to the 1830s, the focus of my current research. I mainly supervise PhDs on Puritanism and Evangelicalism, Anglicanism and Dissent. I'm especially interested in the following topics: persecution and toleration, the politics of religion, religious and political thought, religion in the Enlightenment, slavery and abolition.

Some of my UK students are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (via Midlands4Cities); other students are self-funded including a number in the US and overseas who are doing the PhD via our part-time Distance Learning programme. I have supervised nine students to completion and examined many others at over a dozen UK universities. Do not hesitate to email me if you're interested in a PhD at Leicester. 


I teach at all levels of the UG and PG programmes in History including the following modules:

Barbarism and Civilisation: Medieval and Early Modern Europe (First Year core module)

Abolitionists: Antislavery Activism in Britain and America 1787-1865 (Final Year Option)

Religious Conflict and Coexistence (MA Option).

Press and media

I have expertise on religious history (especially Puritanism, Evangelicalism, and American religious history) and on British antislavery. I'm currently working on two main projects: a study of the Demerara slave revolt of 1823, and the first complete edition of the diaries of the abolitionist politician William Wilberforce.


Two-year research grant from the Marc Fitch Fund for the Wilberforce Diaries Project, 2022-2024

Short-term fellowship at The Huntington Library, San Marino California, April 2022

Shortlisted for the 2022 Richard L. Greaves Prize by the International John Bunyan Society (for Reliquiae Baxterianae)

Shortlisted for the 2016 Richard L. Greaves Prize by the International John Bunyan Society (for Exodus and Liberation)

One-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship for project on ‘British Abolitionists and Protestant Millennialism’, 2012

Co-Investigator for AHRC-funded project on Richard Baxter's Reliquiae Baxterianae, 5 vols (OUP, 2020). 

AHRC Research Leave Award for writing of Exodus and Liberation: Deliverance Politics from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr. (OUP, 2014)

Burns Lecturer at the University of Otago New Zealand, 2010

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, University College London, 1998-99

Junior Research Fellowship, Churchill College, Cambridge, 1994-98


I have given papers at over one hundred seminars or conferences at universities including Bonn, Cambridge, European University Institute (Florence), Georgetown Law School (Washington DC), Harvard, Hebrew University (Jerusalem), Institute of Historical Research (London), Manchester, Monticello (University of Virginia), Newcastle, Oxford, Princeton, Queen’s University Belfast, St Andrews, Trinity College Dublin, University of East Anglia, and the University of Southern California.

Here are a few recent online presentations:

'An Abolitionist's Diaries': An Introduction to the Wilberforce Diaries Project Wilberforce Institute webinar:

The Reliquiae Baxterianae project - The Reception of the Reliquiae Dr Williams's Library London:"

‘The Bible and the Antislavery Movement’ Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies Rome:

'Protestant Millennialism and British Abolitionism' Centre for the Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements:


Media coverage

Interview about the Wilberforce Diaries Project:

Guest appearance on BBC Radio 4's 'In our Time' on the Quakers:

Guest blog on Religious Refugees in the Age of the Mayflower, Berkley Center, Georgetown University:

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