Professor Stephen Bowd (PhD, FRHistS)

Professor of Early Modern History; European History, 1500-1800


Other contacts


Office hours

In term time: Tuesday, 9-11am


Deputy Head of Department, History

Affiliated research centres

Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies

The Edinburgh Centre for Global History


I graduated with a first-class MA (Hons.) degree in History at the University of Edinburgh in 1993 and proceeded to undertake Ph.D. research on Venetian hermits, thinking this might be the best training for life as an academic. After completing my doctorate in 1997, I worked at the Manchester Metropolitan University before returning to Edinburgh where I have found a very congenial and lively group of Italianists as well as a very supportive environment for my teaching and research on the Renaissance. I was promoted to Reader in 2011, and to a personal chair in 2017.

External appointments

External Examiner, Manchester Metropolitan University, Early Modern History Programmes, 2015, 2017-19

External Examiner, University of St Andrews, Early Modern History Programmes, 2011-2014

External Examiner, Roehampton University, History Programmes, 2002-05

Useful Links

Women, Weapons and War:

Renaissance Mass Murder Research Blog:

Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies:

Society for Renaissance Studies:

LGBT Staff network:

Undergraduate teaching

  • Year 1 -  Course Organiser, Lecturer and Tutor, Early Modern History: A Connected World; Lecturer and Tutor, Historian's Toolkit
  • Years 3/4 - Course Organiser and Tutor, Machiavelli and His World; Tutor, Historical Skills and Methods ; Year Abroad Essay Supervisor
  • Year 4 - Course Organiser and Tutor, War and History, c.1350-c.1650; Dissertation Supervisor

Postgraduate teaching

  • MSc Option: The Global Renaissance

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Areas accepting Research Students in:

Early modern society and war

Renaissance Italy


Current PhD students supervised

  • Carlotta Moro, 'Gender and Faith in the Works of Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella' (AHRC-funded with University of St Andrews, Co-Supervisor, 2020-present)
  • Stefania Vai, 'Lavinia Fontana' (Second Supervisor, 2023-present)

Past PhD students supervised

  • Tamsin Prideaux, 'Negotiation and Mobility in Early Modern Venice: Armenian, Jewish, and Ottoman Turkish Merchants and the Cinque Savii alla Mercanzia, c.1541-1700' (AHRC-funded with University of St Andrews, Co-Supervisor, PhD Awarded 2022)
  • Natalie Lussey, 'Giovanni Andrea Vavassore and the Business of Print in Early Modern Venice', 2 vols (Primary Supervisor, PhD awarded 2015)
  • Alexander Lee, 'The Philosopher Poet: Petrarch's Conception of Virtue' (Primary Supervisor, PhD awarded 2009)
  • Natasha Constandindiou, 'The Separation of the Temporal and the Divine Spheres: The Moral and Political Implications of Secularisation, c.1580-c. 1620' (Secondary Supervisory, PhD awarded 2006)

Research summary


  • Europe
  • Italy
  • Venice
  • Brescia
  • Manchester


  • Politics
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Society
  • War


  • Early Modern
  • Medieval and Renaissance

Research interests

My research has generally focused on the history of Venice during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, initially on the history of religious beliefs and practices. I combined both interests in my first book, which was a surprisingly lengthy account of the brief life of a Venetian patrician-humanist-turned-hermit Vincenzo Querini. In this book I also explored the spiritual worlds of Venice, Rome, and Florence during the crucial years of religious change up until c.1540.

In 2000 a chance encounter at a conference in Oxford led me to undertake research in the rich archives of the formerly Venetian subject city of Brescia (now in the region of Lombardy) and I produced an edited collection of texts (translated by Dr J. Donald Cullington) and a monograph, published by Harvard University Press, about aspects of civic religion and culture in the city during the first century of Venetian rule (1426-1530).

I then edited a selection of humanist texts about the infamous alleged torture and murder of the child Simon of Trent by the Jews of Trent in 1475, which was published in the Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies series in 2012. These texts were written by a number of Brescian humanists, but the works had Italian, and indeed European, resonance since they confirmed in the new medium of print Christian fears about the dangers of Jews present in Christian society.

