I have taught at Northwestern University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Warwick, SUNY Cortland, and Dublin City University. At those institutions, I have offered a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, focusing on early modern Europe, Italy, and global history, and historical methods and historiography.
Courses taught at Dublin City University
Renaissance, Reformation, and Religious Wars
In the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, Europe experienced massive changes with enduring effects. First Italians, then the rest of Europe made a concerted effort to revive an idealized classical past, making innovations and discoveries in the process. At roughly the same time, many people became dissatisfied with the Catholic Church, drawing attention to institutional hypocrisy and failures of pastoral care, eventually also disagreeing with its theology and interpretation of Scripture. Finally, in the aftermath of religious schism came religious war, as Catholics and Protestants battled not only over theological difference but also on political grounds, using religion as a cover. This module examines these three key movements or events to trace some connections to modernity and see how the early modern period was dramatically changed by intellectual, social, and political shifts.
From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, across Europe, a large number of people were accused of practicing witchcraft and thousands were executed for this purported crime. Studying early modern witch crazes is an exercise in explaining the unexplainable. Early modern people strongly believed in the reality of witchcraft, accusing people of things we cannot prove happened, and which many people now would assert are not possible. But it is not good historical practice to simply say we know better, or that early modern people were irrational. Instead, we strive to understand their world, to see why the accusation of witchcraft was an explanation often reached for by early modern people. This requires examining law, religion, politics, community tensions, economics, gender, and climate. Historians also struggle to answer questions about why certain places executed thousands of accused witches while others adopted much more lenient modes of punishment. This module explores both of these elements, trying to deepen our understanding of the place of witchcraft in early modern society and to better understand why some places suffered witchcrazes while others dealt with the problem of witchcraft less violently.
Early Modern Europe, 1450-1648
Early Modern Europeans witnessed and experienced a series of massive paradigm shifts that transformed elements of their lives. They lived through the Renaissance, the Reformations of religion, an era of global exploration and conquest, and the development of nation states, all of which marked a fundamental shift from the medieval period. And yet in other ways we see deep continuity with the past. Looking at European history in this period allows us to ask questions about the nature of “Europe” and “Europeanness,” early moves towards globalization, and both change and continuity in religious, cultural, social, and political realms.
Europe, 1648-1848: From Absolutism to Reform
In 1648, European political boundaries were redrawn at the end of the 30 Years’ War, marking the end of widespread religious warfare. But the next two hundred years were far from quiet. From intellectual developments like the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, to political developments ranging from the rise of absolutism to an era of Revolutions, to economic and social shifts including growing global trade, agricultural and industrial revolutions, and increasing urbanisation, this was a dynamic period. This module explores the major transformations of European society, governments, and economies in the 17th-19th centuries.
Courses taught at SUNY Cortland
Western Civilization to 1500
In this course, students explore the history of Europe from ancient Mesopotamia through the Renaissance. This course emphasizes themes of social structures, the body politic, technology, gender roles and family, war, religion, and cultural expression. Students gain skills in reading primary sources and developing evidence-based historical arguments.
Fact, Fiction, and European History
What is the value of academic history, popular history, and historical fiction? How should the creators of any of these genres interact with fact, fiction, sources, and ideas about authority? Is there intellectual and educational value in all three? This course sets out to answer these questions, by looking at how history is disseminated to the public through popular media. We will discuss both popular historical work and works of historical fiction disseminated as books/novels, feature-length films, television series, and podcasts that focus on early modern European history. Students will have the opportunity to both critique and create works of popular history or historical fiction and consider how historians can best reach their intended audiences and make history come alive.
The Inquisition in Early Modern Spain and Italy
In order to protect Catholic Europe from heresy, the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries brought heretics and misbehaving Catholics to trial in their courts and left behind a rich collection of sources. This course will explore the workings of the Inquisition and also provide students with the tools to read these historically profitable but often challenging documents. Though they can be difficult to interpret, inquisition sources are particularly valuable for allowing historians to learn more about the non-elite, who are often conspicuously absent from other source bases. After a brief introduction to the history and procedures of the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions, students learn about how the Inquisition dealt with a variety of heretics and troublesome Catholics, such as religious dissenters/heretics, witches, misbehaving laypeople and bad priests. By the end of the semester, students understand the historical importance of the inquisitorial tribunals and be able to interpret the rich body of sources that the Inquisitions have left to historians.
Renaissance and Reformation Europe
This course offers a critical examination of the history and historiography of the Renaissance and Reformations of religion in Europe. It focuses on the development of Renaissance culture and politics, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, and the impacts of these changes on European culture from the late 14th through the mid 17th centuries.
Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe
This course investigates the gendered nature of early modern European society to better understand the experiences of women marginalized by strict patriarchal gender roles that attempted to relegate them to secondary roles in society. We examine the idealized patriarchy as conceived of by powerful European men and then the reality of that system and how it affected the day-to-day experiences of Europeans at all social levels. Although women were limited by their social circumstances, they still participated in the major intellectual, social, and religious movements of this era such as the Renaissance, the reformations of religious culture, and the political shifts of state formation and war. They were obviously also central players in the quotidian experiences of communities and families across Europe. We look at women’s lived experience in the family and the convent, women’s economic and intellectual opportunities, their role in religion and politics, and at women and men considered transgressive in their sexuality or lifestyle.
Research Seminar: Microhistory
This seminar guides students through individual historical research, requiring the analysis of historical documents, and the conceptualization of an original historical argument. It will also helps students to situate their research findings within the recent historiography of their chosen topic. Students produce a thirty-page research paper for which they conduct original research, using the methodology of microhistory. Microhistory is a methodological approach to history that was developed in the 1970s and 1980s. Historians using this methodology examine unusual moments in the past or small snippets of everyday life, focusing on the activities of an individual or small group or on a particular event. By examining what happened to ordinary people in the past, microhistory can show us the cultural limits on human agency at that particular moment. In other words, what was that person or that group able to do under the circumstances they found themselves in? This offers a corrective to historical methods that sometimes focus on only the elite or wealthy members of society. Microhistory allows historians to bring the stories of ordinary people to light while also making larger claims about the society in which they lived.
Graduate Seminar: Issues in European History since 1500
Given the rise in awareness around movements to defund or abolish police, you may have encountered the argument that police forces are a relatively recent phenomenon, developed in the 19th century. While this is strictly true if we define policing as a state profession, life was not unpoliced prior to the 1800s. Within a European context, while we could trace some form of policing and criminal justice back to the ancient world, there is a significant shift in the 16th century, which is also when the words ‘police’ and ‘policing’ come into use. In this graduate seminar, we will be exploring what caused and motivated this shift, how it was enacted, who was most affected, and finally how this developed into the professionalization of state police forces by the 19th century.