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Professor Penny Roberts

Deputy Head of Department

Director of the Centre for Arts Doctoral Research Excellence (CADRE)

Chair of the Arts Graduate Studies Committee

Contact Information
  • Office: H316, third floor of the Humanities Building
  • Telephone: 024 76523411 (internal extension 23411)
  • Email:
  • Office Hours: Tuesdays 11am-12 noon and Wednesdays 10am-11am, term-time only excluding reading weeks
Academic Profile
  • Co-editor of the Oxford University Press journal French History (2010-)
  • Founding co-editor of the Manchester University Press series 'Studies in early modern European history' (1995-)
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2000-)
  • 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-)
  • Member of the editorial board of Explorations in Renaissance Culture (2010-)

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)

Articles and essays:

  • ‘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

  • ‘La ruine du peuple et la désolation du royaume au temps des guerres de religion’ in M. Barral-Baron, M-C. Lagrée and M. Lemoine (eds), Les strategies de l’échec. Enquêtes sur l’action politique à l'époque moderne (Paris, 2015), 349-57
  • ‘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
  • ‘Huguenotes et bigotes. Les femmes et la Réforme vues par Nicolas Pithou’, in F. Salesse (ed.), Le bon historien sait faire parler les silences. Hommages à Thierry Wanegffelen (Toulouse, 2012), 91-102

  • ‘La Parole de la paix en espace civique au temps des guerres de religion’, in Stefano Simiz (ed.), La Parole publique en ville des Réformes à la Révolution (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2012), 167-79

  • '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

  • 'La monarchie consultative, mythe ou réalité: Les états généraux et le "père du peuple", 1560-1614' in M. De Waele (ed.), Lendemains de guerre civile: Réconcliations et restaurations sous Henri IV (Québec, 2011), 89-108

  • '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 Wrath of God: reactions to crisis and natural disaster in pre-modern Europe', with Elaine Fulton, in M. Levene, R.Johnson and P. Roberts (eds), History at the End of the World? History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure (Humanities-Ebooks, 2010), 67-79

  • Essays on ‘Urban Society’ (54-63), ‘Marginals and Deviants’ (64-73), ‘The Reformed’ (107-116), ‘Witchcraft and Magic’ (203-214), in Beat Kümin (ed.), The European World, 1500-1800 (Abingdon, 2009)

  • '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]
  • 'Urban Conflict and Royal Authority: Popular Revolts in Sixteenth-Century Troyes', Urban History, 34 (2007), 189-207
  • '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)
  • ‘Urban Histories of the French Wars of Religion’/ ‘Faire l'histoire des villes au temps des guerres de religion’, Moreana, 43 (2006), 115-150

  • ‘English and French Towns in the Sixteenth Century’, in C. Dyer, P. Coss and C. Wickham (eds), Rodney Hilton's Middle Ages: An Exploration of Historical Themes (Past and Present Supplements: Oxford, 2007), 166-181

  • ‘France’, in Alec Ryrie (ed.), Palgrave Advances in the European Reformations (Basingstoke, 2006), 102-123

  • ‘Royal authority and justice during the French religious wars’, Past and Present, 184 (2004), 3-32

  • ‘Huguenot conspiracies, real and imagined, in sixteenth-century France’, in B. Coward and J. Swann (eds), Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theory in Early Modern Europe: From the Waldensians to the French Revolution (Aldershot, 2004), 55-69
  • ‘Huguenot petitioning during the wars of religion’, in Andrew Spicer and Raymond Mentzer (eds), Society and Culture in the Huguenot World, c.1559-1685 (Cambridge, 2002), 62-77
  • ‘Religious pluralism in practice: the enforcement of the edicts of pacification’, in K. Cameron, M. Greengrass and P. Roberts (eds), The Adventure of Religious Pluralism in Early Modern France (Bern, 2000), 31-43
  • ‘Contesting sacred space: burial disputes in sixteenth-century France’, in B. Gordon and P. Marshall (eds), The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2000), 131-148
  • ‘The most crucial battle of the Wars of Religion? The struggle over sites for Reformed worship in sixteenth-century France’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 89 (1998), 247-267
  • ‘Arson, conspiracy and rumour in early modern Europe’, Continuity and Change, 12 (1997), 9-29

  • ‘Agencies human and divine: fire in French cities, 1520-1720’, in W.G. Naphy and P. Roberts (eds.) Fear in early modern society (Manchester, 1997), 9-27 [plus 'Introduction' to this volume, 1-8]
  • ‘Valois monarchy and visual propaganda: a suggested reading of Giorgio Ghisi’s Dream of Raphael or Allegory of Life’, with Peter Davidson, Emblematica: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Emblem Studies, 10 (1996), 415-422

  • ‘Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris: an historical perspective’, Renaissance Studies, 9 (1995), 430-441

  • ‘Calvinists in Troyes 1562-72: the legacy of Vassy and the background to Saint Bartholomew’, in A. Pettegree, A. Duke and G. Lewis (eds.) Calvinism in Europe, 1540-1620 (Cambridge, 1994), 100-118

  • ‘The demands and dangers of the Reformed ministry in Troyes, 1552-72’, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation of the Parishes (Manchester, 1993), 153-174

  • ‘Martyrs and martyrologies in the French Reformation: heretics to subversives in Troyes’, Studies in Church History, 30 (1993), 221-229

  • ‘Religious conflict and the urban setting: Troyes during the French wars of religion’, French History, 6 (1992), 259-278

Forthcoming books:

  • Deviants and Social Outcasts in Early Modern Europe, with Andrew Spicer (Cambridge UP)

Forthcoming articles/essays:

  • 'Contested Authority: Peace, Violence and Memory during the French Religious Wars', in R. Pörtner and Andreas Gestrich (eds), Communities in Conflict: Civil Wars and their Legacies (Brill)
  • ‘Sovereignty and sterility: the succession crisis of the late Valois monarchy’, in T. Loughran and G. Davis (eds), A Handbook of Infertility in History: Approaches, Contexts and Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan)

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, 1999-2003]
  • Cathy McClive (Lecturer, University of Durham) , 'Perceptions of Menstruation in early modern France' [PhD, 1999-2004]
  • James Tucker (Lecturer, University of Plymouth), 'Strangers in Jean Crespin's Histoire des martyrs' [PhD, 2008-12]
  • Linda Briggs, 'The Royal Tour of France, 1564-66' [PhD, 2009-13]
  • Ben Redding, 'A Comparison of the English and French Navies, c. 1540-1640' [PhD, 2013-17]
  • Rebecca Pilliere, 'The Literary Production of La Rochelle, c. 1560-1630' [PhD, 2013-]
  • Sofia Guthrie, 'An edition and commentary of Antoine Garissoles' Adolphid' [PhD, 2014-]
  • David Nicoll, 'Huguenot Nobles and Identity in south-west France, c.1555-1572' [PhD, 2016-]