Skip to main content
Professor Mary Heimann

Professor Mary Heimann

Professor of Modern History

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 (0)29 2087 7623
4.38, John Percival Building
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision

My approach to the history of ideas is rather like that of an anthropologist. I treat the past as a series of foreign cultures whose mental outlooks, prejudices and assumptions are different from our own. My research seeks to recover and make sense of how people, living at different times and in different places, conceptualise their own and rival religious faiths, scientific paradigms, national identities and political utopias.

I have particular expertise in nineteenth-century English Catholicism, twentieth-century Czechoslovak political history and Communist-Catholic relations in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

My best-known publications are English Catholic Devotion (Oxford University Press), ‘Christianity in Western Europe from the Enlightenment’ in A World History of Christianity, and Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed (Yale University Press).

My next book, Christianity behind the Iron Curtain, will also be published by Yale University Press.

I supervise masters and doctoral students in modern European history, especially English Catholic and modern Czech and Slovak history.

I was nominated for a Teaching Excellence Award by my students. My teaching and research were also made the subject of a feature article in the Times Higher Education.

My work on Czechoslovak history has attracted the attention of governments, diplomats and policy-makers. It was also selected in 2016 as an AHRC Impact Case Study.

My last book, Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed, was widely reviewed in the press, discussed on radio and television, and featured at international writers’ festivals. Prague Writers Festival

I'm an historian specialising in Czechoslovakia, English Catholicism, and religion in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. I founded the Central and Eastern European Research Group and Czechoslovak Special Collection at Cardiff University.

I was educated at Vassar College in New York state (BA History and English, departmental and general honors, Phi Beta Kappa, History Prize, 1987) and at Magdalen College, Oxford (1988-1992). My DPhil in Modern History was awarded from the University of Oxford in 1993.

Before being appointed to the Chair of Modern History at Cardiff University, I was a Research Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge (1992-5), Lecturer in History at the University of York (1995-6), Research Editor at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (1996-7) and Senior Lecturer, then Reader, at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.

I have won various research grants (AHRC, Leverhulme, Maguire), held visiting fellowships (Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno) and had policy recommendations adopted by NATO’s Partnership for Peace (2015).

I am on the editorial boards of The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press); The Innes Review (Edinburgh University Press); British Catholic History (Cambridge University Press); until recently I was also on the editorial board of Europe-Asia Studies (formerly Soviet Studies) based in Glasgow.

I was for many years Associate Editor for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press) with responsibility for English Catholic subjects; I also worked on The Gladstone Diaries and History of the University of Oxford projects. I have been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 2005.














  • Heimann, M. 2005. Catholic revivalism in worship and devotion. In: Gilley, S. and Stanley, B. eds. The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 8, World Christianities c.1815–c.1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press



  • Heimann, M. 2002. English Catholic particularism in piety and politics. In: Lamberts, E. ed. The Black International: L'Internationale Noire 1870-1878 - The Holy See and Militant Catholicism in Europe/Le Saint-Siege et le Catholicisme Militant en Europe. KADOC Studies Leuven: Leuven University Press




I welcome and enjoy supervising Masters and PhD students in Modern History.

My areas of particular expertise include:

  • Czechoslovakia
  • English Catholicism
  • Communism
  • Science and Religion
  • East-Central Europe
  • The Cold War.

Past projects

I have long experience of supervising doctoral and other postgraduate students to successful and timely completion.

Current/recent PhD students include:

  • Stephen O’Donnell, ‘Trans-National Slovak Nationalism, circa 1890-1914′ (awarded 2018)
  • David Green, ‘The Czechoslovak Communist Party’s Revolution’ (ESRC-funded PhD; awarded 2014)
  • Jennifer Dowie Roe, ‘Spiritualist Summer Schools, 1860-1900’ (awarded 2011)
  • Gregory Williams, ‘Cultural Policy and the Czechoslovak Communist Party, circa 1970-1988′ (fully-funded PhD; in progress)
  • Kristof Smeyers, ‘Blood Ties. Stigmatics and Society in Victorian Britain’, (co-supervising with Tine Van Osselaer at the University of Antwerp), begun 2017.
  • Nicole Burnett, '"The Art of Thriving": The Preaching, Teaching, Adoption and Impact of Frugality 1600-1800', (second supervisor; first supervisor Keir Waddington), MPhil completed 2017; PhD begun 2018.

Other dissertation topics I have supervised to successful completion include:

  • A Study of Censorship: Law and Order during Dubček’s Normalisation
  • Radio Free Europe in Czechoslovakia, circa 1974-1984
  • British Phrenology in Crisis, circa 1880-1930
  • Czechoslovak Representations at the Paris Peace Conference 1919
  • The Development of Francis Galton’s Eugenics Theory from 1865-1911
  • The Czechoslovak Exile Government in London, 1939-1945
  • Satires of Communism in Czech Film of the New Wave
  • Nazi Constructions of Childhood in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp
  • Religious Practice among English Catholics, circa 1829-1850
  • Edvard Beneš and the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, 1938-1945
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain’s Response to the Warsaw Pact Intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968
  • Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty: A Cameo of the Cold War
  • How Distinctively Czech was the Velvet Revolution of 1989?
  • Edvard Beneš’s Role in the 1948 Communist Coup
  • Portrayals of the 1968 Invasion of Czechoslovakia in British Print Media
  • Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century Scotland
  • Sketches of Holy Women in Nineteenth-Century Methodism
  • Catholic Social Thought and Action in the 1930s in England

Postgraduate Summer School at NYU in Prague

I designed and co-ran the 5th CRCEES Postgraduate Research Methodology Summer School held at New York University in Prague (11-20 July 2011). This brought together 20 doctoral students and 15 academic experts from universities across Europe, including Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan and Serbia. The AHRC, SFC and HEFCE funded the ten-day residential postgraduate summer school. Review of Prague Summer School

External Examining

University of St Andrews (2016)

University of Aberdeen (2014)

University of Edinburgh (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

University of Glasgow (2015)

University of Oxford (2008)

University of York (1998)

Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand (2016)