Linda Woodhead

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Linda Woodhead

Linda Woodhead.jpg
Woodhead in 2011
Linda Jane Pauline Woodhead

(1964-02-15) 15 February 1964 (age 58)
Taunton, Somerset, England
  • (m. 1994; div. 2002)
  • Alexander Mercer
    (m. 2007)
Academic background
EducationBishop Fox's School
Richard Huish College, Taunton
Alma materEmmanuel College, Cambridge
Academic work
DisciplineReligious studies
Sub-disciplineChristian theology
Sociology of religion
Comparative religion
InstitutionsRipon College Cuddesdon
Lancaster University
King's College London

Linda Jane Pauline Woodhead MBE FBA (born 15 February 1964)[1] is a British academic specialising in the religious studies and sociology of religion at King's College London Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She is best known for her work on religious change since the 1980s, and for initiating public debates about faith. She has been described by Matthew Taylor, head of the Royal Society of Arts, as "one of the world's leading experts on religion".[2]

Since 2022, Woodhead has been the FD Maurice Professor and Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies[3] at King's College London. Prior to this, she was Professor of Sociology of Religion in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University from 2006 to 2021. Furthermore, from 2007 to 2012, she was director of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme.[4]

Life and career[edit]

Woodhead was born in Taunton and grew up in rural Somerset.[1] She attended Bishop Fox's comprehensive school and Richard Huish Sixth Form College in Taunton. She studied Theology and Religious Studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was awarded Double First Class Honours in 1985, receiving the MA by conversion in 1989. Woodhead undertook her first post as Tutor in Doctrine and Ethics at Ripon College Cuddesdon Oxford (1988–1992). In 1992, she moved to Lancaster University.

She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Uppsala University in 2009 and also a Doctor of Letters. She was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to higher education.[5]

In 2022, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and social sciences.[6]

Wood has been married to Alexander Mercer since 2007 and lives between Glasgow and Lancaster.[1] She was previously married to Alan Billings, the current South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

Wood is currently the Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King's College London.

Religion and society research programme[edit]

In 2007 Woodhead was appointed Director of the £12m Religion and Society research programme, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. This initiative funded 265 academics and researchers from 29 different disciplines working on 75 separate research projects and other initiatives including British Religion in Numbers[7] and[8]

Westminster faith debates[edit]

Woodhead co-founded the Westminster Faith Debates[9] with former Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2011. The debates were originally created to publicise findings from the Religion and Society programme, but have since become an annual series. They bring researchers into conversation with prominent figures in public life and have included former Prime Minister Tony Blair, ethnologist and atheist author Richard Dawkins, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The debates have been covered by BBC Radio, LBC, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, the Evening Standard and other UK and international media.[10]

Research and writing[edit]

Woodhead has carried out empirical research around the world. She has studied neo-Hinduism, Christianity, spirituality, and Islam in Europe. Her work examines the relationship between religions and social change, especially in modern times.

An Introduction to Christianity (Cambridge University Press 2004), Christianity: a very short introduction (ISBN 9780192803221)[11] (Oxford University Press 2005), and Religions in the Modern World (Routledge 2nd ed. 2009) consider the development of religions over time by examining how they confirm or challenge power relations in wider society. Using this approach Woodhead explains why churches have declined in modern Europe but not elsewhere.

The Spiritual Revolution (ISBN 9781405119597) (co-written with Paul Heelas; Blackwell Publishing 2005)[12][13] is based on the 'Kendal Project'[14] and documented the growth of alternative spirituality and the relative decline of churches and chapels. In Religion and Change in Modern Britain[15] (ISBN 9780415575812) (co-edited with Rebecca Catto, Routledge 2012) and Everyday Lived Islam in Europe (co-edited with Nadia Jeldtoft et al., Ashgate 2013) Woodhead expanded this approach by showing how new 'post-confessional' ways of being religious have eclipsed a traditional 'Reformation style' of religion in Britain and more widely since the late 1980s.

Woodhead's work on religion, identity, and power is developed in articles on religion and gender, Muslim veiling controversies, governance of religious diversity, religion and politics, religion and law. Her conceptual approach to religion is systematised in A Sociology of Religious Emotion[16] (co-authored with Ole Riis, Oxford University Press 2011) in a schema which integrates religion's bodily, ritual, emotional and cognitive dimensions.

Policy and media[edit]

Woodhead is a regular feature and comment writer on religion for The Tablet magazine[17] and The Guardian[18] and The Observer newspapers. She has appeared on BBC One's The Big Questions[19] and BBC Radio 4 programmes including PM, Thought for the Day, Analysis[20] and Thinking Allowed.[21] She has written a major report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.[22] She was invited to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos in 2013.

Published works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Woodhead, Prof. Linda Jane Pauline, (born 15 Feb. 1964), Professor of Sociology of Religion, since 2006, and Director, Institute for Social Futures, since 2015, Lancaster University". Who's Who. 2014. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.279199.
  2. ^ "General Ignorance: It's all about what you don't know". 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  3. ^ "Professor Linda Woodhead MBE FRSE". Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  4. ^ "Professor Linda Woodhead: Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Religion and Society Programme. July 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  5. ^ "No. 60367". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 2012. p. 24.
  6. ^ "Record number of women elected to the British Academy". The British Academy. 22 July 2022. Retrieved 15 August 2022.
  7. ^ [1] Archived 29 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "RadicalisationResearch homepage". Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Religion & Society : Informing public debate and advancing understanding of religion in a complex world". Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  10. ^ [2] Archived 30 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ O'brien, Murrough (2 January 2005). "Paperbacks". The Independent. London. Retrieved 10 April 2009.[dead link]
  12. ^ McCartney, Jenny (6 November 2004). "They're really, really spiritual – that is, totally selfish". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  13. ^ Midgley, Carol (4 November 2004). "Spirited away: why the end is nigh for religion". The Times. London. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  14. ^ "The Kendal Project – Home". 12 July 2005. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  15. ^ Martyn Percy (May 2013). "Journal of Anglican Studies – Woodhead Linda and Catto Rebecca (eds.), Religion and Change in Modern Britain (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012), pp. 424, ISBN 978-0-415-57581-2 (pbk), 978-415-57580-5 (hbk). – Cambridge Journals Online". Journal of Anglican Studies. 11 (1): 122–124. doi:10.1017/S1740355312000162. S2CID 145055403. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Book Review: Ole Riis and Linda Woodhead A Sociology of Religious Emotion Oxford". Acta Sociologica. Oxford University Press: 270. June 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  17. ^ Retrieved 15 January 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "Linda Woodhead". The Guardian. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Is Fundamentalism Undermining Faith? (The Big Questions) (Part 1 of 3)". YouTube. Retrieved 28 May 2015.[dead YouTube link]
  20. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Analysis, Left Turn to Catholic Social Teaching?". BBC. 11 November 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  21. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Thinking Allowed, Disenchantment". BBC. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  22. ^ "'Religion or belief': Identifying issues and priorities" (PDF). Retrieved 22 May 2019.
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President of Modern Church
Succeeded by