Finally, my interest in belief has encouraged my work on prophecy, millenarianism, the supernatural, and ‘superstition’ in Renaissance Italy. I have focused attention on the social, religious, and political roots of the ‘occult’ and outlined how it formed an essential and contested part of everyday beliefs and practices. I have extended my interest in this field, which has also formed an important strand of my teaching, to sixteenth-century England with three articles exploring the life and work of John Dee, who was warden of Manchester College and considered the 'arch-conjuror of England', as the title of his most recent biography puts it.

Current research activities

As well as the projects listed below I have written an essay on mass murder in the sacks of cities in Italy during the Italian Wars (1494-1559) for a collection of essays, Murder in Renaissance Italy edited by Trevor Dean and Kate Lowe (Cambridge University Press, 2017). This reflects a new direction in my work since 2016 towards the social history of warfare, and specifically the mass murder of non-combatants during the Italian Wars for which I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016-17). I have blogged about my research at: My monograph on this topic appeared with Oxford University Press in November 2018:

The relationship between gender and early modern war emerged as a research theme from my Leverhulme-funded work. I have been working on a study of 245 letters written by a noblewoman who took part in the defence of Brescia in 1512. Two essays about this noblewoman have been published and I hope to consider her female epistolary network more broadly in future work.

Together with my former colleague Dr Sarah Cockram (now at the University of Glasgow) I co-organised a workshop in Edinburgh on 'Women, Weapons, and War', which addressed gender and war during the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods: Thanks to a University of Sydney Partnership Collaboration award, Dr Cockram and I organised with Dr John Gagné (Sydney) two workshops (in Edinburgh and Sydney) on 'Shadow Agents of War', which considered overlooked fighters and foragers (especially women and children); key organizers (heralds, land surveyors, bureaucrats); service workers (sappers, surgeons, armourers, merchants, arms dealers); and traditionally marginalised groups (bandits, refugess, and animals). See: These discussions helped shape the collection of essays which we edited recently as Shadow Agents of Renaissance War: Suffering, Supporting, and Supplying Conflict in Italy and Beyond (Amsterdam University Press, 2023). I plan to take this work forward with a particular focus on the displaced people of early modern Italy.

Finally, I have also maintained my interest in sixteenth-century religious history and have completed a contribution to the Brill Companion to Vittoria Colonna edited by Abigail Brundin, Tatiana Crivelli, and Maria Serena Sapegno, which appeared in 2016.


Research projects

During 2011-12 I was on leave and undertaking research funded by the British Academy on humanist writing about Jews and Judaism in Renaissance Italy. I have published articles based on this work in a special issue of Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà on Jews and Christians edited by Gabriella Zarri, and for a more general readership in the magazine History Today. A further article on Venetian patrician humanists and Jews appeared in the journal Renaissance Quarterly in 2016.

I was also involved with the project 'Between Apes and Angels: Human and Animal in the Early Modern World' - a collaborative project looking at animal/human relationships before Darwin (with colleagues across the University of Edinburgh, including Veterinary studies and Sculpture at ECA). This led to a Wellcome-funded conference in December 2014: With Dr Sarah Cockram I have edited a special edition of Renaissance Studies on 'The Animal in Renaissance Italy' which appeared in April 2017.


Renaissance Mass Murder: Civilians and Soldiers during the Italian Wars (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)

Venice's Most Loyal City: Civic Identity in Renaissance Brescia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010)

Reform before the Reformation: Vincenzo Querini and the Religious Renaissance in Italy (Leiden, Boston, and Cologne: Brill Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 2002)


Edited Books

Edited with Sarah Cockram and John Gagne, Shadow Agents of Renaissance War: Suffering, Supporting, and Supplying Conflict in Italy and Beyond (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UniversityPress, (2022)

'On Everyone's Lips': Humanists, Jews, and the Tale of Simon of Trent, ed. and intro. Stephen Bowd, ed. and trans. J. Donald Cullington, Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (2012)

Vainglorious Death: A Funerary Fracas in Renaissance Brescia. Trans. J. Donald Cullington, ed. and intro. Stephen Bowd, Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (2006)

Edited Journal

With Sarah Cockram, ‘The Animal in Renaissance Italy’, special edition of Renaissance Studies 31.2 (April 2017)

Book Chapters

'Alda Pio Gambara and Regime Change in Brescia during the Italian Wars', in Alexander Lee and Brian Maxson (eds), The Culture and Politics of Regime Change in Italy, c.1494-c.1559 (Routledge, 2022)

