Simon Ditchfield
Professor of Early Modern History



BA (York), MPhil and PhD (Warburg Institute), FRHistS

Simon Ditchfield is a Professor in the History Department. His research interests all relate to perceptions and uses of the past in previous societies, but particularly within the context of urban and religious culture in the Italian peninsula from c. 1300-1800.



Simon is currently writing a major survey volume about the making of Roman Catholicism as a world religion (1500-1700) for the Oxford History of the Christian Church series to be published by Oxford University Press. His other interests include: politics and procedures of canonization; hagiography; history writing; history of scholarship; conditions of enquiry in Early Modern Europe (particularly relating to humanism, magic and science); and the history of travel.

Simon is co-director of the AHRC project Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe. He is a member of the Accademia Ambrosiana, Milan. He is on the international editorial boards of 'Rivista di storia de Cristianesimo', 'Church History and Religious Culture', 'Cheiron' and 'Sanctorum: rivista dell'associazione per lo studio della santita, dei culti e dell'agiografia', and a co-series editor of Sacro/santo (published by Viella, Rome). He is also an advisory editor of the Catholic Historical Review (2009-12) and editor of the Journal of Early Modern History.

Current projects

For the two-year period 2006-08 Simon was holder of a British Academy Research Leave fellowship. The projected outcome of this fellowship will be the volume Papacy and People: The Making of Roman Catholicism as a World Religion, 1500-1700 for the Oxford History of the Christian Church series (published by OUP). Central to the argument is the importance of understanding the reciprocal, dynamic nature of the relationship between Rome and its local churches; from Milan to Manila; Palermo to Paraguay. This entails a significant modification of such interpretative paradigms as 'confessionalisation' and categories such as 'social discipline', which need to be nuanced by reference to the capacity of peoples in both the New and Old worlds to appropriate Roman Catholicism as their own. Just as the papacy was not the only active agent, neither were the people merely subaltern, passive consumers. Drawing, in particular, on the history of liturgy and of the cult of saints, the study aims to furnish us with the means whereby we can better understand the protean forms taken by Roman Catholicism in the process of making itself this planet's first world religion.


Simon Ditchfield welcomes enquiries from those interested in doing research on any aspect of the religion and cultural history of early-modern Italy, particularly Rome.

Since 2004 his co-supervised research students completed doctorates on:

  • 'A second Counter-Reformation? Aspects of the pontificate of Pius VI reconsidered'.
  • 'Un Ordine, una città, una diocesi. La giurisdizione ecclesiastica nel principato monastico di Malta in Eta' Moderna, 1523-1722' (2012) with the Universita degli Studi di Roma II 'Tor Vergata'.
  • 'The material culture of domestic religion in early modern Florence' (2007) with History of Art.
  • 'Baronio e il martirologio romano' (2005) with the Universita di Roma II 'Tor Vergata'.
  • 'Bordering on Nationalism: sacred history and historiography in Brittany and Wales, c.1550-1650' (2004).
  • 'Gavin Hamilton and the classical ideal, 1756-1798: painting and antiquity in eighteenth-century Rome'(2004) with History of Art.

He is currently (co)-supervising the following PhD projects:

  • The Role of Music in the English Catholic Community, c.1560-1620
  • The Construction of Sacred Spaces in Seventeenth Century New France


Selected publications

Authored books

  • with Anna Benvenuti, Sofia Boesch, Francesco Scorza Barcellona, Roberto Rusconi and Gabriella Zarri. Storia della Santita nel Cristianesimo Occidentale. Rome: Viella, 2005.
  • Liturgy, Sanctity and History in Tridentine Italy: Pietro Maria Campi and the Preservation of the Particular. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Edited books

  • with K. van Liere and H. Louthan. Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Christianity and Community in the West: Essays for John Bossy. Aldershot/Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.
  • with J. Arnold and K. Davies. History and Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture. Donhead Publishing: Donhead St Mary, 1998.

