Professor and Department Chair
Office: Tribble B-104
Monique O’Connell is a Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Wake Forest University. She holds the James P. Barefield Endowed Faculty Fellowship, which recognizes excellence in interdiscuplinary teaching, scholarship, and student mentorship. In both her research and her teaching, O’Connell is interested in understanding how the men and women of the past made sense of the world they encountered. Her scholarly work focuses on the history of Renaissance Venice and its empire, a topic that has taken her into the details of economic exchange, early print culture, political communication, classicizing rhetoric, clerical conspiracies, and the history of botany. She earned her undergraduate degree at Brown University (1996), her masters and Ph.D at Northwestern (1999, 2002) and did a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University before joining the faculty at Wake Forest in 2004. Her first book, Men of Empire: Power and Negotiation in Venice’s Maritime State (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) placed Venice’s overseas holdings into the larger debate on early modern empires and state formation, offering a new reading of how Venice successfully administered a wide swath of diverse territory for hundreds of years. Her second book, co-authored with Eric Dursteler, is entitled The Mediterranean World: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Napoleon (2016). She has held residential fellowships at Villa I Tatti, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library and her work has also been supported by the NEH, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Renaissance Society of America. She is currently the project editor of Rulers of Venice (rulersofvenice.org).
O’Connell teaches a variety of courses covering medieval and early modern European history, from late antiquity through the seventeenth century. Many of her courses feature collaborations with different disciplines: her class on “Magic, Science, and Alchemy in Europe, 1400-1700” has several lab components led by a chemistry professor. They have not yet succeeded at making the Philosopher’s Stone but did put several medieval distillation techniques into practice. In her first year seminar “The Floating City: Public Life in Venice” she worked with a theater professor to include movement workshops and a student performance of Goldoni’s Coffee Shop and with a DH Librarian to digitally recreate an 18th theater. SHe currently teaches modules in the Engineering department on “Engineers before Engineering” and is working a new course of environment and disease in the Medieval World.
Education: B.A. Brown University 1996 M.A. Northwestern University 1997 Ph.D. Northwestern University 2002 Academic Appointments: Wake Forest University. Professor (2017-present); Associate Professor (2010-2017); Assistant Professor (2004-2010) Click here for the complete CV.
FYS: The Floating City: Public Life in Venice through the Ages
This course will introduce students to the spectacle and pageantry of life in Venice from the medieval to the modern era. Venice stands out in the popular imagination because of its extraordinary physical form—it seems to float on the water supported only by magic. This class looks at the ways Venetians and visitors have created and lived in the public spaces of the floating city from the medieval era to the present. We will look at images and read historical, literary, and travelers’ views of the city; read plays and listen to music composed and performed in the city; and debate the city’s fragile future in an age of mass tourism and climate change.
- HST 101 Western Civilization to 1700. Taking the Mediterranean Sea as its geographical center, this course investigates the development of the intersecting cultural, religious, and political systems that contributed to the development of what is generally called Western Civilization. After a brief overview of the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, we turn to the classical world, examining the Greek and Roman worlds and their interactions with their neighbors. The spread of two new monotheisms, Christianity and Islam, transformed the late antique world, and we will look at the medieval dynamics of co-existence and conflict between European and Islamic civilizations on the northern and southern shores of the sea. We will explore cultural Renaissances and religious reformations in the early modern era, concluding with a look at the emergence of a scientific worldview.
- HST 106 Medieval World Civilizations This course provides an overview of world civilizations in the period generally understood as “medieval”—that is, from approximately 600 to 1600 C.E. The concept of a medieval, or middle, period in history originally came from European history, referring to the time between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, or to a rebirth of classical knowledge. One of the questions of this course is to examine cultures and societies in east Asia, India, Africa, and the Americas as well as Europe during the same time frame and to ask if there is such a thing as a “medieval” world history. Are there patterns, transformations, and developments common to all these societies in the medieval period?What characteristics do these widely differing cultures and geographic areas share, and where do they differ?
