Position Type
- Present
History of Early Modern Europe
She / Her / Hers

Karen E. Spierling, Ph.D., is Professor of History and past Director of Global Commerce. She holds the Inaugural John and Heath Faraci Endowed Professorship for History, Global Commerce, and Financial Economics.

In both her teaching and research, Dr. Spierling explores the connections among the many different factors—social, economic, political, and religious, to name a few—that shape the development of human societies and individual decisions across time and place, and particularly in early modern Europe, her region of specialization. In the History Department, Dr. Spierling’s courses include Violence in Early Modern Europe; The European Reformations; Witches, Saints, and Skeptics; The Scientific Revolution and “Enlightenment”: Knowledge and Power in Early Modern Europe; Doing History: Riots and Revolutions in Early Modern Europe; Renaissance Italy; and Louis XIV and the Construction of Power. As the director of Global Commerce major from 2017-2022, Dr. Spierling piloted and taught the sophomore seminar and GC senior capstone course.

In all of her courses and student advising, Dr. Spierling strives to help her students articulate the ways that a liberal arts approach to rigorous but open-minded analysis of evidence and creative problem-solving prepares them for success in the commercial and non-profit worlds. She has published essays on the importance of the humanities and the liberal arts in The Chronicle for Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Times Higher Education, Chief Executive, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the AAC&U’s Liberal Education magazine.

Dr. Spierling’s research interests focus on the history of the Reformation, in particular the interplay among religious, social, and political concerns in the development and spread of Reformed (Calvinist) Protestantism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her current book project, Seeing Women in Reformation Geneva: Honor, Scandal, and Daily Life in the Consistory Records, focuses on women in sixteenth-century Geneva in order to examine the social complexities underlying one of best-known stories of the Protestant Reformation. The project explores what the records of the Genevan consistory—the morals court created by John Calvin and the Genevan church and city leaders in 1541—tell us about women’s participation in Reformation-era Genevan society and sets those experiences into the broader European context. In doing so, it opens new pathways for moving beyond a persistent narrative focused on the ideas and priorities of prominent men like John Calvin to reveal, instead, how Genevan inhabitants experienced and shaped the city’s process of reform.

Dr. Spierling received a Robert C. Good Faculty Fellowship to fund her research and writing is on sabbatical leave during 2022-23 to complete the manuscript.

B.A., Renaissance Studies, Yale University; M.A., Ph.D., History, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Learning & Teaching

  • History 104: Early Modern Europe
  • History 190: Louis XIV and the Construction of Power
  • History 205/156: Renaissance Italy
  • History 206: The Scientific Revolution and “Enlightenment: Power and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe”
  • History 201/290: Riots and Revolutions in Early Modern Europe
  • History 256: Reformation Europe
  • History 300: Witches, Saints, and Skeptics
  • History 357: Violence in Early Modern Europe
  • History 430: European Expansion: Europeans in the World, 1400–1800




  • 2018: Emancipating Calvin: Reformed Communities and Culture in Early Modern Francophone Europe, Essays in Honor of Raymond A. Mentzer, Jr., co-edited with R. Ward Holder and Erik A. de Boer. Leiden: Brill.
  • 2015: John Calvin and the Book: The Evolution of the Printed Word in Reformed Protestantism, editor, Refo 500 Series. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • 2008: Defining Community in Early Modern Europe, co-edited with Michael Halvorson, St Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
  • 2005: Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva: The Shaping of a Community, 1536–1564. St Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Released in paperback with Westminster John Knox Press in January 2009.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters (Peer Reviewed)

  • Forthcoming 2019: “Baptism.” In Ward Holder, ed., John Calvin in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Forthcoming 2019: “Reforming Life in Calvin’s Geneva.” In Bruce Gordon and Carl R. Trueman, eds., The Oxford Handbook to Calvinism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 2018: “‘Il Faut Éviter le Scandale’: Debating Community Standards in Reformation Geneva,” Reformation & Renaissance Review 20:1, pp. 51–69.
  • 2017: “Negotiating Penance: Consistories.” In Charles H. Parker and Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, eds, Judging Faith, Punishing Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 204–214.
  • 2012: “Putting ‘God’s Honor First’: Truth, Lies, and Servants in Reformation Geneva,” Church History and Religious Culture 92, pp. 85–103.
  • 2012: “Reformation Understandings of Women, Marriage, and Family.” In David M. Whitford, ed., The T&T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology. London: T&T Clark, pp. 178–96.
  • 2010: “Putting Order to Disorder: Illegitimate Children, Their Parents and the Consistory in Reformation Geneva.” In Raymond A. Mentzer and Françoise Moreil, eds, Dire l’interdit: the vocabulary of censure and exclusion in the early modern Reformed tradition. Leiden: Brill, pp. 43–64.
  • 2009: “Honor and Subjection in the Lord: Paul and the Family in the Reformation.” In R. Ward Holder, ed., The Reception of Paul in the Sixteenth Century. Leiden: Brill, pp. 465–99.
  • 2008: “The Complexity of Community in Reformation Geneva,” in Michael J. Halvorson and Karen E. Spierling, eds, Defining Community in Early Modern Europe, St Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 81–101.
  • 2008: “Friend and Foe: Reformed Genevans and Catholic Neighbors in the Time of Calvin.” In Randall Zachman, ed., John Calvin and Roman Catholicism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, pp. 79–98.
  • 2008: “Father, Son and Pious Christian? Concepts of Masculinity in Reformation Geneva.” In Scott Hendrix and Susan Karant-Nunn, eds, Masculinity in the Reformation Era. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, pp. 95–119.
  • 2008: “Children of the People of God: Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva.” Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève 34–36, pp. 31–54.
  • 2007: “Children in the Reformation.” In Peter Matheson, ed., Reformation Christianity. A People’s History of Christianity, vol. 5. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, pp. 120–42.
  • 2005: “Making Use of God’s Remedies: Negotiating the Material Care of Children in Reformation Geneva.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 36:3, pp. 761–83.
  • 2002: “Daring Insolence toward God? The Perpetuation of Catholic Baptismal Traditions in Sixteenth-Century Geneva.” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte/Archive for Reformation History 93, pp. 97–125.


Honors & Awards

Select Honors and Fellowships:

  • Holder of the Inaugural John and Heath Faraci Endowed Professorship for History, Global Commerce, and Financial Economics (2018-2023)
  • R.C. Good Fellowship, Research Sabbatical (2016-2017)
  • Bartlett Family Pre-Tenure Fellow, Denison University (2012-2013)
  • Fulbright Fellowship for dissertation research (1997-1998)


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