22 february 2007

First woman to be Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford

HM The Queen has today approved the appointment of two Regius Chairs at Oxford University. The Revd Professor Nigel Biggar, Professor of Theology at Trinity College Dublin and Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, to the Regius Chair of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford; and the appointment of Professor Sarah Foot, Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Sheffield, to the Regius Chair of Ecclesiastical History. Professor Foot will be the first ever woman to be Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History.

The Professorship of Moral and Pastoral Theology comes with a Canonry of Christ Church. The post holder must therefore be ordained, or prepared to become so. The Professorship involves teaching Christian Ethics, Ascetic and Mystical Theology and study of the types of Christian experience.

Professor Biggar read History at Worcester College Oxford for his first degree, before going to North America where he took Master's degrees in Christian Studies and Religious Studies. He took his PhD in Christian Theology and Ethics at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. His dissertation was on the ethics of Karl Barth, the twentieth century neo-orthodox theologian.

He returned to Britain in 1985 to become the Librarian of Latimer House in Oxford and to take up a part-time Lecturership in Christian Ethics at Wycliffe Hall. He was appointed Chaplain of Oriel College in 1990 and became a Fellow three years later. He moved to the University of Leeds in 1999 to take up the Chair of Theology. He then moved to his present position in Dublin in 2004.

Formerly President of the (British) Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, Professor Biggar is currently a member of the Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians (London). His research interests include the doctrine of justified war; the politics of forgiveness; the ethics of nationalism and empire; the contribution of religion to public deliberation in a liberal society; the public responsibility of the media and the bearing of theology on ethics.

The Professorship of Ecclesiastical History is also annexed to a Canonry at Christ Church, although the postholder need only be a lay Church member. The postholder will teach and lecture on ecclesiastical history and on both the early and later teachings of the Christian Church. Professor Foot read Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and then History at Newnham College Cambridge, where she also carried out her doctoral work. She then worked as a Research Fellow and Tutor at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge. In 1993 she took up a Lectureship at the University of Sheffield, where a new Chair of Early Medieval History was established in 2003.

Professor Foot's research interests mainly lie in the history of the Early Medieval Church; she has worked particularly on monasticism in Anglo-Saxon England, including on the experiences of women in Veiled Women. In 2001 she was awarded a major grant to carry out research into the ruined Cistercian Abbeys of Yorkshire. Her most recent work was a major study entitled Monastic Life in Anglo-Saxon England. She is currently one of the editors of the Oxford History of Historical Writing.