- HST 206 Early Middle Ages: The Birth of Europe, 400-1100. The central question of this course is one of identity: at what point can we speak of a distinctively “European” identity? In order to answer this question, we will investigate the political, cultural, religious, and material history of Europe from the later Roman Empire to the end of the Viking invasions around the turn of the millennium. Once dismissed as the “Dark Ages,” scholars now point to this as an era when some of the key cultural, political, and artistic foundations of later European history were forged. Indeed, these centuries saw the “birth” of a distinctive Western European civilization that arose from the ashes of ancient Greece and Rome.
- HST 207 High Middle Ages and Renaissance: Reform, Revival, and Renewal in Europe, 1150-1550The period from 1150 to 1550 witnessed a dramatic transformation in the patterns and practices of European culture. During these 400 years, Europe exploded from its boundaries, overturning religious and intellectual traditions and expanding geographically, economically, and politically. The High Middle Ages saw the rise of towns, universities, and cathedrals; the Church faced reformations from within and without, and the personal bonds of feudal kingship gradually gave way to the bureaucracies of developing nation-states. These transformations did not go unchallenged; struggles over religious unity and political hegemony combined with natural disasters such as plague and famine to further upset the traditional order. The European Renaissance revived the learning of the classical world, using it to claim a place for human reason and creativity in society. This class will examine how and why these transformations in European civilization took place .
- HST 306 Science, Magic and Alchemy in Europe 1400-1700. This course examines the intersection of two different ways medieval and early modern individuals tried to understand and to manipulate the natural world: science and magic. Alchemy, understood as both an intellectual tradition and as a set of practices, provides a way to explore connections between the natural, the spiritual, and the supernatural. Alchemists transformed matter to understand it as well as to make things for practical purposes: metals, gems, medicines, and the philosopher’s stone. By examining alchemy’s changing relationship to experimental culture, medicine, magic, and religion, the course will emphasize the close connection between scientific and magical methods of interacting with the natural world. After a brief overview of ancient and early medieval approaches to science, magic, and alchemy, the course will focus on the period between 1400-1700, allowing us to consider the role scientific, magical, and alchemical knowledge of the natural world played in Europe’s transition from medieval to early modern.
- HST 305 Medieval and Early Modern Iberia. The cultures that flourished on the Iberian peninsula between the years 700 and 1700 were extremely diverse and contained often contradictory tendencies. Hailed by many as a haven of toleration and an example of co-existence between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the medieval period, early modern Spain and Portugal were bastions of Catholic orthodoxy and the Inquisition. This course traces the formation of Iberian religious, cultural, and political identities in the medieval and early modern period. Additionally, we will focus on how scholars have interpreted religious conflict and co-existence over time.
- HST 307 Italian Renaissance. This course examines the social and cultural developments in the Italian world from ca. 1300 to 1615, a period that marked a profound transition between the medieval and modern worlds. During this period, intellectuals, politicians, artists, and urban elites struggled to combine the humanist recovery of the Greco-Roman classical tradition with the deeply entrenched religiosity of the medieval period. The result was a culture that celebrated human ability to create the best possible world on earth, but this faith in human potential was frequently shaken by warfare, civic strife, and economic instability. In addition to looking at how people at the time perceived these events, we will also focus on how scholars have interpreted the Italian Renaissance over time.
- HST 390 Nature, Science, and Power in Early Modern Europe
- HST 391. Making History: The Theory and Practice of History. In this course, we look at the way historians “make” history– the way they imagine their object of study, how they choose and use primary sources as evidence for their accounts, how they structure their narratives and analytic discussions, and how they communicate the results of their work to the public. We approach these questions through an investigation of how the academic discipline of history has developed over the course of the last centuries and the formal theories that have been applied to historical study. Looking beyond the walls of the university, we will also consider how journalists, museum curators, politicians, and advocacy groups use history for their own purposes, and we will reflect on the moral and social value of historical study.
Monographs and Edited Collections
- The Mediterranean World: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Napoleon, with Eric R. Dursteler. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.
- Men of Empire: Power and Negotiation in Venice’s Maritime State. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
- The Rulers of Venice, 1332-1524: Interpretations, Methods, Database. (RulersofVenice.org)
For a complete list of publications, click CV.
