Impact on public engagement with two areas of Church history: the life and work of the scientist, theologian and philosopher Robert Grosseteste (c.1168-1253), and movements and ideas in the Reformation

Submitting Institution

Bishop Grosseteste University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The impact that pertains to this case study is located in three domains. Firstly, lay engagement with the understanding and appreciation of ecclesiastical history via public lectures. Secondly, informing understanding about the historical, theological and philosophical processes attached to the discipline of ecclesiastical history through expert comments in the mass media. Thirdly, through the organisation of conferences leading to the development of international societies, international partnerships, and engagement with the general public and dissemination of original research.

Underpinning research

Impact is underpinned by two areas of interrelated research activity advanced since 2008.

In the first, Cunningham's research in the field of Grosseteste studies focuses largely on the historical context of his thought, tracing developments in his thinking against a background of developments in the Western philosophical tradition. Cunningham has been heavily involved in a personal Robert Grosseteste profile raising campaign. It is the aim of this campaign to bring a new appreciation of Grosseteste's achievements as a thinker to the attention of local and national audiences. With an established international reputation in ecclesiastical history, Cunningham was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2006. He has also been an active member of the International Robert Grosseteste Society since its inception.

The second area of research also relates to the development of ideas in ecclesiastical history but this time in the Reformation period. This area of Cunningham's research in the first instance deals with the causes and consequences of the Reformation in Iceland. This is an extremely over-looked area of history in the English speaking world with recent volumes tending not to treat it. Even recent works on global history of the Reformation (e.g. The Reformation World, edited by A. Pettegree) ignores this country's history and volumes as focused as those that deal specifically with the history of the Reformation in Scandinavia (Reforming the North J. L. Larson) have not dealt with this subject area. Cunningham's publications on Iceland have contributed to filling what is largely a void in the English speaking academic world. In the second instance Cunningham has researched ecclesiastical developments, ideas and controversies in Ireland and England in the early-modern period. In 2007 he published James Ussher and John Bramhall: A study in the Theology and Politics of two Irish Ecclesiastics of the Seventeenth Century [ISBN 0754655660] as well as various articles (see below).

References to the research

Cunningham, J. P., (ed.) Robert Grosseteste: his thought and its impact, Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, 2012. [ISBN 9780888448217]

Cunningham, J. P., Bishop Jon Arason, `'the last Icelander'' and the Reformation in Iceland, Reformation and Renaissance Review, Vol.11.3, 2009. [ISSN 14622459]


Cunningham, J. P., `A Young Man's brow and an Old Man's bread: the Rise and Fall of Joseph of Arimathea in English reformation Thought. Theology, July/August 2009, [ISSN 0040571X]

Cunningham, J. P., A little world without the World' Ecclesiastical Foundation Myths in English Reformation thought. Journal of Anglican Studies, Vol.8.3, 2011. [ISSN 17403553]


Cunningham, J. P., Changing fashions: The coming of Reformation to Iceland, Reformation, Vol. 16, 2011. [ISSN 13574175]


England's Adam: the short career of the Giant Samothes in English Reformation thought. Early Modern Literary Studies, Vol.16.1, 2012. []

Details of the impact

  1. With regard to Cunningham's work on Robert Grosseteste he has been involved in reproducing and disseminating in the public domain material on the subject of Grosseteste's life as well as his impact on the history of thought. He has been involved in the establishment of international networks and has initiated and organised commemorative events and academic forums.
  2. In July 2009, Cunningham organised an international conference on Robert Grosseteste, his thought and its Impact. This conference drew in an international field of scholars from America and Europe and was well attended by members of the local community. The proceedings were edited by Cunningham and published in 2012 by the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies. Marcia L. Colish, Oberlin College, Ohio reviewed this volume calling it `A distinguished collection of essays offering original scholarship on Grosseteste's work as a translator, commentator, and pastor...this outstanding volume makes a major contribution to Grosseteste studies.' This conference was also attended by the International Robert Grosseteste Society, an organisation that had been set up at a previous conference held at the institution and organised jointly by Cunningham and a former colleague. The Grosseteste Society is a thriving academic organisation which does much to promote public awareness of the life and works of Grosseteste. Its intention is also to bring to the public's attention an appreciation of Grosseteste's important place in the history of intellectual development. Its website serves members and the general public by exchanging and publically disseminating knowledge on the subject of Grosseteste. It also provides access to various primary and secondary sources relating to Grosseteste and the medieval world in general as well as providing information on related conferences, public lectures, colloquiums and events. The 2003 conference had its proceedings published by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in 2013. With regard to Icelandic studies, Cunningham has established international working relationships with Icelandic academics and their institutions. He read a joint paper with the Icelandic scholar Vilborg Auđur Isleifdottir at the Reformation Studies Colloquium, York University, in April 2008.
  3. In May 2012 Cunningham delivered a public lecture on Grosseteste at the Bishop Grosseteste University `Homecoming Event', an event that celebrates the institution with alumni and members of the local community. In October 2012, he delivered the Annual Grosseteste Memorial Lecture at Lincoln Cathedral. In January 2013, he delivered a public oration on Grosseteste on the occasion of his institution receiving university status. This oration was published later on the University website. In March 2013, he delivered a lecture on Grosseteste to the Nettleham Historical Society and in June 2013, he delivered the Hosford Memorial Lecture on the same subject to the Sleaford History Group. He also addressed the Hull Theological Society in October 2009 on the subject of the Reformation in Iceland. This paper is available on the organisations website (see link below). In October 2013, Cunningham spoke on the subject of Grosseteste to the Lincoln branch of the Rotary Club.
  4. Media:
    In May 2012 Cunningham brought Robert Grosseteste to the public's attention by writing to the Vatican calling for his canonisation. Cunningham argued publically that this canonisation never happened because of historical anomalies which should, in the light of recent knowledge, be discarded. This was reported in the local newspaper (Lincoln Echo, see link below) and in the national newspaper of the Church of England (Church Times, see link below). These papers ran stories on what was the beginning of a campaign and the articles drew in a good deal of correspondence. Cunningham was also interviewed for BBC Radio Lincolnshire and a story ran on BBC Look North (TV).

In 2013, in his capacity as an expert in Church history, Cunningham was asked to write an article for the Lincoln Echo on the resignation of the Pope (see link below). This article was a summary and assessment of the Pope's career.

Sources to corroborate the impact

International Robert Grosseteste Website:

Grosseteste Conference 2009:

Article in Lincoln Echo about Grosseteste campaign:

Article about Jack Cunningham's efforts to canonise Grosseteste in Church Times:,-says-lincoln-scholar

Article in Lincoln Echo on the resignation of Pope benedict XVI. 18144101-detail/story.html#axzz2QWnMou41

Public Grosseteste lecture at Bishop Grosseteste `Homecoming' event.

Oration on receiving university status: Robert Grosseteste: Light, the Universe and Learning.

Hull Theological Society Lecture:

Annual Bishop Grosseteste Lecture:

Hosford Memorial Lecture Sleaford: