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Research into non-conformist religious communities considers their intersection with and impact on modern culture

Five-year study has received generous support from the Leverhulme Trust and will commence in Autumn 2020

This is a photo of an Amish family
An Amish family

Dr Katherine Hill, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History, is the recipient of one of fifteen Research Leadership Awards from the Leverhulme Trust, for her project ‘Global faiths: Anabaptist confessional communities of dispersion, 1550–present day’, commencing October 2020.

The £959,953 award will enable Dr Hill and a project team to advance their study of non-conformist religious communities coming out of the Reformation, including Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish.

The project examines the communities over five centuries and across geographies, studying documents, objects and spaces in which these communities lived and still live, and it will work with these groups who often keep their own archives, memories and narratives of their pasts. It will also ask new questions about migration and diaspora from the modern world and challenge some of the assumptions about the role of the nation state as central to migration and diaspora, about forces of secularization, and our ideas about global history.

Dr Katherine Hill said, “Our research into non-conformist religious groups is not simply a study of radical religion nor of diaspora and migration.Their origins stretch back over five hundred years, but their presence infiltrates the modern world in ways which has shaped the historical imagination that the groups are outsiders and outdated yet remarkably persistent. Every American seems to have a Mennonite, Amish or Hutterite story, and their presence is pervasive in north American cultural references, if still little understood.”

Dr Hill is an emerging research leader in her field and has been recognised for the international distinction and rigour of her analyses. Her first book based on her doctoral thesis won the international Gerald Strauss Prize awarded by the Sixteenth Century Studies Society. She has also been key in building research connections at Birkbeck beyond Europe,  with numerous international key notes and lectures; and as a member of a British Academy Writing Workshop with young scholars in Ankara at the University of Bilkent.

The research integrates with and enhances Birkbeck’s existing strengths in the department of History, Classics and Archaeology in early modern and modern history but also maximises potential by shedding new light on key research themes surrounding migration, diaspora and transnational identity within the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy and the School of Arts.

Phase one of the project will commence October 2020 and run through to December 2020 with Dr Hill as research lead; and this year she will be hiring a group of three post-doctoral research assistants and two PhD students working on various aspects of the project in the following five phases. At the heart of the project is meticulous archival work with key collections spread across Europe and America, as well as working with the communities in global contexts.

The team will work together to produce various outputs including running a website and social media account which will highlight the project findings. 

Further Information

Learn more about the Leverhulme Trust

Read more about the Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish




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