About Us

What is ‘Dissenting Experience’?

From left to right: Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page, Joel Halcomb at a Dr Williams’s Library workshop

‘Dissenting Experience’ is a research group originally set up in 2012 by Michael Davies (Liverpool), Anne Dunan-Page (Aix-Marseille) and Joel Halcomb (University of East Anglia). Our main interests lie in the history and literature of the Baptist, Congregational, and Presbyterian Churches in Britain across the early modern period (c.1500–c.1800). We also support research into other Puritan and Dissenting individuals and groups, including Quakers and Civil War radicals. We bring together historians, specialists of literature, of theology, but also librarians and archivists to reflect on the use of Puritan and Dissenting archives.

Dissenting Experience has worked to promote British dissenting studies of the early-modern period and especially the study of dissenting church records:

1. InvenCaP (Inventory and Calendar of Puritan Church Records, 1640-1714)

Research into the gathered Churches of the Civil War, Commonwealth, Restoration, and Later Stuart Periods has been hampered by the lack of an accurate and comprehensive survey of available resources. The purpose of this project is first to create a reliable and detailed inventory of Baptist, Congregational, and Presbyterian church records for the period 1640-1714. This has now been published by the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English, http://www.qmulreligionandliterature.co.uk/online-publications/dissenting-records/

The second phase of the projet is the publication of a calendar of the records.

See the desciption of the project: http://dissent.hypotheses.org/invencap/about-invencap

2. Other publications related to the Dissenting Experience project

    • Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page and Joel Halcomb (eds), Church Life in Seventeenth-Century England: Pastors, Congregations, and the Experience of Dissent (OUP, 2019).
    • Michael Davies (ed.), The Bunyan Church Book 1656–1710 (OUP, forthcoming).
  • Anne Dunan-Page, L’Expérience puritaine. Vies et récits de dissidents (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècle), Paris, Edition du Cerf, 2017.

3.  The ‘Dissenting Experience’ conference series

These three annual conferences were organised between 2013 and 2015 at Dr Williams’s Library in London. They explored the religious and social experiences the gathered Churches and their members during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

If you would like us to consider including details of your research on our website or if you would like to contribute an article, please feel free to contact us.


Who are we?

Michael Davies is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on literature of the Renaissance and Restoration periods, and particularly the literary and religious cultures of early modern England, from Elizabethan Calvinism to Restoration Nonconformity. He has published essays on a range of writers, from William Shakespeare to William Cowper, but the works and milieu of the Nonconformist preacher and author, John Bunyan, have been, and still remain, of key interest. He is the author of Graceful Reading: Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan (Oxford University Press, 2002) and co-editor, with Philip Shaw and Ashley Chantler, of Literature and Authenticity, 1780-1900 (Ashgate, 2011).  He is currently preparing an edition of The Bunyan Church Book 1656-1710 and ,with W. R. Owens, editing The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, both for Oxford University Press. Contact: mtd@liverpool.ac.uk

Anne Dunan-Page is Professor of British Studies at Aix-Marseille University and a former Fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France. She is director of the Research Centre on the English-Speaking World (LERMA) where she co-convenes, with Laurence Lux-Sterritt, a research programme on lived religion. Anne is honorary President of the International John Bunyan Society and of the French Society for 17th- and 18th-Centuries British and American Studies. She is the author of Grace Overwhelming: John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress and the Extreme of the Baptist Mind (2006), L’Experience puritaineVies et récits de dissidents (2017) and has edited, among others, Roger L’Estrange and the Making of Restoration Culture (2008, with Beth Lynch), The Cambridge Companion to Bunyan (2010) and Debating the Faith: Religion and Letter Writing in Great Britain, 1550-1800 (2013, with Clotilde Prunier). Contactanne.page@univ-amu.fr

Joel Halcomb is Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. His research focuses on religious practice and religious politics in Britain and Ireland during the British Civil Wars. He was an Assistant Editor for The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643–1653 (2012, with Chad Van Dixhoorn, Mark Garcia, and Inga Jones) and is currently co-editor of volume three of The Writing and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (2015, with Patrick Little and David Smith). He is also preparing a monograph on the Congregational movement during the Civil Wars. Contact: J.Halcomb@uea.ac.uk

Mark Burden joigned the project in 2015–2016 as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Aix-Marseille and administrator of the Dissenting Experience blog. His main role is to assist in the compilation of an inventory and calendar of Puritan and dissenting church books in England and Wales, c.1640-1714 (InvenCaP). He is the author of A Biographical Dictionary of Tutors at the Dissenters’ Private Academies, 1660-1729 (Centre for Dissenting Studies, 2012) and assistant editor of A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860, ed. Isabel Rivers (CUP, under contract). He has also written articles on the seventeenth-century Puritan poet Lucy Hutchinson and the eighteenth-century High Church historian John Walker.

Rachel Adcock is Lecturer in English at Keele University. Her research focuses on seventeenth-century dissenting women’s writing, particularly the writings of female Baptists and the ways in which they comment on and interrogate early congregational practices. She has recently published a monograph, Baptist Women’s Writings in Revolutionary Culture: 1640-1680 (Ashgate, 2015), which examines women’s written experiences and prophecies in light of accounts by heresiographers and the debates in church record books, and has published essays on this research in Prose Studies and The Seventeenth Century among others. Following the publication of the co-edited anthology, Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Writing (MUP, 2014), Rachel is now preparing a co-edited collection of essays on Women, Religion, and the Body in Early Modernity to which she is contributing an essay on representations of baptism and health. She is also editing two plays for The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn and researching women’s role in post-Restoration dissent more generally. Contact: R.C.Adcock@keele.ac.uk

Tim Wales joigned the project in 2018 as a postdoctoral researcher at UEA funded by a British Library/Leverhulme small grant. Tim has helped calendaring about twenty Church records so far.

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