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Religious Minorities in Early Modern Europe

Explore the ways today’s multiconfessional societies have been shaped by their religious past

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
19 April - 31 May 2024

The Blended Intensive Programme offers a unique opportunity for those interested in the study of religions in the early modern period to explore different countries and approaches.

The  course focuses on religious minorities, dissent and secrecy in Europe during the early modern period (c.1550–1750), in the wake of the religious, political and cultural upheavals of the Reformation. Our approach is based on specific case studies revealing the diversity of life experiences, of religious practices and worship, and of modes of writing, such as life writing, letters and autobiographies. The course will adopt comparative perspectives on several geographical areas: France, England and Wales, Germany and the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain and the Ottoman empire.

Moreover, the main objectives of the course are:

  • To present key themes in the history of religious minorities
  • To propose a variety of methodological tools according to different approaches (history and anthropology of religion, social history, material turn, history of representations, history of emotions, history of experience, lived religion, study of autobiographical documents and life writing, etc.)
  • To reveal the variety of the primary sources, whether textual (printed or manuscript sources), iconographic or material
  • To explore the way collective memory and physical landscapes are shaped by the history of religious minorities

There will be focus on communities which are doubly marginalised, not only because of their religious affiliation but also because of their origins, gender and status (women, slaves, non elite classes, indigenous peoples, etc.)

The course thus touches on issues relating to:

  • Violence, conflict and war, discrimination, persecution, as well as the history of exile and religious diasporas
  • Coexistence and toleration within various geographical and linguistic spaces
  • Religious practices in the public and private spheres, especially in periods of persecution, with a special focus on the way religious practices can be observed through architecture and religious objects and clothes

Main topics addressed

  • Refugees, migration and exile
  • Intercultural exchanges
  • Wars of religion and expression of religious violence
  • Coercion and forced conversions
  • Toleration
  • Lived religion
  • Religious practices
  • Religious iconography, objects and clothes
  • The use of religious spaces
  • Women religious
  • Religion and slavery
  • Religious experience and literature

Learning outcomes

Students are expected to:

  • Become more aware of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religion
  • Develop an understanding of the centrality of religions in European societies.
  • Understand geopolitical factors as determinants of historical processes
  • Learn how to dentify the main categories of primary sources in religious history and how to analyze them according to their specificities
  • Learn how to present a research project in conjunction with religious sources, to specialists but also to wider audiences
Dates:  19 April - 31 May 2024 Language: English (B2)
Location: Aix-en-Provence, France ECTS: 6*
Format: Blended Workload: 150 hours

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will be running from 27 to 31 May 2024 in Aix-en-Provence, France.

The physical part will be devoted to learning how to prepare a research project linked to early modern religion and how to present it to a wider audience. Three excursions will help understand the way the collective memory of religious minorities has developed and shaped the local heritage and landscape. Students will be given the opportunity to blog on their experience.

  • DAY 1, 27 May 2024: introduction, followed by morning and afternoon workshops on the research projects. Each student will be asked to choose a research project in connection with the topics and sources studied during the virtual part. According to the topics, the students will then be divided into small groups and guided by one or two instructors. This first day will take place on campus.
  • DAY 2, 28 May 2024: morning workshop in small groups on research projects, followed by presentations of Jewish and Catholic minorities to prepare the excursions. Excursion to Carpentras (afternoon). This will have two components: a visit to the bibliothèque Inguimbertine to discover the early modern collections, religious printed and archival sources; a visit to the Jewish cemetery and Carpentras synagogue, the oldest synagogue in France still in activity.
  • DAY 3, 29 May 2024: morning and afternoon workshops in small groups on research projects, followed by presentations of Protestant and Huguenot minorities to prepare the excursions. This day will take place on campus.
  • DAY 4, 30 May 2024: oral presentations of research project (morning). Excursion to Pays Vaudois, in the Lubéron area of Provence and sites of Waldensian massacres (afternoon).
  • DAY 5, 31 May 2024: oral presentation of research projects, followed by a 1-hour assessment (morning). Excursion (afternoon). This last excursion will take us to Aigues-Mortes and la tour de Constance, the site where many Huguenot women were imprisoned. This will be the occasion to study the representations of the wars of religion in France and the fate of French protestantism.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 19 April to 24 May 2024 .

The virtual part will be taught on Fridays and will be prepared on a dedicated page of Aix-Marseille University’s Moodle platform. There will be an introduction followed by 5 days of online classes (2 classes per day, one morning, one afternoon) given by two instructors working on different geographical zones and different religious communities. See attached document for specific details about each class.

The sessions will be divided into several units and allow plenty of time for discussion and Q&A. 