Chapters in Edited Volumes
- “Memorializing Conspiracy and Unrest. Venetian historical writing at the turn of the sixteenth century” in Popular Politics in an Aristocratic Republic. Political Conflict and Social Contestation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Venice, edited by Maartje Van Gelder and Claire Judde de Larivière (London: Routledge, 2020): 45-68. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781003017790
- “Venetian empire in oratory and print in the later fifteenth century,” in Georg Christ and Franz-Julius Morche (eds.), Cultures of Empire: Rethinking Venetian Rule 1400-1700. Essays in honour of Benjamin Arbel (Leiden: Brill, 2020): 41-62. https://brill.com/view/title/38673
- “Cyriac of Ancona and Mediterranean Networks of Exchange.” In A Republic of Letters: Knowledge and Community in Italy 1300-1600, edited by Suzanne Sutherland and Paula Findlen, 51-68. Routledge, 2019. https://www.routledge.com/The-Renaissance-of-Letters-Knowledge-and-Community-in-Italy-1300-1650/Findlen-Sutherland/p/book/9781138367500
- “Venice: City of Merchants or City of Merchandise?” in Maritime Trade around Europe, 1300-1600, edited by Wim Blockmans, Mikhail Krom, and Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz. London: Routledge, 2017, 103-120. https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Maritime-Trade-around-Europe-1300-1600-Commercial/Blockmans-Krom-Wubs-Mrozewicz/p/book/9781138899506
- “The Multiple Meanings of Ritual: Orations and the Tensions of Venetian Empire,” in Rituals of Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Edward Muir, edited by Mark Jurdjevic and Rolf Strom-Olsen, 91-110. Toronto, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2016.
- “Legitimating Venetian Expansion: Patricians and Secretaries in the Fifteenth Century,” in Patrons, princes and texts in the Renaissance Veneto: Essays in Honor of Benjamin G. Kohl, edited by Alison Smith, Michael Knapton, and John E Law, 71-87. Florence: Firenze University Press, 2015; online publication through Reti Medievali, http://www.rm.unina.it/rmebook/dwnld/Legacy_Kohl.pdf.
- “The Contractual Nature of the State,” in ‘Commonwealth’ Veneziano tra il 1204 e la fine della Repubblica, edited by Oliver Schmitt and Gherardo Ortalli. Venice: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere, ed Arti, 2015.
- “From Travel to History: Shifting Venetian Perceptions of Alexandria,” in Sindbad Mediterraneo. Per una topografia della memoria da Oriente a Occidente, eds. Ch. Lee and R. Morosini. Lecce: Pensa Multimedia, 2013.
- “A Tale of Two Families: the Abramo and Gradenigo between Venice and Crete,” in I Tatti studies in Honor of Joseph Connors, (Florence, Leo Olschki Press, 2013).
- “Oligarchy, Faction and Compromise in Fifteenth Century Venice,” in From Florence to the Mediterranean: Studies in Honor of Anthony Molho, ed. Diego Curto, Eric Dursteler, Julius Kirshner, and Francesca Trivellato, vol I, pp. 409-426. Florence, Leo Olschki Press, 2009.
Articles and Essays
- “Voluntary Submission and the Ideology of Venetian Empire from History to Myth,” in I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 20, 1 (2017): 9-39
- “Individuals, Families, and the State in Early Modern Empires: the case of the Venetian Stato da Mar,” in Zgodovinski casopis/ Historical Journal of Slovenia 147, 1-2 (2013): 8-27.
- “The Sexual Politics of Empire: Civic Honor and Official Crime outside Renaissance Venice,” The Journal of Early Modern History 15 (2011): 331-348.
- “Italy in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean,” California Italian Studies 1 (2010): http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1zv8s58x.
- “Maritime Venice.” In Oxford Bibliographies: Renaissance and Reformation. Ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013 Aug 26. www.oxfordbibliographies.com
- “Italy in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean,” California Italian Studies 1 (2010), http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1zv8s58x.
- “The Venetian Patriciate in the Mediterranean: Legal Identity and Lineage in Fifteenth Century Venetian Crete,” Renaissance Quarterly 57 (2004): 466-93.
- “Sinews of Rule: The Politics of Office-holding in Fifteenth Century Venetian Crete,” Renaissance Studies 15 no 3 (2001): 256-71.