Ciaran Jones

Thesis title: Religious Roles and Behaviours in Early Modern Scotland: Sermons, Spiritual Struggles, and the Witch Trials, c. 1590-1720

PhD Student - Scottish History

Year of study: 4

  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Contact details



School of History, Classics & Archaeology
William Robertson Wing
Old Medical School
Teviot Place

Post code


I am a fourth-year PhD student in Scottish History, supervised by Professor Julian Goodare and Dr Alasdair Raffe. My PhD explores how pedagogical discussions of Reformed doctrines in Scottish sermons were expressed through religious roles and behaviours in lay conversion experiences and in the confessions of accused witches. My research is funded by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology’s Jenny Balston Scholarship. Before coming to Edinburgh, I completed my BA in History at Oxford Brookes University and completed a MSt in History at the University of Oxford.


MSt British and European History, Distinction, Kellogg College, University of Oxford (2016).

BA History, First-Class Honours, Oxford Brookes University (2015). 


Responsibilities & affiliations

Scottish History Postgraduate Liaison, School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Member, The Scottish Medievalists: The Society For Scottish Medieval And Renaissance Studies

Member, The Scottish History Society

Postgraduate Member, The Royal Historical Society

Committee Member, The Edinburgh Early Modern Network

Undergraduate teaching

Introduction to Historiography

Early Modern History: A Connected World

Research summary

I am a historian of early modern Britain with particular interests in the history of religion, law and politics. I am also interested in the theories and methods of microhistory,  regional history, comparative history, pyschology, sociology, narratology, as well as the emerging field of the history of emotions. 

Current research interests

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the relationship between Reformed theology, wider religious culture, and the supernatural in sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century Scotland. I am also interested in the interrelationship between witch-hunting, religion and politics; the broader pastoral relationship between the clergy and the laity; and the interactions between local church courts and other government institutions. At present, my doctoral research explores how pedagogical discussions of Reformed doctrines in Scottish sermons were expressed through religious roles and behaviours in lay conversion experiences and in the confessions of accused witches. By exploring the influence of Reformed theology through sermons in these two contexts, my PhD intends to connect broader religious historiography with witchcraft scholarship. It also hopes to shed new light on how religious historians interpret the witch trial as a religious environment.

Papers delivered

‘The spiritualized Devil’: The influence of Reformed theology on the idea of the diabolical witch in the Scottish witch trials', Deviancy and Society in Scotland and Abroad conference, Toronto, CAN, 6 April 2019.

‘Conversion and religious identity in seventeenth-century Scotland: The murderess and the witch’, Scottish History seminars, Edinburgh, UK,  4 April 2019.

'Ministers and Lost Souls: Pastoral Counselling in Seventeenth-Century Scottish Witch Trials', Scottish Church History Society, Edinburgh, UK, 3 November 2018.

"Shee Always Keeped Her Heart and Trust to God’: Conversion Narratives in Seventeenth-Century Scottish Witch Trials', Research in Religion, Edinburgh, UK, 20 October 2018.

'Evil Fairies or Demons? Agency and Voice in the Case of Accused Witch, Isobel Watson, Perthshire, April-May 1590', 'Gender and Sexuality Research Group', Edinburgh, UK, 15 November 2017.

‘In Search of the Devil: Differing Descriptions of the Devil, the Demonic Pact and His Interactions with Witches during the Scottish Witch Hunt c. 1649-50’,  ‘British and European History Graduate Research Conference’, Oxford, UK,  9-10 May 2016.

‘The Scottish Witch Hunt c.1649-50: Moral Reform and Witchcraft Accusation’, ‘Interdisciplinary Approaches and Regional Variations in European Witchcraft Studies’, Bristol, UK, 29 January 2016.

Conferences organised

'The Postmodern Occult: A Witchcraft Symposium', Edinburgh, UK, 19-23 February 2018.

'The Communities and Margins of Early Modern Scotland', St Mungo's Museum, Glasgow, UK, 20-21 October 2017. 

Public engagement

'Witch Hunt', BBC Scotland podcast series, forthcoming.

'High Flats, Quacks and Witches', BBC Radio Scotland Time Travels, 28 May 2019.

'Poltergeists, Witches and Major Weir', BBC Radio Scotland Time Travels, 30 October 2018.



Ciaran Jones (ed.), 'An Account of a Confession of Raising the Devil at Irvine on 10 February 1682', in 'Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol. XVI' (Boydell & Brewer, 2020)

Book reviews

Ciaran Jones, Review of 'Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits: 'Small Gods' at the Margins of Christendom', edited by Michael Ostling, Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture, vol. 5 (2019), 137-40.

Ciaran Jones, Review of 'Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c. 1560 - 1700', by Michelle D. Brock, Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture, vol. 4 (2018), 154-56.

Blog posts

Ciaran Jones, 'Isobel Watson, Perthshire: fairies and witchcraft in 1590s Scotland', 'history Scotland magazine', vol. 20 (forthcoming, 2020)

Ciaran Jones, 'The Realities of Demonic Belief in Early Modern Scottish Witch Trials', Scottish History Network, vol. 9 (2017)


Runner up award, Jeremiah Dalziel Prize in British History, University of Edinburgh (2019)

The Rosebery Prize, Scottish History Society (2018)           

Student-Led Initiative Fund, University of Edinburgh (2018)

Jenny Balston Scholarship, University of Edinburgh (2016 – 2019)                                                     

Graduate Training Fund, University of Edinburgh (2016 – 2017)

Research Support Grant, University of Oxford (2016)                                        

The Oxford Brookes History Prize, Oxford Brookes University (2015)