Podcast: 2019 Ed Conrad Memorial Lecture

30 May 2019

On May 29 the Studies in Religion Discipline was very pleased to host the 3rd Ed Conrad Memorial Lecture. Assoc. Prof. Ed Conrad, a long-term member of the Studies in Religion Department, was well known for his generous and warm personality. Ed developed a strong and supportive relationship with his students, many of whom attended the lecture. Ed’s equally warm wife, Dr LInda Conrad, generously supported the event.

A full room had the pleasure of listening to Prof. James Crossley from St Mary’s University (London), deliver a fascinating paper titled 'From the Peasants' Revolt to Jeremy Corbyn: The Fate of the Bible in the English Radical Tradition’. It was fitting that James chose to explore such a topic, since one of Ed’s principle interests was the reception of the Bible. In an engaging talk traversing the Middle Ages, various forms of socialism, the Wold War, and even folk music, James demonstrated the ways in which the English radical tradition had put the Bible to use in English political discourse. Among the many fascinating revelations was that Jeremy Corbyn is really Obi Wan Kenobi (the elder).

Listen to the lecture 

The presentation slides can be viewed online here

About the lecture

The Bible has been an ongoing feature in English political radicalism. While such uses of the Bible did not begin with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, this particular revolt has commonly been seen as a convenient starting point. In this talk, Professor Crossley will use the Peasants’ Revolt and its reception to look at which biblical texts have been used, remembered, forgotten, and rethought in the English radical tradition. He will look at the ways in which historical and cultural contexts (e.g. the emergence of the labour movement, the tensions between revolutionary and parliamentary socialism, Cold War, folk music traditions, declining church affiliation, Brexit) have helped frame the ways the Bible, Englishness, radicalism, and the Peasants’ Revolt are currently understood and used in English political discourse.

About the presenter 

Professor James Crossley joined St Mary’s University (Twickenham, London) in September 2015 as Professor of Bible, Society and Politics after 10 years at the University of Sheffield where he was Professor of Bible, Culture and Politics. His research and teaching interests can be put into two broad categories: Christian origins and Judaism in the 1st century; modern political receptions of the Bible, particularly (but not exclusively) in English political discourse. He has supervised and welcomes PhD students in both areas.

One of the ways he connects his interest in these two periods is through his focus on how people understand and negotiate historical change. His work on contemporary political rhetoric, for instance, looks at how the social, economic and geopolitical upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s led to distinctive ways of constructing what the Bible ‘really means’, both in English cultural and political discourse (e.g. Brexit, foreign policy, Corbyn, May, Benn, Thatcher, Blair, Cameron) and Anglo-American study of the New Testament. Similarly, his work on first-century Palestine looks at how socio-economic changes in Galilee and Judea intersected with traditions associated with Jesus and how these were then interpreted, ignored, rethought, modified, adapted, and so on.

He has published widely in both these areas. His current major project is on uses of the Bible in the English radical tradition from the Peasants’ Revolt to the present.


This lecture is organised by the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry and is held in loving memory of Ed Conrad, who was an internationally recognised scholar in the Studies in Religion Program at The University of Queensland for many years. His text “Reading Isaiah” was a ground breaker in thinking about the way biblical texts are read in the context of living communities. Ed always had a keen interest in the Bible and Contemporary culture. Linda Conrad, Ed’s widow, and an accomplished scholar in her own right, sponsors this annual lecture in order to promote ongoing interest in this very important field, here in Queensland.

The Ed Conrad Memorial Lecture will be an annual event. Please stay tuned for the next lecture in 2020.