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2018 IJBS Regional Day Conference


A Regional Day Conference of the International John Bunyan Society, organized in association with the University of Bedfordshire, Keele University, and Northumbria University.

Keele University, Staffordshire, Friday 13 April 2018

The purpose of this interdisciplinary conference is to explore seventeenth- and long-eighteenth-century practices of memorialisation and re-appropriation and the ways in which these might be put to work in shaping various dissenting identities. Papers may focus on, for example, the remembrance or re-appropriation of rituals or practices, experiences of persecution, anniversaries, memories, and events (personal or public); conservative vs subversive practices of memorialisation/re-appropriation; the collection and/or re-appropriation of particular texts, authors, or genres (devotional writing, history, biography); the contexts and/or methods for memorialisation/re-appropriation; the use of memorialisation/re-appropriation in the formation and survival of particular dissenting communities. Please send a title and brief (200-word) summary of a 20-minute paper – no later than 1 February 2018 – to: Rachel Adcock (, Bob Owens (, and David Walker (

Professor John Coffey (University of Leicester) – ‘Rewriting the History of Dissent’
Dr Johanna Harris (University of Exeter) – Title tba

Attendance is free of charge, but prior registration by 5 March 2018 is essential as numbers are limited. The conference opens at 10.00am, and ends at 5.00pm. Morning and afternoon refreshments and a light lunch will be provided, costing £15 payable on the day.

To register, please email,, and giving details of name; title; affiliation; postal and email addresses; and any dietary requirements. We may be able to offer modest financial assistance with travel costs of postgraduate students whose papers are accepted. If you wish to be considered for assistance, in addition to sending the title and outline of your proposed paper, please explain briefly why you would need help with travel costs.

Obituary: Rev. Dr. Harold Worthley

Rev. Dr. Harold Worthley sadly passed this October. Dr. Worthley was director of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts for more than a quarter century.

He was also the first to inventory Massachusetts congregational church records. He was a forerunner, therefore, of our partner project, New England’s Hidden Histories, hosted by the Congregational Library in Boston, and our own Inventory of Puritan and Dissenting Church Records.

His work has been essential to students of colonial Massachusetts for decades. An obituary on Dr Worthley’s remarkable life can be found in the Boston Globe here.


New England Church Records make front page of NY Times

The New York Times recently gave pride of place on its front page to an ongoing search to recover New England’s colonial church records. (You can view the article here.) The effort is led by James F. Cooper, Jr of Oklahoma State University and Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston, and is part of their larger ‘New England’s Hidden Histories’ project.

Unlike most British dissenting records, which were brought into various archives over time or into county record offices during the 1960s, many of New England’s colonial-era church records remain in the hands of local churches. They were famously cataloged in the 1960s by Harold F. Worthley, former librarian and executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston. After three years and 28,000 miles of travel he produced his famous 716-page ‘Worthley Inventory’ of early congregational church records. But now, over 50 years on, many have gone missing.

Drs Bendroth and Cooper are recreating Worthley’s travels and rummaging through church closets, file cabinets, drawers, and safety deposit boxes in hopes of finding and preserving these valuable records. Their aim is to persuade churches to protect their past by permanently loaning these records to the Congregational Library in Boston, where they can be protected and restored.

They are also making the records available to the public. Increasing numbers of these records can be found digitized and transcribed on the Library’s ‘New England’s Hidden Histories’ website. The website (found here) is an invaluable source for exploring colonial religion.

It is a fascinating project that is drawing considerable attention (the Washington Post covered the story last year). But it also provides an interesting look into some of the challenges and opportunities historians have in collecting and publishing non-state records.