Professor Ben Kaplan

Ben Kaplan holds UCL's Chair in Dutch History, which dates back to 1919 and reflects the close historical ties between Britain, especially London, and the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium). Although Ben fills this role, he has a broad international and comparative perspective, and his research ranges across much of early modern Europe, focusing particularly on its religious history. Most of his research is on the history of religious toleration and conflict in Europe after the Reformations. Ben is interested less in ideas than in the practice of toleration: how, in a very religious era, groups who in theory were bitter enemies managed in Holland and other parts of Europe to live together peacefully - and when the peace between them broke down, he wants to know why. Though these questions are historical, Ben believes they have great relevance to our world today. In search of answers, he studies the nitty-gritty practicalities of life in religiously mixed communities, like how worship by different groups was accommodated in places with just one church building. He wants to know whether people of different faiths attended the same schools, shared charitable resources, or wore similar clothing. Did they intermarry? How were disputes handled? It's surprising how little we actually know about such things.

PhD supervision

Ben is interested in receiving research proposals from prospective students on any aspect of early modern European religious history.

Recently completed: Anastazja Grudnicka, ‘Being a Catholic in the House of Austria: The Religious Formation of Matthias habsburg, 1557-1612’

Major publications

  • Reformation and the Practice of Toleration: Dutch Religious History in the Early Modern Era (Leiden: Brill, 2019)
  • Religious Interactions in Europe and the Mediterranean World: Coexistence and Dialogue from the 12th to the 20th Centuries, co-edited with Katsumi Fukasawa and Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017.
  • Cunegonde's Kidnapping: A Story of Religious Conflict in the Age of Enlightenment. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2014.
  • Catholic Communities in Protestant States: Britain and the Netherlands, 1580-1720, co-edited with Robert Moore, Henk van Nierop, and Judith Pollman. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
  • Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press, 2007.

For a full list of publications, see Ben's Iris profile.


Ben has held research fellowships and grants from a variety of institutions, including the Guggenheim Foundation, Leverhulme Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Media appearances