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Dr James Kelly

Research Fellow in the History of Catholicism

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Research Fellow in the History of Catholicism in the Department of Theology and ReligionNo. 5 The College D002+44 (0) 191 33 43950
Member of Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies  


I am the Sweeting Associate Professor (Research) in the History of Catholicism and have been a member of Durham University's Department of Theology and Religion since 2012. I am also co-ordinator of the Durham Residential Research Library fellowships scheme.

After completing my PhD at King's College, London, I was a member of the AHRC-funded ‘Who Were the Nuns?’ project and Project Manager of its AHRC-funded follow-on initiative, both at Queen Mary, University of London. Since 2015 I have been Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded 'Monks in Motion' project, which is investigating the experience of the English and Welsh Benedictines in exile, c.1553-1800. I am joint general editor of the five-volume The Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism (OUP, forthcoming 2022). In addition, I am one of the co-editors of the book series, 'Catholicisms, c.1450-c.1800', published by Durham University IMEMS Press.

My interests are in post-Reformation Catholic history in Europe, with a particular focus on Britain and Ireland. The experience of the British and Irish Catholic communities at home and in exile is the main focus of my research.

I lead the History of Catholicism research strand within the University's Centre for Catholic Studies. In this role, I act as conference director of the biennial Early Modern British and Irish Catholicism conference, which is organized jointly by Durham University and the University of Notre Dame. I am also a member of the steering committe of the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art, as well as an associate and member of the steering committee of the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English. In addition, I am a member of Durham University's Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

I am always interested in supervising research students and welcome enquiries from those thinking of researching the history of Cathoicism. My current research students' topics include:

  • English Benedictine nuns and their return to England after the French Revolution, c.1790-1830
  • Women religious and girls' education in England, c.1850-1920
  • English Catholic spitiruality, c.1560-1640

Awarded Grants

  • 2015: Monks in Motion: A prosopographical study of the English and Welsh Benedictines in exile, 1553-1800(£185190.20 from AHRC)


Authored book

  • Kelly, James E. (2013). Convent Management. Volume 5 of six volume sources and editorial series. Pickering & Chatto.
  • Kelly, James E. (2020). English Convents in Catholic Europe, c.1600-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Kelly, James E. (2017). English Women Religious, the Exile Male Colleges and National Identities in Counter-Reformation Europe. In College Communities Abroad: Education, Migration and Catholicism in Early Modern Europe. Chambers, Liam & O'Connor, Thomas Manchester: Manchester University Press. 198-220.
  • Kelly, James E. (2013). Essex Girls Abroad: Family Patronage and the Politicization of Convent Recruitment in the Seveneteenth Century. In The English Convents in Exile, 1600-1800: Communities, Culture and Identity. Bowden, Caroline & Kelly, James E. 33-52.
  • Kelly, James E. (2014). Conformity, Loyalty and the Jesuit Mission to England of 1580. In Religious Tolerance in the Atlantic World: Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives. Glaser, Eliane Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 149-170.
  • Kelly, James E. (2015). Bringing it all back home: Mary Butler (1641-1723) - Benedictine Abbess of Ypres. In Treasures of Irish Christianity volume 3: To the Ends of the Earth. Ryan, Salvador Veritas. 64-66.
  • Kelly, James E. (2019). Jesuit News Networks and Catholic Identity: The Letters of John Thorpe, S.J., to the English Carmelite Nuns at Lierre, 1769–89. In Jesuit Intellectual and Physical Exchange between England and Mainland Europe, c. 1580 – 1789: ‘The World is our House’?. Kelly, James E. & Thomas, Hannah Leiden: Brill. 18: 337-360.
  • Kelly, James E. (2019). The Jesuit English Mission. In The Oxford Handbook of Jesuits. Županov, Ines G. Oxford Oxford University Press. 293-317.
  • Kelly, James E. (2017). Creating an English Catholic Identity: Relics, Martyrs and English Women Religious in Counter-Reformation Europe. In Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity, Memory and Counter-Reformation. Kelly, James E. & Royal, Susan Leiden Boston: Brill. 41-59.

Edited book

  • Kelly,James E. & Royal, Susan (2017). Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity, Memory and Counter-Reformation, c. 1570–1800. Brill.
  • Kelly, James E., Laugerud, Henning & Ryan, Salvador (2020). Northern European Reformations: Transnational Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kelly, James E. & Thomas Hannah (2019). Jesuit Intellectual and Physical Exchange between England and Mainland Europe, c. 1580 – 1789: ‘The World is our House’?. Brill.
  • Kelly, James E. (2015). Treasures of Ushaw College: Durham's Hidden Gem. Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers.

Edited Journal

  • Kelly, James E. (2014). Panic, Plots and Polemic: The Jesuits and the Early Modern English Mission. Journal of Jesuit Studies, 1 (4): Brill.

Edited Sources, Research Data Sets and Databases

  • Bowden, Caroline & Kelly, James E. (2013). The 'Who Were the Nuns?' database.
  • Kelly, James E. & Begadon, Cormac S. (2017). The 'Monks in Motion' database.
  • Contributor to (2015). The New Sommervogel Online.

Journal Article

  • Kelly, James E. (2021). Political Mysticism: Augustine Baker, the Spiritual Formation of Missionaries and the Catholic Reformation in England. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 72(2): 300-322.
  • Kelly, James E. (2009). Kinship and Religious Politics among Catholic Families in England, 1570-1640. History 94(315): 328-343.
  • Kelly, James E. (2020). England and the Catholic Reformation: The Peripheries Strike Back. Journal of Early Modern Christianity 7(2): 271-285.
  • Kelly, James E. (2018). Counties without Borders? Religious Politics, Kinship Networks and the Formation of Catholic Communities. Historical Research 91(251): 22-38.
  • Kelly, James E. (2018). The Contested Appropriation of George Gervase's Martyrdom: European Religious Patronage and the Controversy Over the Oath of Allegiance. Journal of British Studies 57(2): 253-274.

Other (Print)

  • Daemen-de Gelder, Katrien, Kelly, James E. & Majerus, Pascal (2011). Calendar of sources for the 'Who Were the Nuns?' project.

Supervision students