Our distinctive research profile is dedicated to excellence in the study of Buddhism and Judaeo-Christian studies.

Within these traditions, our work encompasses four areas:

  • Textual studies: focusing on the historical significance and analysis, as well as the editing and translation of, key religious texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Esther, Abhidhammatthavibhavini, Genesis, gospel homilies, medieval, Reformation, and early modern theological texts, contemporary Buddhist sermons (Sinhala) and Tibetan love poetry.
  • Philosophical and theological investigation of concepts: such as sin, Incarnation, Trinity, meditation, consciousness, religious love, atheism, and afterlife.
  • Investigation of religious practice as reflected in festivals, funerary rites, monastic life and preaching.
  • Inter-religious dialogue.

Research projects

  • The Cambridge Platonists at the origins of Enlightenment: texts, debates, and reception (1650-1730): The three-year Cambridge Platonists at the origins of Enlightenment project, which is an AHRC-funded collaboration between the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol (Dr David Leech is Co-Investigator on the Bristol side), begins in September 2016 and will create a digital thematic research collection ('Cambridge Platonism Sourcebook') contextualising the work of the Cambridge Platonists, a major force in early modern religious thought
  • Buddhist Cosmology in Food: In 2014/15 Dr Rita Langer made six documentaries on food offerings in Sri Lanka as part of a one year project "Feeding humans and non-humans in Theravada Buddhism". The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and British Academy. 
  • The Understanding Buddhist Death Project: The Understanding Buddhist Death Project has used contemporary research to create resources for chaplains, teachers and students.

Research centres

Members of our department are closely involved in the following University research centres:


Our researchers work closely with the following institutions:

Downside Abbey, Somerset, Bath

The Benedictine Community at Downside Abbey, some 20 miles south of Bristol possesses a fine library containing extensive collections in patristic and medieval theology and spirituality. Both students and staff at the University are welcomed to use the library. Conferences are also organised jointly between us and Downside Abbey. Further information about using the library is available from Carolyn Muessig,

Trinity College, Bristol

Trinity College, Bristol is an Anglican Theological College. Students and staff at Trinity often attend and participate in our research seminars. The College offers MA, MPhil, MLitt and PhD degrees in Theology.

Detail of painting showing the Virgin Mary with child

Our research feeds into School of Humanities research clusters, and forms part of the overall research strategies of the Faculty of Arts.

Top 5 for research intensity

We are top 5 in the UK for research into theology and religion based on our size.

Source: REF 2014

Conference lecture Annual postgraduate conference

The twenty first postgraduate conference in religion and theology, on the theme of 'Perfection', took place this spring. Watch this space for news about the twenty second postgraduate conference which will take place in spring of next year.

Interested in being a visiting researcher?

If you would like to be a visiting researcher at the University of Bristol, please see the School of Humanities' guidelines for visiting researchers, where you will also find an application form.

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