John Hinnells

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Professor John Russell Hinnells (27 August 1941 - 3 May 2018) was Professor of Comparative Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. At various times he held the posts of lecturer at Newcastle University, then Professor of Comparative Religion at Manchester University, and later at University of Derby and Liverpool Hope University, and was a fellow at Robinson College, Cambridge.

After school, he spent some time at Mirfield as part of the Community of the Resurrection, where he was influenced by the work of Trevor Huddleston. He then went to King's College London, tutored by Christopher Evans and Morna Hooker, and with Desmond Tutu as a tutorial partner. Later he would undertake Postgraduate work at the School of Oriental and African Studies, with Sir Harold Bailey and Mary Boyce.

From 1967 he shaped his subject in several ways over a period of five decades:

  • He played a key role in the Shap Working Party, shaping the way religion has been taught in schools for the last fifty years.[1] In 1970 he edited Comparative Religion in Education,[2] with a foreword by the then Secretary of State for Education, Edward Short.
  • He popularised the subject of comparative religion through books with a wide readership, including the first Penguin Dictionary of Religions,[3] the Handbook of Living Religions,[4] the Handbook of Ancient Religions [5] and the Who's Who of World Religions.[6]
  • He deepened the research base through books on research method that geographers and sociologists also use, most notably through The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, [7] and the series on Textual Sources for the Study of Religion, which applied biblical criticism techniques to other religious works.[8]
  • He widened the thematic study of religion through books on religious diaspora,[9] religion and violence,[10] religion health and suffering,[11] and religion wealth and giving.
  • He was an authority on Zoroastrianism. His books on Zoroastrianism include Persian Mythology,[12] Zoroastrians in Britain,[13] and The Zoroastrian Diaspora: religion and Migration.[14]
  • In total he is believed to have published at least 98 works in 655 editions in 7 languages.[15]

A festschrift was published in his honour in 2017, building on his thematic study of religions to explore religion and material wealth.[16] His work was memorialised in The Times [17] and The Daily Telegraph,[18] and by a memorial lecture by Almut Hintze at SOAS,[19] His book collection is now at the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge,[16] and is being catalogued as the John Hinnells Collection and made available through the Cambridge University Library.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Jackson, Robert (2019). "50 years on: the Shap working party on world religions in education and its publications". Journal of Beliefs and Values. 40: 45–54. doi:10.1080/13617672.2019.1575113. S2CID 159116548 – via {{cite journal}}: External link in |via= (help)
  2. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1970). Comparative religion in education : a collection of studies. Oriel Press. ISBN 978-0853620747. OCLC 781444198.
  3. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1997). The Penguin dictionary of religions. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0140512618. OCLC 38049689.
  4. ^ Hinnells, John R., ed. (1996), "A New Handbook of Living Religions", Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 1–2, doi:10.1111/b.9780631182757.1996.00001.x, ISBN 9780631182757 {{citation}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Hinnells, John R. (2009). The Penguin handbook of ancient religions. Penguin. ISBN 9780140513646. OCLC 642286010.
  6. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1991). Hinnells, John R (ed.). Who's Who of World Religions. Palgrave. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-09500-1. ISBN 978-1-349-09502-5.
  7. ^ Hinnells, John R. (2011). The Routledge companion to the study of religion. Routledge. ISBN 9781780342689. OCLC 759036431.
  8. ^ "Textual Sources for the Study of Religion". University of Chicago Press.
  9. ^ Hinnells, John R (2007). Religious reconstruction in the South Asian diasporas : from one generation to another. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333774014. OCLC 716594176.
    - Hinnells John, Williams, Alan (2012). Parsis in India and the diaspora. Routledge. ISBN 9780415533201. OCLC 773428850.
    - Harold Coward, John Hinnells, and Raymond Williams (2000). The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada and the United States. State University of New York.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ King, Richard; Hinnells, John R. Religion and violence in South Asia : theory and practice. OCLC 1078692445.
  11. ^ Hinnells, John R. Porter, Roy (ed.). Religion, health and suffering. ISBN 9780203039243. OCLC 868975577.
  12. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1997). Persian mythology. Chancellor Press. ISBN 978-0753700006. OCLC 973643282.
  13. ^ Hinnells, John R. (1996). Zoroastrians in Britain. OUP. ISBN 9780191682247.
  14. ^ Hinnells, John R. (2005). The Zoroastrian Diaspora : Religion and Migration. Oxford University Press, UK. ISBN 9780191513503. OCLC 437108960.
  15. ^ "WorldCat".
  16. ^ a b "A Festschrift for John Hinnells". Ancient India and Iran Trust. 12 March 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Professor John Hinnells: Register Determined expert on Zoroastrianism who founded degree courses on world religion and zipped across the world on crutches". The Times. 16 July 2018. p. 46. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Professor John Hinnells: Scholar whose research transformed the study and understanding of the world's main religions". The Daily Telegraph. 7 August 2018. p. 25.
  19. ^ SOAS University of London. "The Study of Religions at SOAS and Beyond: An Event in Memory of Professor John Russell Hinnells". YouTube. Retrieved 16 December 2018.