I teach using a mixture of primary and secondary sources, including diaries, art and drama. I also give lectures and run seminars and workshops, helping you to explore the fascinating period that is early modern Europe.
I give you reading to do each week and encourage you to be confident in developing, exploring and questioning your own ideas. I am on hand to offer advice, direction and help as you need it!
I draw on my own expertise in early modern history and my links with museums in the region to bring 16th and 17thc history to life.
I have a PhD in early modern history from the University of York, and a BA (hons) from the University of Oxford.
I was a lecturer in early modern history at the University of Southampton between 2003 and 2005 before moving to MMU. I have also taught at the University of Sheffield and the University of York.
I am the Director of Research Degrees for History, Politics and Philosophy, overseeing the admission of research students and representing the department's research students at Faculty level.
The period 1450 -1650 was one of seismic change in European history, and the effects that period are still being felt today.
In England, Henry VII seized the throne and established the Tudor dynasty, uniting England and Wales and starting efforts colonise Ireland and unite England and Scotland. Henry VIII broke with Rome, establishing the Church of England and giving the English crown in parliament enormous new powers (see the debate about the 'Henry VIII bill' in Brexit negotiations).
The Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther in Germany, created divisions between Protestants and Catholics and led to invasion attempts like the Spanish Armada in 1588, plots like the Gunpowder plot, and helped to fuel the British Civil Wars in the 17th century.
It was a time of innovation and change with the introduction of the printing press, the discovery of the Americas, the first republic and the execution of King Charles I, and the flowering of political thought about representation and rebellion. There were also enormous cultural developments. English became a literary language, with William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Kit Marlowe and Thomas Wyatt all writing in English. Court painters like Hans Holbein produced images of the Tudor and Stuart Kings and Queens we all know today, and we still celebrate events - like Bonfire night - that were first celebrated in Stuart England.
I run the third year course: 'The Tudors: 1485-1603' which explores the political, cultural and religious history of the period through a range of primary sources.
This popualr course always receives above average satisfaction ratings in student feedback.
I also contribute to Myths of Medieval and Early Modern England (1st year) and Constructing a New World, Europe 1450-1700 (2nd year).
I supervise undergraduate dissertations on Tudor or Stuart England; the Reformation; book or printing history.
Postgraduate Teaching and Research Degree Co-ordinator
I run MA courses which explore 'The Elizabethans' and paleography. I also run sessions on paleography and Latin for historians on the MA skills course.
I am involved in the Arts and Humanities skills sessions for PhD and research students
As Research Degree Co-ordinator for History, please contact me with queries about admissions. I am also able to help with any general problems that arise in the course of your degree, and can distribute news about events and training courses to our postgraduate students and their supervisors.
Recent and Current PhDs include:
Anna Fielding, 'Eating Together: Commensal Dining in Early Modern Houses', (2018--) co-funded with the National Trust
Jess Purdy, 'Reading the Reformation: Parish Libraries and the Practice of Reading in Early Modern England' (2017--) co-funded with Chetham's Library, Manchester
J.A. Hilton, 'The Post-Reformation Catholic Community in the North of England' (PhD awarded 2016)
Christina Brindley. 'Female Piety and the Development of Post-Reformation Catholicism in the Diocese of Chester, 1558-1680' (PhD awarded 2015)
I am also supervising PhDs on Medieval bishops and the Crusades and Catholic literature in the 18th century.
I am able to offer PhD supervision in any of the following areas:
the English Reformation;
Tudor political and cultural history;
the history of readin
My research interests focus on the Tudor and Stuart Churches, looking at connections between the European and English Reformations and exploring relations between Catholics, Puritans and the regime. I also work on the cultural history of the period, specialising in book and library history and I am also currently exploring disability and sensory history.
Moderate Radical: Archbishop Matthew and Elizabethan and Stuart Puritanism
My monograph, Moderate Radical: Tobie Matthew and the English Reformation (Oxford University Press, March 2018) explores how Puritanism was both a cohesive and disruptive force in the Church, leading ultimately to the British Civil Wars. It makes use of unsusual and original sources including readers' annotations and newly-discovered sermon notes (buy here).
