Miracles

Tutor: Tara Alberts

Module type: Comparative Histories

Module Code: HIS00079H

Miracle stories occur thoughout human history. From the unworldly miracles performed by prophets, saints and leaders of the major world religions, to the miraculous feats performed by secular heros, accounts of the strange, wonderous or inexplicable can help to shape identities and to create new hierarchies of political and religious legitimacy. Miracle tales can sometimes seem strange or perplexing to modern eyes. How can historians seek to understand and analyse accounts of these unworldly, paradoxical events? In this module, through a series of varied case studies ranging from the classical world to the present day, we will explore the history of miracles in comparative perspective across time and space. We will consider the role of miracles in various religious traditions – including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and spirit devotion –  exploring the explanative force of miracle tales, and their role in religious conversion. We will encounter various intellectual approaches to proving or disproving the veracity of miracle tales, and we will consider the variety of ways that such events were used to define identity groups. 

Seminar topics are likely to include the following:

  • What are miracles? A comparative intellectual history
  • Miracle stories in ‘world’ religions
  • Prophets, messengers, gods, saints and seers
  • Miracles and legitimacy
  • Controversies and rejection
  • Miracles and religious reform
  • Miracles and identity
  • Medical miracles
  • Questions of proof


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.