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Medieval & Early Modern Europe

About the Field:

The UCSB program in medieval/early modern European history combines an emphasis on detailed analysis and archival research into particular questions of interest to students with a broad training in medieval and early modern Europe and the pre-modern world. Major themes emphasized in the program include the interrelationship of religion, politics, science, and culture, the interplay between center and periphery of medieval and early modern Europe, and the intellectual, cultural and political process of identity-formation in medieval and early modern societies.

Graduate students who specialize in medieval and/or early modern European history are encouraged to do comparative coursework in related fields, including the ancient world, modern Europe, the medieval and/or early modern Islamic world, colonial Latin America, colonial US, Tokugawa Japan, or Renaissance/early modern history of art.

CORE Courses / Requirements:

There are no requirements in this field beyond the departmental requirements for the graduate program in history. Students design individual programs of study that combine regularly offered seminars with independent readings course with faculty members.

Courses in the field:

  • History 200E: Historical Literature: Europe
  • History 201AW: Advanced Historical Literature, Atlantic World
  • History 201E: Advanced Historical Literature, Europe
    • Recent Topics Include: “Gender in Pre-modern Medical, Legal, and Religious Discourse;” “Memory and Its Practices, c. 1400-1700;” “Cultural and Artistic Exchange in Europe, Late Middle Ages-Nineteenth Century;” “Urban Space in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.”
  • Hist 215E-F: Research Seminar in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
  • History 220A-B: Seminar in Renaissance-Reformation
  • Additionally, students enroll in independent readings courses (Hist 596).

In the Field


  • Hilary Bernstein is an historian of early modern Europe, with a particular focus on France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She is especially interested in cities and urban culture in France, with a special focus on politics and political culture, intellectual networks and history writing, and erudite culture, all within the context of the French Wars of Religion and their subsequent memory. She is now working on a project on “Genealogy, Family, and Memory in Early Modern France.”
  • Debra Blumenthal is an historian of late medieval and early modern Iberia whose research interests include Muslim, Christian and Jewish relations, the history of slavery and race in the medieval and early modern Mediterranean world, gender history, and the history of medicine and women’s health.  Her current research projects explore, respectively, the role of slavery in the production of medical (particularly gynecological) knowledge and constructions of maternity in the late medieval Mediterranean world.  Her current book project, entitled “Comares: Mothering in Uncertain Times,” exposes the fraught interactions between midwives, wet nurses and birth mothers (not to mention physicians, surgeons and fathers) in a period characterized by male anxiety over female control of reproduction.
  • Brad Bouley‘s research focuses on the histories of religion and science in the early modern, especially Italian, context. Bouley is currently completing a book manuscript entitled The Barberini Butchers: Meat, Murder, and Warfare in Early Modern Italy. 
    This work looks at how the Counter Reformation informed food policies in the Papal States during the Thirty Years War. He is especially interested in the histories of food, material culture, Roman politics, disability studies, and the historiography of the Scientific Revolution. 
  • Juan Cobo focuses on colonial Latin America, but also on the history of early modern Catholicism and of the Spanish empire more broadly.
  • Manuel Covo works on the transition from early modern to modern European colonialism in the long eighteenth century.  He specializes on French
    imperialism, political economy and Atlantic revolutions.
  • Edward English is an historian of the society and culture of Medieval and Early Renaissance Siena and Tuscany. His research explores the history of banking and economic history, medieval business ethics, as well as the use of architecture by urban elites to express and extend their power. He is currently working on a monograph-length study exploring the changing fortunes experienced by the Sienese nobility from the late thirteenth to early fifteenth centuries.
  • Carol Lansing’s research on thirteenth-century Italy brings together aspects of culture, social experience, gender and state formation.  She is now finishing a book titled “Amasie: Strategies of Women in Poverty” in which she draws on criminal court records from Bologna to reconstruct the experiences and choices of women too poor to marry. In a second ongoing project Lansing uses a variety of sources, including wills and extant castles, to explores elite practices and culture in a centrally important and understudied region south of Rome.

  • Paul Sonnino is an historian of Old Regime France, whose research interests focus on early modern statecraft and French diplomatic and intellectual history. His most recent books include The Search for the Man in the Iron Mask: A Historical Detective Story (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016); Mazarin’s Quest: The Congress of Westphalia and the Coming of the Fronde (Harvard University Press, 2008), and Louis XIV and the Origins of the Dutch War (Cambridge University Press, 2003).


  • Michael North (University of Greifswald, Germany), is an expert in European economic history, the history of early modern Germany, and the Balkan borderlands.


  • Sharon Farmer‘s research interests include include medieval women and gender, relations between Northern France and the globe, medieval environmental history, and forms of vulnerability in pre-modern societies.
  • Sears McGee specializes on the religious and political history of Stuart Britain.

Current Graduate Students 

Recent Alumni/ae


Do faculty members welcome contact from possible applicants?

Yes! If you are thinking of applying to UCSB to study medieval and/or early modern European history, please get in touch by email with the faculty member(s) with whom you hope to work the most closely.

How much language training do I need to apply?

At the time of application, you should have a basic reading knowledge of the language (or languages) in which your main research materials will be written. You will have the opportunity to hone your language skills and possibly add additional languages once you join the program.