Articles and Chapters

  • 'Tridentine Catholicism'. In The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation, edited by A. Bamji, G. Janssen & M. Laven, 15-31. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013,
  • 'Baronio storico nel suo tempo'. In Cesare Baronio tra santita' e scrittura storica, edited by Giuseppe Antonio Guazzelli, Raimondo Michetti e Francesco Scorza Barcellona, 3-21. Rome: Viella, 2012
  • 'What was Historia Sacra? (Mostly Roman) Catholic uses of the Christian past after Trent.' In Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World, edited by Katherine van Liere, Simon Ditchfield and Howard Louthan, 72-97. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 'San Carlo Borromeo in the Construction of Roman Catholicism as a World Religion'. Studia Borromaica, 25 (2011): 3-23.
  • 'Trent Revisited'. In Per Adriano Prosperi, vol. I: La fede degli Italiani, edited by Guido dall'Olio, Adelisa Malena and Pierroberto Scaramella, 357-70. Pisa: Edizione della Normale, 2011.
  • '"Coping with the beati moderni": Canonization Procedure in the Aftermath of the Council of Trent'. In Ite Infiammate Omnia: Selected Historical Papers from Conferences Held at Loyola and Rome in 2006, edited by T. M. McCoog, 413-39. Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2010.
  • 'What Did Natural History Have to do with Salvation? José de Acosta SJ (1540-1600) in the Americas'. In God's Bounty? The Churches and the Natural World: Studies in Church History, vol. 46, edited by Peter Clarke and Tony Claydon, 144-68. 2010.
  • 'Decentering the Catholic Reformation: Papacy and Peoples in the Early Modern World'. Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte/Archive for Reformation History 101 (2010): 186-208.
  • 'Thinking with the Saints: Sanctity and Society in the Early Modern World'. Critical Inquiry 35, no. 3 (2009): 552-84.
  • 'In Sarpi's Shadow: Coping with Trent the Italian way'. In AAVV, Studi in Memoria di Cesare Mozzarelli, 2 vols, I, 585-606. Milan: Vita & Pensiero, 2008.
  • 'Innovation and its Limits: The Case of Italy (ca.1512-ca.1572)'. In La Reforme en France et Italie: Contacts, Comparaisons et Contrastes, edited by P. Benedict, S. Seidel Menchi and A. Tallon. Rome: Ecole Francaise de Rome, 2007.
  • 'Tridentine Worship and the Cult of Saints.' In Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume VI: Reform and Expansion, 1500-1600, edited by R. Po-Chia Hsia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • 'The Jesuits in the Making of a world religion'. History Today 57, no. 7 (2007): 52-9.
  • 'Of Missions and Models: The Jesuit Enterprise (1540-1773) Reassessed in Recent Literature'. Catholic Historical Review 93 (2007): 325-43.
  • 'La Beatificazione di Osanna nel suo Contesto.' In Osanna Andreasi da Mantova 1449-1505: Tertii praedictorum ordinis diva, edited by G. Zarri and R. Gollinello Berto. Mantova: Casandreasi, 2006.
  • 'San Carlo and the Cult of Saints.' Studia Borromaica 20 (2006): 145-54.
  • 'Historia Magistra Sanctitatis: The Relationship betweeen Historiography and Hagiography in Italy after the Council of Trent.' Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 3rd series, 3 (2006): 159-84.
  • 'Reading Rome as a Sacred Landscape, ca.1586-1635.' In Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe, edited by W. Coster and A. Spicer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • 'Of Dancing Cardinals and Mestizo Madonnas: Reconfiguring the History of Roman Catholicism in the Early Modern Period.' Journal of Early Modern History 8 (2004): 386-408.
  • '"Tota Regio nil nisi Religio": Nations, Nationalisms and "Historia Sacra" - Some Preliminary Reflections.' Annali di Storia Moderna e Contemporanea 10 (2004): 593-605.
  • 'Leggere e vedere Roma come Icona Culturale 1500-1800 circa.' In Storia d'Italia. Annali 16. Roma, La Citta del Papa, edited by L. Fiorani and A. Prosperi. Turin, 2000.
  • 'Giving Tridentine Worship back its History.' Continuity and Change in Christian Worship, Studies in Church History 35 (1999): 199-226.
  • 'Gallonio, Antonio, agiografo (1556-1605).' Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 51.
  • 'In Search of Local Knowledge: Rewriting Early Modern Italian Religious History.' Cristianesimo nella Storia 19 (1998): 255-96.
  • 'Erudizione Ecclesiastica e Particolarismi tra tardo Medioevo e prima eta Moderna.' In Vita Religiosa e Identita Politiche: Universalita e Particolarismi nell'Europa del tardo Medioevo, ed. S. Gensini. S. Miniato, 1998.
  • 'La Letteratura Storiografica Piacentina (ca. 1350-ca. 1550): Modelli, Metodi, Motivazioni e Mercati.' In La Storia di Piacenza, vol. 3, pt 1: Dalla Signorea Viscontea al Principato Farnesiano. Piacenza, 1997.
  • 'Text before Trowel: Antonio Bosio's Roma Sotterranea Revisited.' The Church Retrospective, Studies in Church History 33 (1997): 343-60.
  • 'Ideologia Religiosa ed Erudizione nell Agiografia dell eta Moderna.' In Santita, Culti, Agiografia: Temi e Prospettive, ed. S. Boesh Gajano. Rome: Viella, 1997.
  • 'Sanctity in Early Modern Italy.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History 47 (1996): 98-112.
  • 'Martyrs on the Move: Relics as Vindicators of Local Diversity in the Tridentine Church.' Studies in Church History 30 (1993): 283-94.
  • 'How not to be a Counter-Reformation Saint: The Attempted Canonization of Pope Gregory X, 1622-45.' Papers of the British School at Rome 60 (1992): 379-422.
  • 'Umberto Locati O.P. (1503-87): Inquisitore, Vescovo e Storico: Profilo Bio-Bibliografico.' Bollettino Storico Piacentino 84 (1989): 205-21.
  • 'Alla Ricerca di un Genere: Come Leggere la "Cronica dell'origine di Piacenza" dell'Inquisitore Piacentino Umberto Locati (1503-87).' Bollettino Storico Piacentino 82 (1987): 145-67.




Contact details

Prof. Simon Ditchfield
Vanbrugh College V/210
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 2958, External (01904) 322958