Reading Sacred History in Reformation Europe, 1500-1600
We have received British Academy Funding for an International Fellowship, allowing Dr Nina Adamova from St Petersburg State University to work with me on annotated copies of Liber Chronicarum (better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle) in libraries in Manchester, York, London and the National Library of Russia. Dr Adamova will be in Manchester from June 2018, developing her skills in paleography and using annotated books alongside staff and PG students at MMU.
By comparing copies of the Chronicle owned and annotated by 16th-century readers from England, Russia, Poland, France and Germany, we hope to compare reading habits across Europe. This is also the start of future collaborations with the National Library of Russia, one of the largest libraries in the world.
This draws on my work on Early modern history writing (see below, publications), and comes out the Communities of Print network. .
Reformation: Exhibition 2017-2018
I have worked with Julianne Simpson, at John Ryland's Library to create the exhibtion 'Reformation', marking 500 years since the 'start' of the Protestant Reformation. This popular exhibition explores the connections between Martin Luther, Henry VIII and William Tyndale, showing how their activities changed Europe for ever. We put on a series of events to mark the anniversary, including the sell-out debate 'The Reformation: Who gives a Fig'? Visitors froms around the world rated John Rylands Library and the exhbition as the no 1 visitor attraction in Manchester on Trip Advisor, describing it as 'must-see',' interesting introduction' & 'fascinating exhibits'. Reformation Leaflet
Communities of Print
I run the international scholarly network, 'Communities of Print', which examines the communal life of books in the medieval and early modern period and includes a blog & website. I am also a member of international networks of Print Historians: European Dimensions of Popular Print, based at the University of Utrecht and the Early Modern Book Project.
An article "Et Amicorum: Reading alone or with friends?" which explores the shared practices of reading and annotating books is under review.
Eating Together: Commensal Dining in Early Modern England
I am currently exploring patterns of communal dining in Early Modern England, with particular reference to ageing, clerical families and gentry households.
* 'Clerical Wives and the Evolution of Hospitality in Clergy Households, 1500-1630', a paper delivered at ESSHC in Belfast, 2018 and an article under review.
* Collaborating with Dr Jenny Fisher on what the history of communal eating can tell us about old-age and the importance of commensal dining. Dr Fisher (Health and Social Sciences, MMU) leading research into Ageing Cities and communities, supported by ESRC, Age UK and Manchester City Council.
* Director of Studies for a co-funded PhD with the National Trust (2018-2021), looking at how changes in dining affected the architecture and material culture of gentry houses, with particuar reference to
Preaching and the Senses in Early Modern England
My current research explores the popularity of Early Modern preaching, looking at the sensory appeal of a range of sermons and sermon-related cultural activies.
My article 'Preaching with Hands: Sign Language and Preaching in Early Modern England' explores how signed languages for the deaf developed out of early modern preaching.
I have been on sabbatical (Spring term 2018), doing research for my book, Preaching and the Senses..
I currently work part time, following periods away from academia to look after my two children - also keen history fans! I welcome and support students looking to re-enter academia after career breaks of any sort.
Early Modern Libraries and Public History
I collaborate with a number of prestigious libraries and museums in Northern England, drawing on my expertise in cultural, religious and book history.
Communities of Print
This is an international network of scholars working on the communal lives of books : how they were used by different communities, how they created communities and how the production of books was a collective effort. This network has involved an international conference and blog written by leading scholars in medieval and early modern history and English studies.
Cultural and Heritage History: National Trust
I am Director of Studies for a collaborative PhD between MMU and the National Trust on commensal dining and the early modern house. This will draw on the Tudor houses of the National Trust in the North West, and involves a significant element of public history and engagement.
I am also part of the 'Tudor Working Group' advising the National Trust on their early modern collections and displays, and am currently part of the planning group preparing a exhibition for 2019 on the world-famous Lyme Park Missal.
RB. Oates (2018). Moderate Radical: Tobie Matthew and the English Reformation. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press.
RB. Oates, N. Adamova, V. Baryshnikov (2017). Research Project “Communities of Print in Early Modern Europe”. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art. 7, pp.690-693.
RB. Oates (2012). Sermons and Sermon-Going in Early Modern England. Reformation. 17(1), pp.199-212.
