Photo of Professor Grace Davie

Professor Grace Davie

Research Interests

My concerns with the connections between religion and modernity date from the mid 1980s. The canvas on which I have worked has, however, steadily widened: from an initial engagement with faith in the inner cities of modern Britain (Ahern and Davie 1987), through a more general consideration of the religious life of Britain (Davie1994), to a concern with the patterns of religion in modern Europe (Davie 2000). The next step was to place Europe itself within a global context, but at this point the narrative takes a rather different turn. It is simply not the case that the patterns of religious activity discovered in Western Europe are those of the modern world more generally. Europe: the Exceptional Case (2002) deals with these issues by looking at Europe from the outside.

The next stage of my writing developed this thinking in new ways. In the first instance, this found expression in a book commissioned by Sage for their Millennium Series, which reflects on why the subject matter of the sociology of religion has developed in the way that it has. Why, in other words, have certain aspects of the research agenda received disproportionate attention and what are the consequences for sociological understanding? The text becomes in fact a critical appraisal of both content and method within the sociology of religion, underlining the importance of contextual factors for its development in different parts of the world (the comparative element is central). It was first published in May 2007; a new edition appeared in 2013.
A co-authored book (with Peter Berger and Effie Fokas) appeared in September 2008. It emerged initially from three meetings in Berlin concerned with European Secularity. Its eventual publication, coinciding with the American Presidential election in 2008 under the title Religious America, Secular Europe: A Theme and Variations (Ashgate 2008) was nothing if not timely. 
A third strand of research is rather different. It has developed out of my links with Swedish colleagues at the Uppsala University which have led in turn to a series of European wide collaborative projects on religion and welfare. The first of these,Welfare and Religion in a European Perspective, 2003-06, was funded by the Tercentenary Foundation of the Bank of Sweden; the second, Welfare and Values in Europe, 2006-09, was financed by the European Commission, under the Framework 6 programme. Both are central to the understanding of modern Europe and develop – both empirically and theoretically – ideas about inclusion and exclusion. WaVE is predicated on the assumption that values can best be understood through the ways that they are expressed in practice. Accordingly, WaVE aims to study values through the prism of welfare. Two co-edited books on welfare and religion in 21st century Europe are the fruit of these collaborations.
I was the co-director of both WREP and WaVE. The budget for each project was approximately £800,000. An interesting development of this work can be found in the establishment in Uppsala of a Linnaeus Centre of Excellence in Uppsala concerned with the Impact of Religion: Challenges for Society, Law and Democracy. I co-wrote much of this application together with my Swedish colleagues and am named in the application, both as a contributor and as a senior adviser. The funding from the Swedish Research Council is for 10 years at the rate of 5m SEK per annum (circa £400,000 pa).  I spent the spring semester of 2010 in Uppsala in order to support this work, which is now well-established as a major University program. See for more details. I returned for a number of shorter visits in 2011 and for an extended period in 2012.
In many respects I have closed the loop with a comprehensively revised edition of Religion in Britain since 1945. This was published in 2015 under the title Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (Wiley-Blackwell). 
See also Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground. London: Theos 2017. Available at:


Research Supervision

Given that I am now retired, I can no longer accept new post-graduate students in Exeter.