Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Pennsylvania
Opening Marwood's Book: Catholics and their Bibles in Early Modern Europe

If historians had to identify the most influential and widely read text in Early Modern Europe, the Bible undoubtedly would be it. How Protestants employed the book to contest institutional authority, transform culture, and reconstitute their personal and collective identities has been examined. How Catholics dealt with the book, beyond formal restrictions, has not. This lacuna is significant not only because it arbitrarily excludes from investigation a wide swath of empirical evidence (that is, all early modern readers who were not protestant), but also because it is the key for testing scholarly assumptions about the revolutionary nature of protestant bible-reading. Studying Catholic readers will render intelligible the dominant cross-confessional phenomena of socially conservative reading. My project employs sets of complementary methodologies: microhistory and social history; intellectual history and the history of reading; marginalia study and bibliography. Rather than begin and end with ecclesiastical prohibitions, my interdisciplinary project is organized by one used book – a Latin Bible marked up by a Catholic domestic servant from 17th century England. The material features of this book lead me to other catholic readers, other Bibles, other vendors, other producers, and major ecclesiastical authorities. After tracing these networks out through collections in Rome, Paris, the United Kingdom, Texas, and California, I will have completed the research for a new narrative of the early modern bible. By beginning with new historical subjects, Catholic readers, I will be able to explain why the early modern Bible almost always did *not* have a socially radical trajectory. Identifying which conditions of sacred reading were shared across the confessional divide and which were not will be a major contribution to the history of religion and the book more generally.