Associate Professor of History
Louisa A. Burnham has been a medievalist since the cradle. Though she was improbably born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, grew up in Massachusetts and was educated at Harvard (A.B., 1987) and Northwestern (Ph.D., 2000), her spiritual home is in a medieval monastery in France, Italy or Catalunya. Her research is concerned with Franciscans and heretics (and sometimes Franciscan heretics) in late medieval southern Europe, and she is now working on a monograph on an unusual heretic from early fourteenth-century Languedoc. She teaches survey courses in medieval history as well as specialized courses in topics as diverse as Medieval Cities, Saints and Sinners in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, the Mediterranaean World, Medieval Science, Technology and Magic, and the Black Death. She has received grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the NEH, and the Mellon Foundation.
So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke: The Beguin Heretics of Languedoc (Cornell University Press, 2008). Honorable Mention for the 2008 New England Historical Association's James P. Hanlon Book Award.
"La crise spirituelle de 1316: Les franciscains de Narbonne et leurs relations avec les habitants de la ville," in Moines et religieux dans la ville (XII-XVe siècles), Cahiers de Fanjeaux 44 (2009), 469-491.
"'Just Talking about God': Orthodox Prayer, among the Heretical Beguins," in Franciscans at Prayer, ed. by Timothy Johnson (Leiden, Brill, 2007), 249-270.
"Reliques et résistance chez les Béguins de Languedoc," Annales du Midi 118 (2006), 353-368, in a special edition dedicated to new work by American scholars.
"The Visionary Authority of Na Prous Boneta" in Alain Boureau and Sylvain Piron, eds. Pierre de Jean Olivi (1248-1298): Pensée scolastique, dissidence spirituelle et société (Paris, J. Vrin, 1999), 319-339.
Courses offered in the past four years.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
FYSE 1056 - The Black Death ▲
The Black Death
In this seminar we will examine the great plague of 1348, the Black Death, as an epidemiological, cultural, and historical event. What was the plague? How did it affect European society in the short term, and what were its repercussions? Was the Black Death truly a turning point in European history, or have its effects been overrated? Finally, we will look at the role the plague has played as a metaphor in society and will discuss modern plagues like the hemorrhagic viruses and AIDS using fiction and film as well as the works of modern scholars. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2014
HIST 0103 - The Making Of Europe ▲
The Making of Europe
This course covers the history of Western Europe from the death of Caesar in 44 B.C. to the Peace of Westphalia in A.D. 1648. We will examine three interrelated themes: political authority within European society, the development of the religious culture of the West and the challenges to that culture, and the ways in which the development of a European economy contributed to the making of Europe itself. While examining these questions from the Roman Empire to early modern Europe, students will focus on the use of original sources, and on how historians interpret the past. Pre-1800. Not open to seniors. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
HIST 0238 - Medieval Cities
This course will examine the economic, social, topographical and cultural history of the medieval city. We will study the transformation of urban life from the Roman period through the dark years of the early Middle Ages in the West into the flourishing of a new type of European city life in the High Middle Ages. The development of urban institutions, the building of cathedrals, universities and fortifications, and the growth of trade will all be considered, as will the experience of groups such as Jews, women and intellectuals. Although the class will focus on the medieval European city, we will also draw comparisons with cities of the Muslim East. Pre-1800. 3 hrs lect/disc.
HIST 0241 - Europe in Early Middle Ages
Europe in the Early Middle Ages
This course covers the formative centuries in European history which witnessed the emergence of Western Europe as a distinct civilization. During this period, A. D. 300-1050, the three major building blocks of Western European culture: the classical tradition of Greco-Roman antiquity, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Germanic tradition, met and fused into an uneasy synthesis that gave Western Europe its cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious foundations. Pre-1800. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
Spring 2011, Spring 2014
HIST 0243 - Mediterranean World, 400-1600
The Mediterranean World, 400-1600
The Mediterranean has long been a crossroads between East and West and North and South, a meeting point of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Southern Europe. Merchants and armies have plied the seaways carrying with them their religions and cultures. The pre-modern Mediterranean offered an exhilarating but, at times uncomfortable, mix of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures. Starting from Fernand Braudel's conceit, we will consider the Mediterranean itself as an important character in the narrative of history. We will study the geography of the Mediterranean as well as its religious, economic, environmental, and cultural history with a view to bringing together different understandings of Mare Nostrum (our sea). Pre-1800. 2 hrs lect./1 hr. disc.
HIST 0400 - Readings in Medieval History:
Readings in Medieval History
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description.
HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects ▲ ▹
Special research projects during the junior year may be used to fulfill the research seminar requirements in some cases. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.
Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar
History Research Seminar
All history majors who have not taken a writing and research seminar are required to take HIST 0600 in their junior fall or, if abroad at that time, their senior fall semester. In this course, students will conceive, research, and write a work of history based on primary source material to the degree possible. After reading and discussion on historical methods and research strategies, students will pursue a paper topic as approved by the course professors. HIST 0600 is also open to International Studies and Environmental Studies majors with a disciplinary focus in history. 3 hr. sem
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study ▲ ▹
The History Senior Thesis is required of all majors. It is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. The project is generally begun in the fall and completed during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring, and such students must still attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops that take place in fall and winter.
Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
IGST 0702 - EUS Senior Thesis ▲
European Studies Senior Thesis
INTL 0472 / HIST 0472 / RELI 0472 - Buddhist/Christian Monasticism
“The Religious Life”: Buddhist and Christian Monastic Traditions Compared*
Both Buddhism and Christianity include traditions of monasticism, of men and women leaving home for “the religious life.” In this course, we will study and compare Buddhist and Christian monasticism from historical and religious perspectives. We will read primary sources, from the Life of St. Anthony and the Rule of St. Benedict to the verses attributed to the first Buddhist nuns and a Zen monastic code. We will examine monastic vocation, the integration of monasteries into society, and the adaptation of monasticism to different cultures. Throughout, we will highlight the role of gender. We will conclude with attention to contemporary manifestations of monastic culture. This course is equivalent to HIST 0472 and RELI 0472. 3 hr sem.