Introduction: 19 April 2024 (14.00-16.00 CET)

The introduction will first provide a general overview of the BIP, its contents, schedule and assessment. In the second part, the participants will introduce their respective classes, focusing on definitions of religious minorities in early modern Europe as well as the main sources and methodologies.

Class 1: "Encounters", 26 April 2024 (2-hour session in the morning, 10.00-12.00 CET, and 2-hour session in the afternoon, 14.00-16.00 CET)

The aim is to question the notion of encounters between different religions, as well as coercion and forced conversions. Two case studies will be proposed: the conversion of indigenous peoples in Scandinavia and the baptism of Muslim slaves in Italy.

Instructors: Karin Sennefelt (Stockholm University) and Serena Di Nepi (Sapienza Università di Roma).

Class 2: "Violence and conflicts", 3 May 2024 (2-hour session in the morning, 10.00-12.00 CET, and 2-hour session in the afternoon, 14.00-16.00 CET).

Beyond forced conversions, the question of violence, persecutions and conflicts arises. This session will address intra- and inter-religious conflicts, through the examples of the Jews in Italy and the Huguenots in France.

Instructors: Jérémie Foa (Aix-Marseille Université) and Andrea Zappia (Sapienza Università di Roma).

Class 3: "Toleration", 10 May 2024 (2-hour session in the morning, 10.00-12.00 CET, and 2-hour session in the afternoon, 14.00-16.00 CET).

These two classes will focus on two case studies of the practice of religious toleration, the toleration of Christianity in the Ottoman Empire and the toleration of Protestant dissenters in the British Isles.

Instructors: Renate Dürr (University of Tübingen) and Anne Dunan-Page (Aix-Marseille Université).

Class 4: "The material culture of persecuted minorities", 17 May 2024 (2-hour session in the morning, 10.00-12.00 CET, and 2-hour session in the afternoon, 14.00-16.00 CET).

Religious minorities can also be studied through material culture and the use of spaces, objects or clothing. The class will propose a reflection on the material turn in religious studies and will examine more specifically the question of religious practice in periods of persecution. This session will focus on Anglophone and Iberian spaces.

Instructors: Cristina Bravo Lozano (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) and Laurence Lux-Sterritt (Aix-Marseille Université).

Class 5: "Narratives of religious experience", 24 May 2024 (2-hour session in the morning, 10.00-12.00 CET, and 2-hour session in the afternoon, 14.00-16.00 CET).

Finally, we will situate religious minorities in a history of experience in the early modern period and study how this experience is translated in a wide variety of ego documents in England, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Instructors: Xenia von Tippelskirch (Goethe Universität Frankfurt) and Tessa Whitehouse (Queen Mary University of London).


This course is open to Master's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities enrolled in the following fields of study: modern languages, literature or comparative literature, history, cultural studies, philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, art history, architecture, media studies, or any other fields related. However, we will also consider applicants from other subjects, provided they can testify to a previous scholarly engagement with religious issues and an ability to work with SSH methodologies.

Moreover, the following are also high recommended:

  • A previous degree in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) disciplines
  • An interest in religious history and culture (whatever the period)
  • The potential to work effectively on early modern texts and sources
  • The ability to follow the teaching in English and to interact orally in English

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.


Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. 

Students will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Level of English (B2)

Apply here


As far as the assessment of the course it is foreseen: 

  • 1 oral presentation of a research project. Special attention will be given to the ability to present one’s research orally, to the group. The project can be linked to an ongoing MA or PhD dissertation.
  • 1 written assessment (to be handed in after the end of the BIP): this will take the form of a blog post in connection with the course. The subject can be linked either to one’s research project, to the presentation of a particular source or to one of the excursions. It can also take the form of a piece of creative writing about one’s experience of the course. The posts will be published on the academic blogging platform
  • 1 short written test in the form of a multiple-choice questionnaire on the last day of the physical part.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

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Cristina Bravo Lozano is Senior Fellow Tomás y Valiente at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Study, a joint centre of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Casa de Velázquez. Her research interests include Spanish-Irish relations in the Seventeenth century, the confessional, diplomatic and cultural activity of the Spanish embassies in northern Europe (1648-1714), and the response of the Spanish monarchy to the Scottish settlement in Darien (1695-1707). She has published her work in more than thirty high-impact scientific journals and in some twenty collective volumes. She is co-editor of four journal monographs and ten books, and author of Spain and the Irish Mission, 1609-1707 (Routledge, 2019).

Serena di Nepi is associate professor of early modern history at Sapienza Università di Roma. Her research interests focus on the history of religious minorities in Italy, especially the Jewish group. In addition to the field of Jewish studies, she has recently focused on slavery in the Papal States in the early modern times and the central question of the relationship between slavery, freedom, and religious conversion, on which she published in 2022 the book I confini della salvezza. Schiavitù, conversione, libertà nella Roma di età moderna (Roma: Viella).

