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Professor Penny Roberts

On Study Leave 2023-24

Contact Information

  • Office: Rm 3.06, third floor of the Faculty of Arts Building
  • Telephone: 02476 523411 (internal extension 23411)
  • Email:
  • Office Hours: by appointment only
Academic Profile
  • Fellow of the Leibniz Institute for European History, Mainz (2022)
  • Fellow of the Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris (2019)

  • President (2021), Trustee (2014-) and committee member (1998-) of the Society for the Study of French History and of the editorial board of its associated journal, French History (2007-)
  • Co-editor of the Oxford University Press journal French History (2010-18)
  • Co-editor of the Manchester University Press series 'Studies in early modern European history' (1995-2018)
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2000-)
Undergraduate Modules Taught
Postgraduate Modules Taught

Books and edited volumes:

  • Peace and Authority during the French Religious Wars, c. 1560-1600 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • Ritual and Violence: Natalie Zemon Davis and Early Modern France, ed. with Graeme Murdock and Andrew Spicer (Past and Present Supplement 7; Oxford U.P., 2012)
  • History at the End of the World? History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure, ed. with Mark Levene and Rob Johnson (Humanities-Ebooks, 2010)
  • Political Culture in Early Modern France, guest-edited special volume of French History, 21, 2 (2007)
  • The Adventure of Religious Pluralism in Early Modern France, ed. with Keith Cameron and Mark Greengrass (Peter Lang, 2000)
  • The Massacre in History, ed. with Mark Levene (Berghahn, 1999)
  • Fear in Early Modern Society, ed. with Bill Naphy (Manchester U.P., 1997)
  • A City in Conflict: Troyes during the French Wars of Religion (Manchester U.P., 1996)

Selected articles and essays:

  • ‘“Moi estant dedans Troyes”. Un témoignage manuscrit du massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy’, Revue historique du protestantisme, 8 (2023), 23-49
  • ‘“This beautiful appearance … has gradually transformed and become altogether monstrous”: the massacre at Troyes as a foreseeable tragedy’, for a special issue I also co-edited for French History, 36 (2022), 413-27
  • ‘"Acceptable Truths" during the French Religious Wars’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 30 (2020), 55-75
  • ‘Violence by Royal Command: A Judicial "Moment" 1574-1575’, French History, 33 (2019), 199-217 [Special issue 'Religion and Violence in France']

  • ‘French Historians and Collective Violence’, History and Theory, 56, no. 4 (Dec. 2017), 60-75 [Special issue 'Theorizing Histories of Violence']

  • ‘Sterility and Sovereignty: the Succession Crisis of the Late Valois Monarchy’, in G. Davis and T. Loughran (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Infertility in History: Approaches, Contexts and Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 151-69

  • ‘Riot and religion in sixteenth-century France’, in M.T. Davis (ed.), Crowd Actions in Britain and France from the Middle Ages to the Modern World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 31-42

  • ‘Une chose fort a craindre et bien mal aisée a descouvrir’: the transgression of borders in sixteenth-century France’, for a special issue of Explorations in Renaissance Culture, ‘French Across Borders, 1300-1600’, 39 (2013), 145-65
  • 'Peace, Ritual and Sexual Violence', in G. Murdock, P. Roberts and A. Spicer (eds), Ritual and Violence: Natalie Zemon Davis and Early Modern France (Oxford, 2012), 75-99

  • 'One Town, Two Faiths: Unity and Exclusion during the French Religious Wars', in Thomas Max Safley (ed.), A Companion to Multiconfessionalism in the Early Modern World (Leiden, 2011), 265-85

  • 'The Languages of Peace during the French Religious Wars', Cultural and Social History, 4 (2007), 293-311 [awarded the Sixteenth Century Society Nancy Lyman Roelker prize and the Charles DeBenedetti Peace History Prize]
  • 'The Kingdom's Two Bodies? Corporeal Rhetoric and Royal Authority during the Religious Wars', French History, 21 (2007), 147-64 (plus introduction to this volume, 'Political Culture in Early Modern France', 123-6)
  • ‘Royal authority and justice during the French religious wars’, Past and Present, 184 (2004), 3-32

My principal area of interest is the social, religious, cultural and political history of sixteenth-century France, especially its wars of religion (c.1562-1598). Having begun with a study of the impact of the wars in the town of Troyes, my research has broadened to include the whole of urban France, covering such diverse topics as petitioning, fires, popular revolts, and the conflicts arising over the siting of Reformed worship and burial. My most recent book focuses on the attempts to establish some kind of 'peace process' during the wars and the impact of this on confessional relations and royal authority. My new research project explores the clandestine world of Huguenot correspondence, espionage and information-gathering. Eventually, I intend to write a contextual study of the world of Nostradamus.

I am happy to supervise postgraduate students on any aspect of sixteenth-century French history.

PhD Theses Supervised
  • Kevin Gould (Principal Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University) , 'Catholic Associations in south-west France, c. 1560-1570' [PhD, 2003]
  • Cathy McClive (Professor, Florida State University) , 'Perceptions of Menstruation in early modern France' [PhD, 2004]
  • James Tucker (Lecturer, University of Plymouth), 'Strangers in Jean Crespin's Histoire des martyrs' [PhD, 2012]
  • Linda Briggs (Tutor, Open University), 'The Royal Tour of France, 1564-66' [PhD, 2013]
  • Ben Redding (Senior Research Fellow, University of East Anglia), 'A Comparison of the English and French Navies, c. 1540-1640' [PhD, 2017]
  • Rebecca Pilliere, 'The Literary Production of La Rochelle, c. 1560-1630' [PhD, 2020]
  • Sofia Guthrie, 'An edition and commentary of Antoine Garissoles' Adolphid' [PhD (part-time) [PhD, 2022]
  • David Nicoll, 'Antoine de Crussol: Huguenot Noble Identity in sixteenth-century France' [PhD, 2020]