Matthew Houston - student profile


Following my attendance at Ballymena Academy from 2003–2010, I came to Queen’s University Belfast to study for a B.A. in Modern History. After completing my undergraduate studies I began a M.A. in Modern History at Queen’s in September 2013, taking the ‘Religion, Identity, and Conflict’ strand. My M.A. dissertation focused on the Presbyterian Church in Ireland during the Second World War, examining its wartime experience and impact on society. Having finished my M.A., I undertook a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Union Theological College before beginning my Ph.D. in September 2015 under the supervision of Dr Andrew Holmes.

My thesis is entitled ‘The churches, Northern Ireland, and the Second World War’ and will examine how the four largest denominations in Northern Ireland, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, and the Methodist Church in Ireland, responded to the myriad challenges presented by the conflict. This will examine wartime challenges to theology and ethics, the effects of war on clerical and lay standards of morality, attitudes to social welfare and education, and the involvement of church personnel with the armed forces. It seeks to establish the impact of identity politics on clerical responses to wartime issues and explain the differences between denominational thinking on the above matters. The thesis also evaluates the extent of the influence of church leaders on the laity in order to better understand the place of organised religion in Northern Ireland during the 1940s.

More broadly, my research interests extend to the functions of public and private religiosity during periods of international conflict in the United Kingdom and Ireland throughout the twentieth century. I am also interested in the influence of identity politics on organised religion and the place of churches in twentieth-century society. Furthermore, I am interested in the development of theological thinking in the mid-twentieth century, variations between denominational forms of belief and practice, and how beliefs affected ecclesiastical engagement with politics and society.