Ethan H. Shagan

Department Chair
Office Hours: 
Tuesday 10-12
3303 Dwinelle
(510) 642-3402

Ph.D., Princeton University, 2000
M.A., Princeton University, 1996
A.B., Brown University, 1994

Research Interests: 

I am an historian of early modern Britain in particular and early modern Europe more generally.  My work most often focuses on the interpenetration of religion and politics, and more broadly the contested place of religion in the early modern world.  My most recent book, The Rule of Moderation (Cambridge, 2011), explored how and why the ubiquitous discourse of moderation, the golden mean, and the religious via media in early modern England functioned as an ideology of control and a tool of social, religious, and political power.  I am now beginning two simultaneous book projects.  First, in a co-authored book tentitively entitled The Problem of Belief in Early Modern Europe, I am exploring with my colleague Jonathan Sheehan the ways in which the Reformations of the sixteenth century threw the category of "belief" into crisis, changing its meanings and forcing it to bear extraordinary new weight under which it eventually collapsed.  This attention to belief as a problem, rather than the stable backdrop against which other problems occurred, both challenges the framework with which scholars have considered the emergence of "unbelief," and also renders problematic any attempt to imagine "belief" in the past as an irreducible constant or a motor of historical change.  Second, in a book tentatively entitled Impiety and the Decline of Religion, I suggest that impiety is not merely the negative space of piety but rather has its own history, and that challenges to the practical and quotidian life of Christianity were far more important than challenges to the doctrines of Christianity in the long secularization of English society.


Academic Appointments

University of California, Berkeley


Associate Professor



Northwestern University

Wayne V. Jones Research Professor in History

Associate Professor

Assistant Professor




Harvard University Society of Fellows

Junior Fellow


Selected Awards

Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Newberry Library, 2005-06
E. LeRoy Hall Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, 2005
Herbert Baxter Adams Prize in European history from the American Historical Association for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.
Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the American Historical Association for the best book in British, British Imperial, or British Commonwealth history since 1485, for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.
Roland Bainton Prize from Sixteenth Century Studies for the best book in early modern European history, for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.
Whitfield Prize of the Royal Historical Society for the best first book in British history, for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.

Professional Service and Activities

Co-editor of the book series Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History, Cambridge University Press
Editorial Board, Renaissance Studies
Editorial Board, The Sixteenth Century Journal

Representative Publications: 

The Rule of Moderation: Violence, Religion and the Politics of Restraint in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2011).

Catholics and the 'Protestant Nation': Religious Politics and Identity in Early Modern England (Manchester, 2005).

Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003).