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Thomas Devaney Headshot

Thomas C. Devaney

  • Associate Professor of History
  • Director of Graduate Studies

PhD, Brown University, 2011

452 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 276-6861

Curriculum Vitae


European History

Research Overview

In a broad sense, I’m interested in how ideas—ideas about religion identity, how one should behave, how society should be organized—played out in the real world. This has led me to explore a range of specific topics, including community, interfaith relations, public spectacles, popular religious practice, masculinities, and concepts of nobility. The geographic and temporal focus of much of my recent work has been late medieval and early modern Spain, but I have also addressed similar themes across the Mediterranean world, with articles on Venice, Cyprus, and Constantinople.

My recent book, Enemies in the Plaza: Urban Spectacle and the End of Spanish Frontier Culture, 1460-1492, explores how cities were often conglomerations of smaller communities, creating composite societies that required various efforts to mitigate tensions and avoid internal conflict. In it, I examine how the conditions that prevailed in cities close to Castile’s border with Granada fostered a dissonant outlook toward religious minorities which I describe as an ‘amiable enmity.’ The resulting social anxieties left the populace vulnerable to attempts by elites to either deflect or exacerbate existing confessional tensions through public spectacle.

My current research examines the relationship between emotional experience and community solidarity in early modern Spain. Community is a concept with which historians have long struggled. How did communities form? How did they cohere? Who was included? I combine traditional understandings of community (as defined by a sense of belonging created by labelling others as “outsiders”) with new approaches developed by the history of emotions. Through an examination of early modern understandings of the cognitive and emotional experience of romerías (pilgrimages to local shrines) in early modern Iberia, I argue that the shared experience of such events helped to establish local communal identities, and could include not only “Old Christians,” but also conversos and moriscos (Jews and Muslims who had converted to Christianity, as well as their descendants). This project contributes to the historical study of the emotions by proposing new methodologies for gauging the emotional experiences and understandings of ordinary people while clarifying the evolution of local religious practices during a period of major transitions in the everyday experience of Christianity, thus addressing key questions within Spanish historiography. During the 2015-2016 academic year, I conducted research for this project at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany and at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.

I am also at work on several other projects, including a study of emasculating discourse in poetry written by fifteenth-century Castilian conversos and an article that considers the ways in which both religious authorities and ordinary people reconceptualized miraculous images and miracle books in the period after the Council of Trent.

Graduate Fields

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Program Formulation" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Fields: Western Civilization I; Late-Medieval European History; Early Modern European History; Renaissance and Reformation

Research Fields: Late-Medieval European History; Early Modern European History; Early Modern Mediterranean History; Urban History; Early Modern History of Science

I will be accepting graduate students for admission in fall 2019.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • HIS 100:  The Frontier in World History, Syllabus
  • HIS 102:  The West and the World to 1500, Syllabus
  • HIS 105:  Justice and Equality, Syllabus
  • HIS 106:  Witchcraft and Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe, Syllabus
  • HIS 123:  A World Reborn and Reformed: Early Modern Europe, 1450 - 1700, Syllabus
  • HIS 309W/409:  The Mediterranean World, 1400-1800, Syllabus
  • HIS 321W/421:  Topics in Early Modern History: Cities and Urban Life, Syllabus
  • HIS 325:  Microhistory, Syllabus
  • HIS 501:  Worlds of Inquiry, Syllabus

Select Publication Covers

Selected Publications

  • “Redefining Nobility in Fifteenth-Century Castile,” in Prowess, Piety, and Public Order: Studies in Honor of Richard W. Kaeuper, ed. D. Franke and C. Nakashian (Leiden: Brill, 2017)
  • Enemies in the Plaza: Urban Spectacle and the End of Spanish Frontier Culture, 1460-1492 (June 2015)
  • “Virtue, Virility and History in Fifteenth-Century Castile,” Speculum 88.3 (July, 2013).
  • “Spectacle, Community, and Holy War in Fourteenth-Century Cyprus,” Medieval Encounters 19.3 (2013): 300-41.
  • “Representing the Medieval Festivals of Jaén through Text, Enactment and Image,” in Re-Presenting the Past: Archaeology through Image and Text, ed. Sheila Bonde and Stephen Houston (Oakville, CT: Oxbow, 2013)
  • “Competing Spectacles in the Venetian Festa delle Marie,” Viator 39.1 (Spring, 2008): 107-25.