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 enjoys a long-standing international reputation. He has been a member of the Accademia Ambrosiana, Milan and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, both since 1998. In 1996-99 he was director of the HEFC-funded Heritage Studies as Applied History project. From 2010-13 he was co-director (with Helen Smith of the Department of English and Related Literature) of the AHRC project: Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe. He collaborates extensively with scholars in Europe and beyond and is on the international editorial boards of 'Rivista di storia de Cristianesimo' (Brescia), 'Church History and Religious Culture' (Amsterdam), 'Cheiron' (Milan) and 'Sanctorum: rivista dell'associazione per lo studio della santita, dei culti e dell'agiografia' (Rome), and is a co-editor of the series Sacro/santo (published by Viella, Rome).

Simon is also an advisory editor of the Washington DC-based Catholic Historical Review (2009-the present), the Archivum Societatem Societatis Iesu (2016-) and Church History (2016-). Since 2010 he has also been editor of the only journal specifically dedicated to looking at early modernity from a global and trans-national perspective: Journal of Early Modern History. This is the official publication of the Centre for Early Modern History, University of Minnesota. In 2015-16 Simon was President of the Ecclesiastical History Society.


For the two-year period 2006-08 Simon was holder of a British Academy Research Leave fellowship. The projected outcome of this award 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) which he is currently bringing to completion. In the academic year 2014-15 he was holder of a Leverhulme research fellowship to carry out an exciting project: Discovering how to describe the world: Danielo Bartoli SJ (1608-85) and the writing of global history. He is also co-editor of three forthcoming publications: with Helen Smith of English and Related Literature at York of Conversions: gender and religious change in early modern Europe, which is due from Manchester University Press in 2017; with Charlotte Methuen (Glasgow) and Andrew Spicer (Oxford Brookes) of Translating Christianity: world, image, sound and object in the circulation of the sacred from the birth of Christ to the present day due from Cambridge University Press in 2017 and with the art historians Pam Jones (Boston) and Barbara Wisch (New York) – of the Companion to Early Modern Rome to be published by Brill in 2018.


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 have completed doctorates on:

  • 'The Role of Music in the English Catholic Community', c.1560-1620
  • '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 project:

  • The sensory experience of the sacred in New France, c.1632—c.1740

Simon is also experienced in mentoring post-doctoral fellows independent of collaborative projects. To date, these include the Marie Curie, EU-funded fellows:

  • Andrea Vanni (2013-15) who has been working on the project: ‘The Origins of the Roman Inquisition reconsidered: the diplomatic career of Gian Pietro Carafa in England and Spain, 1513-19’
  • Stefan Bauer (2015-17), who will be undertaking the project: ‘History and Theology: the creation of disinterested scholaship from dogmatic stalemate (1525-1675)’

Contact details

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

Tel: Internal 2958, External (01904) 322958