The Catholic University of America

Master of Arts in Religion and Society in the Late Medieval and Early Modern World

This unique program, offered through the Department of History, is especially designed for individuals wishing to study the historical dimensions of religion and religious experience in the period from the 14th through the 18th century (1300-1800) in Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Studies can be pursued on a full- or part-time basis.

Program Highlights

This program combines a scholarly focus with a broad range of approaches and concerns. It deals with theology, doctrine, and religious institutions but also places religion in its social context and historical perspective. Topics treated in the range of courses offered include religious belief and popular practices; lay piety and religious enthusiasm; religious reform and evangelization; ritual and mysticism; secularization and tolerance; and the relationship between religion, on the one hand, and science and politics on the other.


The faculty of the Department of History is particularly strong in both aspects of this program, with a number of professors who study religion and whose chronological focus is the late medieval and early modern period. The program also draws upon the participation of members of Catholic University's distinguished School of Theology & Religious Studies. Faculty teaching in the program include:

  • Massimo Ceresa (University of Rome, La Sapienza) Reseach Speciality: History of the Book, History of Printing
  • Thomas Cohen (Ph.D., Stanford University)
    Research Specialty: Religion in the Iberian World; Politics and Religion; Missionaries in the New World
    Publications: The Fire of Tongues: António Vieria and the Missionary Church in Brazil and Portugal (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998)
  • Katherine Jansen (Ph.D., Princeton University)
    Research Specialty: Late Medieval Religious Culture; Medieval Italy; Women and Gender
    Publications: The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Medieval Italy: Texts in Translation, ed. Katherine Jansen, Joanna Drell, and Frances Andrews (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009); Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500, ed. Katherine Jansen and Miri Rubin (Turnholt: Brepols, 2010)
  • Nelson H. Minnich (Ph.D., Harvard University)
    Research Specialty: Christian Humanism; Reformation and Counter-Reformation
    Publications: The Catholic Reformation: Council, Churchmen, Controversies (Aldershot, Hampshire/Brookfield, VT: Variorum, 1993); The Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17): Studies on its Membership, Diplomacy and Proposals for Reform (Aldershot, Hampshire/Brookfield VT: Variorum, 1993); Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 84: Controversies with Alberto Pio, ed. Nelson H. Minnich (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005); Councils of the Catholic Reformation: Pisa I (1409) to Trent (1545-63) (Aldershot, Hampshire/Brookfield VT: Variorum, 2008)
  • L. R. Poos (Ph.D., Cambridge University)
    Research Specialty: Religion and the Law; The English Reformation
    Publications: A Rural Society after the Black Death: Essex 1350-1525 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Local Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in Late-Medieval England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Degree Requirements

The requirements for the Religion and Society Program follow the general outline of those for the regular M.A. in History. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 30 credit-hours of coursework (10 courses), including History 601 (Historical Methodology).

In addition, students must complete two seminars and six colloquia or reading courses. Both seminars and at least three of the colloquia must be courses designated as part of the program on Religion and Society. The M.A. thesis is optional, and students may elect to write one or not based upon their interests and through consultation with pertinent faculty. If a student does write a thesis, two of the colloquia are replaced by two semesters of thesis direction (6 credit hours).

M.A. students must submit evidence of proficiency in one foreign language. This can be accomplished by passing a reading-comprehension examination administered by CUA by passing a reading-comprehension course in one of the university's language departments, or in some cases, by showing evidence of prior qualification in a graduate program at another university. (Note: Basic grammar courses do not count toward the 30 credit-hour minimum for the M.A.)

An M.A. student in the program must complete a written comprehensive examination consisting of two four-hour examinations taken on consecutive days.


Faculty in the Departments of History and Theology and Religious Studies have offered the following courses in recent years:

  • History 601: History and Historical Analysis
  • History 610: Medieval Civilization II
  • History 612: The Reformation
  • History 613: The Renaissance
  • History 623B: History of the Book in the Early Modern Period
  • History 628: Culture and Science during Europe's 18th Century Enlightenment
  • History 631A: Church, State, and Law in Early Modern Europe
  • History 633A: The Creation of the Middle Ages in the Early Modern World
  • History 654: Religion & Society in Early America
  • History 674: Old Regime France and the French Revolution
  • History 679: Latin Hagiography of the Later Middle Ages
  • History 681: Politics and Religion in Early Modern Europe
  • History 684: Religion and Society in Colonial Latin America
  • History 832: Seminar on the Renaissance and Reformation
  • History 839: Seminar on Early Modern European Society
  • TRS 525A: The Catholic Reformation, 1400-1540
  • TRS 525B: The Counter Reformation, 1540-1615
  • TRS 623A: The Roman Catholic Missionary Experience of the 16th Century
  • TRS 623B: The Renewal of Religious Orders in the Catholic Church of the 15th and 16th Centuries
  • TRS 728C: Colloquium on the Council of Trent
  • TRS 825H: Seminar on Jansenism


Students interested in the Religion and Society Program must meet the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at The Catholic University of America.