Early Modern World

The Early Modern World represents a thematic focus within the Corcoran Department of History, cutting across conventional geographic fields. Faculty associated with this focus reflect the newly expansive scholarship on the period between the late 15th and the late 18th centuries. No longer a geographically- bounded term, “Early Modern” refers to a conceptual and historiographical framework for understanding large, interconnected processes that function simultaneously at local, translocal, and global levels. Our faculty have expertise ranging across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. We are committed to the idea that scholarship and teaching should reflect this breadth and express an ecumenical spirit of intellectual collaboration across what were once regarded as historiographical divides.

Between the late 14th and the late 18th centuries powerful forces shook the world. For much of the last several decades, historians of Europe told the story of these centuries in terms of new attitudes toward texts and nature, of discovery and global expansion, of challenges to the Catholic church’s authority, of warfare over convictional differences, of emergent sovereign states, of changes in economic production and exchange, and of novel political arrangements. In effect, the history of the Early Modern Period was the account of Europe’s early modernization. Historians of Europe have sharply challenged and given nuance to this story, emphasizing the variability of circumstances and the crosss-cutting aspects of change and continuity. More recently, historians of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas, have focused attention on conquest and colonialism, reciprocal cultural, material, and intellectual flows, the social and economic implications of slavery, hybridities and baroque juxtapositions, the relationship between empire and nation, and the encounter between mutual “others” as part and parcel of a broader tableau of the Early Modern. As these two scholarly streams have converged, a new and more cosmopolitan understanding of the period between 1500 and 1800 has begun to take shape.

This program is comprised primarily of Faculty and Graduate Students at the University of Virginia's History Department. Listed below are the program's participants, relevant information, and links to more information about them, including methods of contact.

  • Richard B. Barnett
    (Associate Professor, Early Modern South Asia)
    State and society in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. Recent publication: Rethinking Early Modern India (ed.) (Manohar, 2002). Monograph in preparation: South India Between Empires: State, Culture and Identity in Hyderabad, 1748-1803
  • S. Max Edelson
    (Associate Professor,
    Colonial British America and the Atlantic World)
    Current research focuses on the geography and cartography of North America and the Caribbean. 
  • Paul D. Halliday
    (Julian Bishko Professor of History & Professor of Law and Department Chair, British, Imperial, and Legal History)
    I first became interested in how law accommodates new ideas and social practices while writing Dismembering the Body Politic, a book concerned with the origins of partisan politics and law's response to it. In 2010, I published Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire. I am now working on two projects. The first concerns the material culture of law and the interaction of manuscript, print, and aural forms of knowledge in the eighteenth century. I am especially interested in how court clerks and their archival practices generated what counted as legal authority in English and colonial courts. Related to this, the second project considers imperial constitution making from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and in particular, the role of the judicial office in making the constitutions of dominions from the Caribbean to Mauritius and beyond.
  • Brian P. Owensby
    (Professor, Latin America)
    Law and litigation among Indians and slaves in 17th-century Mexico. Recent publication: Empire of Law and Indian Justice in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, 2008).
  • (Associate Professor, Early Modern Europe, France)
    17th- to early 19th-Century France and Europe; Early Modern Intellectual History; Age of Revolutions. Recent publication: Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011).

  • Erin Lambert
    (Assistant Professor, Early Modern Europe, Reformation, visual and aural cultures)
    My current project explores the formation of religious identities in sixteenth-century German- and Dutch-speaking Europe.  By examining songs and images of the resurrection of the dead, the project seeks to understand how devotional practices constructed and communicated divergent conceptions of personhood and community among Lutherans, Anabaptists, Catholics, and Reformed Christians. 
  • Alison Weber
    (Professor of Spanish)
    Early modern Catholicism, the Spanish Inquisition, mysticism, Spanish Renaissance and Baroque literature. Forthcoming publication: Teaching Teresa of Avila and the Spanish Mystics, ed. Alison Weber (Modern Language Association of America). I am working on a monograph on the culture of the miraculous in Spain.

» Graduate Students

  • Asaf Almog (Ph.D. Student, Early American History, Atlantic History, Early Modern European Intellectual History)
  • Ryan Bibler (Ph.D. Candidate, Early Modern England and Empire)
  • Brian Bowman (Ph.D. Student, Early Modern Anglo-Atlantic)
  • Mary Draper (Ph.D. Candidate, Early Modern Atlantic)
  • Jason Farr (Ph.D. Candidate, British America and Atlantic World)
  • David Flaherty (Ph.D. Candidate, British and French America and Atlantic World)
  • Mary Hicks (Ph.D. Candidate, Late Colonial and Imperial Brazil)
  • Kristen Lashua (Ph.D. Candidate, Early Modern England and Empire)
  • David Smith (Ph.D. Candidate, Intellectual History of the Early Modern Atlantic World)

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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