Anne Dunan-Page is Professor of Early Modern British Studies at Aix-Marseille Université where she directs the MA programme on the English-speaking world. She is an honorary fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France and has held visiting fellowships in Cambridge, Oxford and London. Her research interests lie in the field of lived religion, especially the history, literature and culture of protestant dissenters, as reconstructed through the surviving archives of persecuted communities. She currently codirects a project entitled “Mapping Multifaith London”, which charts the way domestic and foreign religious communities settled and interacted in an urban environment. 

Renate Dürr is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Tübingen. Amongst others, she has held visiting fellowships at St John’s College in Cambridge, the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies in Amsterdam and the Max-Weber-Kolleg in Erfurt. Her research interests lie in the field of early modern religion, global history, and the history of knowledge with a specific focus on the history of Jesuit missions and Lutheran baptisms of Muslims, Jews, and so-called heathens in early modern Germany. Together with professor Ulrike Strasser (San Diego), she is currently writing a monograph on “De-Centring the Enlightenment: The World Explored Through a Jesuit Journal”.  

Jérémie Foa is a former student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud. He is Associate Professor at Aix-Marseille Université, a member of TELEMMe research centre, and an honorary member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and the Institut Universitaire de France. A specialist in the Wars of Religion and mass violence in the 16th century, he recently published Tous ceux qui tombent. Visages du massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, Paris, La Découverte 2021, in which he proposes a micro-history of the massacre, an investigation 'from below' of both the victims and the ordinary murderers of the summer of 1572, in Paris and in the provinces. He is currently working on a project, in collaboration with Diane Roussel, on the siege of Paris (May-August 1590), which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

Laurence Lux-Sterritt is Associate Professor in Early Modern History at Aix-Marseille Université and a member of the LERMA, where she coordinates the early modern research programme Britaix 17-18. She co-directs the ‘Places and Spaces of Devotion in Town and Country, 1600-1800’, a partnership between Britaix 17-18 and IMEMS, University of Durham. Her research interests in lived religion have explored spirituality, the history of emotions, material culture amongst and the challenges of persecution in 17th-century English nuns in exile and lay Catholics at home. She is currently finalising a scholarly edition and translation of conventual manuscript sources with Jaime Goodrich.  

Karin Sennefelt is professor of History at the Department of History at Stockholm University. She is a cultural and social historian of early modern Europe with an emphasis on the history of the body, everyday practices, material culture and religious life. Recent work discusses prophetic politics in early modern Sweden (Historisk tidskrift 2021) and pathologies of the royal body (Past & Present 2021). She is currently working on the monograph 'The Word made Flesh: the body in Lutheran culture'.

Xenia von Tippelskirch is Professor of Religious Dynamics at the History Department of Goethe University and Director of the Institut franco-allemand en Sciences Humaines et Sociales, Frankfurt (IFRA-SHS). She completed her PhD at the European University Institute in Florence, she was junior professor for the history of the Renaissance at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She is currently chair of the executive committee of the research group EMoDiR (Early Modern Religious Dissent and Radicalism). Among her recent publications is an edited volume (with Elisabeth Fischer) on Bodies in Early Modern Religious Dissent. Naked, Veiled, Vilified, Worshiped (New York: Routledge 2021).

Tessa Whitehouse is Reader in Eighteenth-century Literature at Queen Mary University of London and Director of the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature. This centre brings together scholars and research groups internationally to explore minority records, imagining early modern cities, faith and doubt, religious practice across borders and, with LERMA at Aix-Marseille Université, lived religion and uncovering the presence of minority religious groups in eighteenth-century London. She has published three books: The Textual Culture of English Protestant Dissent; Religion and Life Cycles in Early Modern England (with Emily Vine and Caroline Bowden) and Textual Transformations (with N.H. Keeble), as well as articles on transatlantic epistolary networks, manuscript memorial cultures, and heretical controversies c.1700. 

Andrea Zappia is Research Fellow of Early Modern History at Sapienza Università di Roma. His researches are focused on different intercultural relationships within the Early Modern Mediterranean region: the Jewish presence in ancient Italian States, the Mediterranean captivity, and the relationships between these States, the Ottoman Empire, and the Barbary Regencies. He is the author of two books: Mercanti di uomini. Reti e intermediari per la liberazione dei captivi nel Mediterraneo (Novi Ligure 2018); Il miraggio del Levante. Genova e gli ebrei nel Seicento (Roma 2021). He is currently working on the Jewish presence in western Latium, State of the Church, between the 16th and the 18th centuries.