For Current Updates on COVID-19:

Louisa Burnham

Associate Professor of History

 work(802) 443-3412
 Spring 2020: Mon/Wed 4:50-6:05 p.m.; Tues/Thurs 10:00-11:15 a.m. or by appt. Please email.
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 332

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.

Selected Publications:

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.




Course List: 

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. CW EUR HIS

Fall 2017, Fall 2019

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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. EUR HIS SOC

Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

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HIST 0238 - Medieval Cities      

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. EUR HIS

Spring 2016, Spring 2018

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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. EUR HIS SOC

Spring 2016, Spring 2020

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HIST 0242 - Europe in the High Middle Ages      

Europe in the High Middle Ages
This course covers the development and expansion of Western European civilization from approximately 1050 to 1300. This period witnessed the rise of towns, commerce, universities, and cathedrals, as well as important developments in the areas of politics, philosophy, and Western culture. Together, these achievements represent a fundamental shift in Western Europe from an impoverished, besieged society to a dynamic civilization that established the institutions and assumptions on which the modern West is based. The goal of this class is to view these achievements of medieval Europe in their own context, with appreciation of the methodological problems presented by medieval sources. Pre-1800. EUR HIS SOC

Spring 2017

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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. CMP HIS

Spring 2020

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HIST 0346 - Medieval Science and Magic      

Medieval Science, Technology and Magic
Modern understanding may link science with technology, but leaves magic out as a world apart. In the Medieval West, where alchemy and the astrolabe comfortably shared a workroom, intellectuals pursued both with equal fervor and respectability. In this course we will explore the medieval meanings and context of “science” and “magic,” developments in technology, and the relationship of authority and religion to all three through readings in primary sources, critical essays and monographs, and Umberto Eco's historical novel, The Name of the Rose. Students will contribute to class understanding with frequent individual research, including a final research paper. Pre-1800 3 hrs. lect./dsc. EUR HIS SOC

Spring 2018

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HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects      

Special research projects may only be taken during the Junior or Senior year, preferable after taking HIST 0600. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar      

Writing History
In this course students discuss historical methods and writing strategies to create convincing historical narratives. With the approval and guidance of the professor, students complete a 20-25-page research paper based on primary and secondary sources. Students take this course in the fall of their junior year or with permission in the spring. If students are away for the entire junior year, they can take the course in the fall of their senior year. 3 hr. sem.

Fall 2016, Fall 2020

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HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
The optional History Senior Thesis is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. Approval is required. Students submit thesis proposals in the spring before the year that they choose to write their thesis. Students generally begin their thesis in the fall and complete it during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring. All students must attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops in fall and winter semesters and work with a faculty advisor to complete a 55-70 page paper. Please see detailed guidelines under history requirements.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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IGST 0702 - EUS Senior Thesis      

European Studies Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Winter 2017, Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Winter 2020

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RELI 0472 / HIST 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 INTL 0472. 3 hr sem. CMP HIS PHL

Spring 2017

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Department of History

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753


Axinn Center at Starr Library
14 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753