Ethan H. Shagan


Zaffaroni Family Chair in Education

I am an historian of early modern Britain in particular and early modern Europe more generally, and most generally I am an historian of religion. My work most often focuses on the interpenetration of religion and politics, and more broadly on the contested space of religion in the early modern world.

My most recent book, The Birth of Modern Belief (Princeton, 2018) traces the history of belief in the Christian West from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, revealing for the first time how a distinctively modern category of belief came into being. I focus not on what people believed, which is the normal concern of religious history, but on the more fundamental question of what people took belief to be. My goal is to demonstrate how belief came to occupy such an ambivalent place in the modern world, becoming the essential category by which we express our judgments about science, society, and the sacred, but at the expense of the unique status religion once enjoyed.

My previous 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. Before that, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003) explored how ordinary people contributed to the process of religious transformation, not through their own spiritual conversion but through the politics of negotiation for resources with the centralizing Tudor state.

I am now in the early stages of several projects. The one that seems to be winning, on which I have written several draft chapters, is tentatively called "The Invention of Religion in Early Modern Europe."

I am also one of the conveners of the international research group "Recognizing Religions: The Cultural Dynamics of Religious Encounters and Interactions in Historical Perspective," based at NYU Abu Dhabi. Our website is:


PhD, Princeton University, 2000

MA, Princeton University, 1996

AB, Brown University, 1994

Academic Appointments

University of California, Berkeley

Professor, 2011–

Associate Professor, 2007–2011

Northwestern University

Associate Professor, 2004–2007

Assistant Professor, 2000–2004

Harvard University Society of Fellows

Junior Fellow, 1999–2000

Select Awards

Leo Gershoy Prize in European history from the American Historical Association for The Rule of Moderation

John Ben Snow Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies for The Rule of Modernation

Herbert Baxter Adams Prize in European history from the American Historical Association for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.

Morris D. Forkosch Prize in British History from the American Historical Association for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.

Roland Bainton Prize in History from Sixteenth Century Studies for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.

Whitfield Prize from the Royal Historical Society for Popular Politics and the English Reformation.

E. LeRoy Hall Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, 2005

Representative Publications

"The Birth of Modern Belief" by Ethan Shagan The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment (Princeton, 2018)
"Religion in Tudor England," co-edited by Ethan Shagan Religion in Tudor England: An Anthology of Primary Sources (co-edited with Debora Shuger; Baylor, 2016)
"The Rule of Moderation" by Ethan Shagan 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" by Ethan Shagan Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003).
Ethan Shagan


3210 Dwinelle Hall

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