Birmingham scholar elected to the British Academy

The University of Birmingham’s Prof. David Thomas — a scholar of Christian-Muslim relations — elected Fellow of the British Academy

Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam and the Nadir Dinshaw Professor of Interreligious Relations at the University of Birmingham, has been made a Fellow of the prestigious British Academy.

Professor Thomas is elected to the fellowship in recognition of his work in the field of Islamic religious thought and the history and theology of Christian-Muslim relations.

He joins the British Academy, a community of over 1400 of the leading minds that make up the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Current Fellows include the classicist Dame Mary Beard, the historian Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Baroness Onora O’Neill, while previous Fellows include Sir Winston Churchill, C.S Lewis, Seamus Heaney and Beatrice Webb.

For many years Professor Thomas has researched and written on the history of religious thought in Islam and the structure of Islamic religious thinking, especially relations between Muslims and followers of Christianity.

Having worked in the UK for some years on relations between the churches and Muslim communities, in 1993 he was appointed Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in Selly Oak. In 2004 he was promoted to Reader in the University’s Department of Theology and Religion, and in 2007 he was appointed Professor of Christianity and Islam. In 2011 he was made Nadir Dinshaw Professor of Interreligious Relations.

The main output of his research has been Christian-Muslim Relations, a bibliographical history. It is a definitive history of works written by Christians and Muslims against and about one another in the period 600-1900. By July 2018, eleven volumes had appeared covering the period 600-1700. Work is underway on volume 12, one of the three volumes covering the period 1700-1800.

This year marks the largest ever cohort of new Fellows elected to the British Academy for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. A total of 76 world-leading academics have been elected from universities across the UK and around the world.

As well as a fellowship, the British Academy is a funding body for research, nationally and internationally, and a forum for debate and engagement.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts and Law, Professor Michael Whitby, said:

“This is a very well-deserved reward for a lifetime of scholarship on Muslim relations with Christians and members of other faiths and further testimony to the reputation of Theology at Birmingham.”

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said:

“I am delighted to welcome this year’s exceptionally talented new Fellows to the Academy. Including historians and economists, neuroscientists and legal theorists, they bring a vast range of expertise, insights and experience to our most distinguished fellowship.

“The election of the largest cohort of Fellows in our history means the British Academy is better placed than ever to help tackle the challenges we all face today. Whether it’s social integration or the ageing society, the future of democracy or climate change, Brexit or the rise of artificial intelligence, the insights of the humanities and social sciences are essential as we navigate our way through an uncertain present into what we hope will be an exciting future.

“I extend to all of our new Fellows my heartiest congratulations and I look forward to working closely with them to build on the Academy’s reputation and achievements.”

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