Photo of Dr Anna French

Dr Anna French BA, PhD (Birmingham), FRHistS

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History History


    Research Interests

    My first monograph, 'Children of Wrath' (Ashgate, 2015), examined early modern culture through the lens of the youngest members of Reformation society, exploring what the religious experiences of children and youths can tell us about the questions of salvation and perceptions of good and evil which so preoccupied contemporaries. It made a series of arguments about the way in which early modern culture imagined and explained childhood, focusing on the perceived duality of young people and the importance of stage as well as age in understanding and identifying contemporary notions of psychological maturity, social authority and spiritual development.

    Inspired to explore the theological and cultural roots of some of these questions, I have more recently examined Protestant receptions of baptism (for example, in my chapters for 'Sin and Salvation in Early Modern England' (ed. Jonathan Willis, 2015) and 'Childhood, Youth and Religious Minorities in Early Modern Europe' (ed. Lucy Underwood and Tali Berner, 2019); in this work I have uncovered significant tension between official doctrine and experience or practice. My second monograph, 'Born In Sin' (Oxford University Press, 2022), will build on this foundation to ask questions of the ways in which Reformation society understood sex, conception, birth and infancy, focusing in particular on how questions of gender and identity were reflected and addressed by the period’s reproductive discourse.

    I am also the editor of 'Early Modern Childhood: An Introduction' (Routledge, 2019), a collection of essays that seeks to summarise and shape the burgeoning area of early modern childhood studies, incorporating contributions from international scholars on a wide range of related topics, from family to material culture, portraiture to piety. A further edited collection, 'Reading The Reformations', will address the culture and spirituality of the period more generally and will be published by St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Brill) in 2021. I am also preparing a new narrative of the Reformation for Seminar Studies in History (Routledge), which will place questions of experience and interiority at its centre, arguing that, far from the top-down phenomenon of magisterial narrative, the Reformation was in fact a process driven by intense feeling and widespread negotiation.

    I welcome MRes and PhD enquiries from any research student seeking to explore the cultural, religious and social aspects of the early modern period, especially as these were expressed within the context of the British Reformations (c. 1500-1700), and also on the history of childhood and reproduction more generally.

    Selected Reviews

    • "James Simpson, 'Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal of Liberalism'", Renaissance Quarterly (2020)

    • "Karl Gunther, 'Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525-1590'", The Journal of Anglican Studies (2020)

    • "Linda A. Ryan, 'John Wesley and the Education of Children: Gender, Class and Piety'", The Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2019)

    • "Peter Marshall, 'Invisible Worlds: Death, Religion and the Supernatural in England, 1500-1700'", Theology (2019)

    • "Adriano Prosperi, ‘Infanticide, Secular Justice, and Religious Debate in Early Modern Society'", Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2017)

    • “Ronald Hutton (ed.), ‘Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain: A Feeling for Magic’”, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2017)

    • “Marcus Harmes and Victoria Bladen, ‘Supernatural and Secular Power in Early Modern England’”, English Historical Review (2016)

    • “Lucy Underwood, ‘Childhood, Youth and Religious Dissent in Post-Reformation England’”, British Catholic History (2015)

    • “Philip C Almond, ‘The Devil: A New Biography’”, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2015)

    • “Brian Levack, ‘The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West’”, English Historical Review (2014)

    • “Michael A. LaCombe, ‘Political Gastronomy: Food and Authority in the English Atlantic World’”, Sixteenth Century Journal (2014)

    • “Patrick Collinson, Polly Ha (ed.), ‘The Reception of Continental Reformation in Britain’”, English Historical Review (2013)

    • “Kenneth G. Appold, ‘The Reformation: A Brief History’”, Theology (2012)

    • “Joan Fitzpatrick (ed.), ‘Renaissance Food from Rabelais to Shakespeare; Culinary readings and Culinary Histories’”, Sixteenth Century Journal (2012)

    • “J. Patrick Hornbeck II, ‘What is a Lollard?’”, Theology (2011)

    • “James Kearney, ‘The Incarnate Text, Imagining the Book in Reformation England’”, Sixteenth Century Journal (2011)

    • “Eamon Duffy, ‘Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor’”, Theology (2010)