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Thomas Wood

History, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Serpents and Dragons in Early Modern German Religious Culture

My thesis explores the significance of the serpent as a cultural phenomenon in the changing religious landscape of sixteenth and seventeenth century Germany. Serpents and dragons (terms used interchangeably by contemporaries) are universal symbols, found in legends that permeate cultural mythologies across the globe and possess a wealth of allegorical power. My research is concerned with the many different manifestations of these potent symbols within a period of great religious upheaval where they are deployed in the fierce rhetoric of confessional rivalry. Of particular interest to this study is the appropriation of dragon-slaying narratives like that of St. George by Protestant reformers which reveals much of how they imagined their proto-nationalistic religious identity and how they understood the world they lived in. 

Research Area

  • History


  • 'Papal dragons in sixteenth century Protestant iconography' - The fifteenth annual workshop on early modern German history at the German Historical Institute (7 May 2021)
  • 'Triumph of the new faith over the old': The pope and dragon slaying in Protestant iconography. - The Reformation Studies Colloquium (8th-10th September 2021)
  • Forging religious identity in Protestant art - Created Identities Conference (5th September 2020)

Public Engagement & Impact

Other Research Interests

  • The family and reign of Pope Alexander VI
  • The Borgia Legend in Britain
  • Late medieval and early modern military history 
  • Politics and culture in Renaissance Italy 
  • Religious art and iconography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 


Graduate Centre for Europe (Steering Committe Member 2020-21)

Graduate Centre for Europe (Co-Chair 2021-22)

Regional Editor (Birmingham) Midlands Historical Review 

German History Society 

The Historical Association