About Beth Plummer
My research focuses on the impact of early modern religious reform movements on family and gender roles, the changing legal definitions of social norms and religious identity, and on tolerance, intolerance, and coexistence in early modern Germany. I have written on topics such as clerical concubinage and marriage, the loss of property rights and legal status experienced by former nuns, bigamy, historical memory, imprisoned early reformers, devotional hybridity, the electors of Saxony and Martin Luther, and Protestant nuns.
I have edited a number of collection of essays: Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany (2009) with Robin Barnes, published in honor of H.C. Erik Midelfort; Archeologies of Confession: Writing the German Reformation, 1517-2017 (2017) with Carina Johnson, David Luebke, and Jesse Spohnholz; Topographies of Tolerance and Intolerance: Responses to Religious Pluralism in Reformation Europe (2018) with Victoria Christman; and Names and Naming in Early Modern Germany (forthcoming, 2019) with Joel Harrington.
My first book, From Priest’s Whore to Pastor’s Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation (2012, pbk 2017) was the 100th volume in the St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. In this work I examine the active role that the laity, local clergy, and magistrates played in situating the theological controversies over clerical marriage in local negotiations over religious reform and social norms. By exploring the resulting debates and disputes, I demonstrate how new norms of clerical and lay behavior resulted and connect this change to broader intellectual and public concerns about marriage, gender, and social identity.
I am currently working on two book-length studies on the experiences of nuns in the Holy Roman Empire during the long Reformation. The first, "Stripping the Veil: Protestant Nuns and Female Devotional Life in Sixteenth-Century Germany," analyzes the complex process leading to the survival of convents in Protestant areas and the emerging religious hybridity in many female religious houses that ultimately led to Protestant and Catholic nuns living together. The second, "Building Walls and Sharing Space: Living with Religious Diversity in Pluriconfessional Convents in the Holy Roman Empire, 1590-1750," explores how continued religious diversity in convents led to shifts in devotional practices and conflicts and compromise inside and outside female religious houses before and after the Thirty Years' War.
I also continue research for a project on marriage promises [Eheversprechen], secret marriage [heimliche Ehe], and broken engagement [gebrochene Verlobung] during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Swabia and Lower Saxony. This study focuses on the creation of a social norm of marriage and sexuality, controlled by state rather than church officials or communities, and the subsequent criminalization of irregular or transgressive sexual unions initiated during the Reformation.
In addition to teaching Western and World Civilization and undergraduate and graduate courses on Renaissance and Reformation Europe, I have taught a variety of seminar courses in early modern European cultural and social history, including early modern women's history, monasticism and female religious orders, popular religion in pre-modern Europe, early modern printing and propaganda, and crime and punishment in late medieval and early modern Europe.
Areas of Study
Early Modern European Cultural and Social History; Renaissance/Reformation; History of Early Modern Religion; Early Modern Gender History
Priest's Whore to Pastor's Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation. St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2012 pbk. Routledge, 2017). Awarded Gerald Strauss Book Prize 2013.
Editor (with Joel Harrington). Names and Naming in Early Modern Germany. Oxford, UK: Berghahn, forthcoming.
Editor (with Victoria Christman). Topographies of Tolerance and Intolerance: Responses to Religious Pluralism in Reformation Europe. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
Editor (with Carina Johnson, David Luebke, and Jesse Spohnholz). Archeologies of Confession: Writing the German Reformation, 1517-2017. Spektrum, vol. 16. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017.
Editor (with Robin Barnes), Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Essays in Honor of H.C. Erik Midelfort. Aldershot, Hambleton: Ashgate Publishing, 2009.
“Religious Diversity and Interconfessional Interactions in the Soester Börde, 1649-1720.” Interconfessionalität in der Frühen Neuzeit: Kontexte und Konkretionen, edited by Luisa Coscarelli, Rogier Gerrits, and Thomas Throckmorton, 39-59. Hamburger Beiträge Zur Germanistik, vol. 59. Berlin: Peter Lang, 2018.
“Parish Clergy, Village Politics, and Devotional Practices in the Convent Church of Welver, 1532-1697.” In Topographies of Tolerance and Intolerance: Responses to Religious Pluralism in Reformation Europe, edited by Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer and Victoria Christman, 223-247. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
“A View from the Choir: Forming Lutheran Culture in Pluriconfessional Westphalian Convents.” In Cultures of Lutheranism: Reformation Repertoires in the Early Modern World, Past and Present Book Series, edited by Katherine Hill (Oxford: Oxford University, 2017).
“Prison Tales: The Miraculous Escape of Stephen Agricola and the Creation of Lutheran Heroes during the Sixteenth Century.” In Archeologies of Confession: Writing the German Reformation, 1517-2017, edited by Carina Johnson, David Luebke, Marjorie E. Plummer, and Jesse Spohnholz, 262-283. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017.
“Neither Nun nor Laywoman: Entering Lutheran Convents during the Reformation of Female Religious Communities in the Duchy of Braunschweig, 1542-1634.” In Devout Laywomen in the Early Modern World, edited by Alison Weber, 196-218. Oxford: Routledge, 2016.
“Persona non grata: Former Nuns, Property Disputes, and the Female Defence of Marriage in the German Reformation.” In Politics, Gender and Belief: The Long-Term Impact of the Reformation. Essays in Memory of Robert M. Kingdon, edited by Amy Burnett, Kathleen Comerford, and Karin Maag, 209-36. Geneva: Droz Publishing, 2014.
“‘Nothing More than Common Whores and Knaves’: Married Monks and Nuns in the Early German Reformation.” In Mixed Matches: Transgressive Unions in Germany from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, edited by David M. Luebke and Mary Lindemann, 45-62. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014.
“‘The Much Married Michael Kramer’: Evangelical Clergy and Bigamy in Ernestine Saxony, 1522-1542.” In Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Essays in Honor of H.C. Erik Midelfort, edited by Marjorie E. Plummer and Robin B. Barnes, 99-115. Aldershot, Hambleton: Ashgate Publishing, 2009.
“‘Partner in his Calamities’: Pastors’ Wives, Married Nuns and the Experience of Clerical Marriage in the Early German Reformation.” Gender and History 20, no. 2 (2008): 207-27.
“Clerical Marriage and Territorial Reformation in Ernestine Saxony and the Diocese of Merseburg in 1522-1524.” Archive for Reformation History 98 (2007): 45-70.
Works in Progress:
Stripping the Veil: Convent Reform, Protestant Nuns, and Female Devotional Life in Sixteenth-Century Germany.
Building Walls and Sharing Space: Protestant Nuns, Religious Diversity, and Pluriconfessional Convents in the Holy Roman Empire, 1590-1750.
Ph.D. (1996) in European History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Primary Fields: Early Modern Europe, Renaissance and Reformation, Social History Secondary Field: Medieval Europe. Dissertation: “Reforming the Family: Marriage, Gender and the Lutheran Household in Early Modern Germany, 1500-1620”. Advisor: H. C. Erik Midelfort; Doctoral Committee: Carlos Eire, Duane Osheim, Lawrence Goedde
M.A. (1988) in European History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Master’s Thesis: “‘Vera Famiglia’: Familial Images in the Letters of Catherine of Siena”. Advisor: Duane J. Osheim
B.A. (1985), cum laude with Highest Distinction, in History and English, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY; History Honors Thesis: “Across the Round Table: A Vision of Kingship in the Middle Ages”