RB. Oates (2012). Puritanism and the 'Monarchical Republic': Conformity and Conflict in the Elizabethan Church. English Historical Review. 127(527), pp.819-843.
C. Fletcher, R. Oates (2009). Religious Thought, Political Practice, 1200–1600. Cultural and Social History. 6(3), pp.297-304.
R. Oates (2006). Catholicism, conformity and the community in the Elizabethan diocese of Durham. NORTHERN HISTORY. 43(1), pp.53-+.
RB. Oates (2006). Catholicism Conformity and the Community in the Elizabethan Diocese of Durham. Northern History. 43(1), pp.53-76.
ROSAMUND. Oates (2017). Puritanism. M. Sgarbi. In: Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy. Germany: Springer,
RB. Oates (2012). Elizabethan Histories of English Christian Origins. KV. Liere, S. Ditchfield, H. Louthan. In: Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World. OUP Oxford,
RB. Oates (2012). 'For the lacke of true history': Polemic, Conversion, and Church History in Elizabethan England. N. Lewycky, A. Morton. In: Getting Along? Religious Identities and Confessional Relations in Early Modern England. Ashgate Publishing Company, pp.133-154.
RB. Oates A Life in Books: Tobie Matthew's Library. University of York, 13/3/2018.
University of York (2018), 'Tobie Matthew: A Life in Books'
Chetham's Library Manchester ( 2016), ‘Reading together: signs of communal reading practices in Tobie Matthew’s books’.
University of York (2011) What have the Anglo-Saxons ever done for us? History and the Church in Tudor England.
Notre-Dame University (2010), 'Elizabethan History Writing and the Reformation'.
Calvin College, Michigan, USA (2008) ‘Elizabethan Histories of the Origins of English Christianity’
History Research Seminar, University of Cambridge (2004) ‘A Godly Commonwealth?: Politics and Protestantism in Elizabethan England’
Institute of Historical Research, London (2004) ‘Tobie Matthew and the Politics of Reform in Elizabethan England’
Recent Conference Papers at International Conferences
European Social Sciences History Conference, funded by NL held at Queen's University, Belfast (2018) 'Eating Together: Hospitality and the Clerical Household'.
Remembering the Reformation: Cambridge University (2017) 'The Library as a Memorial of the Reformation'.
Reformation Colloquium, Newcastle University (2016) 'Speaking with Hands: Deafness and Salvation in Early Modern Sermons’
Ecclesiastical History Conference, Christ Church, Oxford University (2011) ‘England the first that embraced the gospell’: Tudor histories of Christianity.
I have organised two conferences:
Communities of Print (Manchester, 2016)
Religious Thought, Political Practice (University of Cambridge, 2006)
Both had international academics attending and giving papers, and both were funded using money raised from outside bodies.
I am currently organising another conference in the Communities of Print thread, to be held at Chetham's Library in July 2018, Touching the Past.
I am an expert peer-reviewer for a number of journals including Historical Journal, Historical Research, British Catholic History, Court Historian, John Rylands Bulletin of Research
I review books for several journals including English Historical Review and Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte
I have successfully been awarded grants from the following bodies
I have worked with Julianne Simpson, Rare Books Manager at John Ryland's Library to put on the exhibition, Reformation, marking the 500 year anniversary since Martin Luther's attack on the Catholic Church and the start of the Reformation. I have helped to promote the exhibition on social media, and have been involved in events to mark the anniversary.
Information booklet can be seen here
John Ryland's Library has a globally significant collection of manuscripts and books, and it is also the most popular Manchester tourist attraction.
York Minster Library: Neuton and the Foundation of the Library (2016)
I was involved in this exhibition, which is mainly an online exhibition hosted by York Minster and the University of York. I was the main contributor for the section on its refoundation in the 17thc, writing several articles and producing an original edition of an Archbishop's will.
I have written on the continuing effects of the Reformation and the break with Rome on contemporary society. The most recent, 'Brexit's Roots lay in the Reformation' was published in the I-Newspaper and explored the history behind the 'Henry VIII' bill proposed as part of the Brexit process.
I am an elected member of the Royal Historical Society and the Bibliographic Society.
I am a member of the Ecclesiastical History Society, the Catholic Record Society, and the Renaissance Society of America