'Gender, War, and the State: The Military Management of Alda Pio Gambara during the Italian Wars', in Stephen Bowd, Sarah Cockram, and John Gagné (eds), Shadow Agents of Renaissance War: Suffering, Supporting, and Supplying Conflict in Italy and Beyond (Amsterdam University Press, 2022)

'Mass Murder in Sacks during the Italian Wars, 1494-1559', in Trevor Dean and Kate Lowe (eds), Murder in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

'Prudential Friendship and Religious Reform: Vittoria Colonna and Gasparo Contarini', in A Companion to Vittoria Colonna, ed. Abigail Brundin, Tatiana Crivelli Speciale and Maria Serena Sapegno (Brill, 2016), 349-70

‘Tales from Trent: The Construction of “Saint” Simon in Manuscript and Print, 1475-1511’, in Alison Frazier (ed.), The Saint between Manuscript and Print: Authors, editors, publishers, readers and the phenomena of sanctity on the Italian peninsula, 1300-1600 (Toronto University Press, 2015), 183-218

'Introduction' in Renaissance? Perceptions of Continuity and Discontinuityin Europe, ca. 1300 - 1550, ed. Alex Lee, Pit Peporte, Harry Schnitker, (Brill, 2010), 1-13

'Swarming with Hermits: Religious Friendship in Renaissance Italy, 1490 - 1540', in Abigail Brundin and Matthew Treherne (eds.), Forms of Faith in Sixteenth-century Italy (Ashgate Press, 2009), 9-31

“Honeyed flies” and “sugared rats”: Witchcraft, Heresy and Superstition in the Bresciano, 1454-1535’, in Alan Knight and Steve Smith (eds), The Religion of Fools? Superstition Past and Present. (Oxford University Press, Past and Present Publications: Oxford, 2008), 134-56

‘Vincenzo Querini and the Florentine Piagnoni, 1511 - 1514’, in S. Fletcher and C. Shaw (eds) The World of Savonarola: Italian Elites and Perceptions of Crisis (Ashgate Press: Aldershot, 2000), Ch. 7. 



‘Civic Piety and Patriotism: Patrician Humanists and Jews in Venice and its Empire’, Renaissance Quarterly 69/4 (2016): 1257-95

'The Conversion of Margarita: A Wedding oration in Fifteenth-century Brescia', Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà 25 (2012): 139-166 (special issue on 'Judaism and Christianity in Italy between 1400 and 1600: Comparisons and Convergences', ed. Gabriella Zarri)

'Death by Humanism: Jews and the Renaissance', History Today 63/8 (August 2013)

'John Dee and the Seven in Lancashire: Possession, Exorcism, and Apocalyse in Elizabethan Engand,' Northern History 47/2 (2010): 233-46

‘In the Labyrinth: John Dee and Reformation Manchester’, Manchester Region History Review 19 (2008), 17-43

‘John Dee and Christopher Saxton’s Survey of Manchester (1596)’, Northern History 42/2 (2005): 275-92.

‘Sixteenth Century: European History’, Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature: A Critical Review of New Publications of 2001 (Blackwell Publishing for The Historical Association, ) 87, 52-61

'The Republics of Ideas: Venice, Florence, and the Defence of Liberty (1525-30)’, History 85/279 (2000): 404-27.

“The tune is marred”: citizens and the people in Gasparo Contarini’s Venice’, European Review of History / Revue européenne d’histoire 7/1 (2000): 83-97.

‘Pietro Bembo and the “Monster” of Bologna (1514)’, Renaissance Studies, 13/1 (1999): 40-54

‘How to be a Renaissance Hermit’, Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, 16/1 (1998): 8-17

with J. Donald Cullington, ‘Two Renaissance treatises: Carlo Valgulio of Brescia on funerals and music’, Annali Queriniani, 3 (2002): 131-71

Other Works

‘Simon of Trent’ Oxford Bibliographies in ‘Renaissance and Reformation’ Ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, February 2020.

‘Prodigies’ and ‘The Occult’ in the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition, ed. Richard M. Golden (ABC-Clio, 2006), 3:846-50, 933-34

‘Papal Reform’, and ‘Prophecy’ in The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements ed. Richard Landes (New York: Routledge, 2000), 296-8, 335-9