Professor Lyndal Roper

Professor Lyndal Roper
Fellow and Regius Professor of History
BA (Hons) (Melb.), PhD (London), FBA, FAHA, FRHistS

I did my undergraduate degree in History with Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, and from there I went to study in Germany at the University of Tubingen before moving to the University of London (King's College) where I completed my doctorate.

I worked at Royal Holloway, University of London and then moved to Balliol College, Oxford, where I was Fellow and Tutor in History. I'm now at Oriel College. I am the first woman to hold the Regius Chair in History, and so far as I know, the first Australian.


At undergraduate level I teach the history of witchcraft, including a first-year paper on Witches and Witch-hunting in early modern Europe and a third-year Special Subject on Luther and the Reformation. At postgraduate level, I teach on the M St in Modern British and European History in the Theory and Method seminars and contribute to the early modern Options.

Graduate Supervision

I have supervised graduate students working on a wide range of subjects, including women and the Counter Reformation in Münster, school pupils and schoolmasters in sixteenth-century Zwickau, women, feminism and religion in early Enlightenment England, legal culture in sixteenth-century Freiberg, Anabaptism in Saxony, sausages and the breaking of the Lenten Fast in Zurich, and images of the Virgin Mary in Reformation and Counter Reformation Germany. I would be interested in receiving inquiries from prospective graduate students with interests in any aspect of early modern German social, cultural, gender and religious history.

Together with Jan Machielsen and Kat Hill I run an informal graduate workshop which meets fortnightly to discuss our work. I also help run the Early Modern Europe graduate seminar which meets weekly in Michaelmas term. As Regius Professor I have a special interest in our graduate programmes and I like to get to know our graduate students.

I have lived and worked in Germany (where I held a Humboldt Fellowship and was Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg), and am a member of the Board of the German Historical Institute London. I am an Australian, and I’m Honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne and a member of the AHRC project on the History of the Emotions; I often mentor visiting Australian students.

*Photo by John Cairns

Research interests

My first book, The Holy Household. Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg argued that the Reformation developed a theology of gender. Its attraction lay in its offer of the vision of a ‘holy household’ where the roles of men and women were clearly distinct. Oedipus and the Devil, my second book, ranges through the literary culture of the sixteenth century to the use of psychoanalysis in studying witchcraft. For Witch Craze I undertook four archivally-based case studies of witch hunting in southern Germany. This book argues that what powered the witch craze was a set of fears about fertility in the human and the natural world. The study encompasses areas of human experience that often elude the historical record, realms such as fantasy, envy and terror. A new book, The Witch in the Western Imagination, (forthcoming, University of Virginia Press 2012) explores images of witches and witchcraft in art and literature. I am currently writing a biography of Martin Luther.

Selected publications

The Witch in the Western Imagination, University of Virginia Press, 2012

Witch Craze, Yale, 2004; paperback 2006, Hexenwahn, C.H.Beck 2007

Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe, Routledge 1994 (hb and pb); Ödipus und der Teufel. Körper und Psyche in der Frühen Neuzeit, Fischer  1995).

The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Oxford University Press, 1989 (hb and pb); Das fromme Haus. Frauen und Moral in der Reformation, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt 1995.)

‘Martin Luther’s Body: The ‘Stout Doctor’ and his biographers’, American Historical Review April 2010, 350-84.

‘The Many Functions of the Letter: Luther’s correspondence with Spalatin’, German History, 2010

‘Witchcraft and the Western Imagination', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. (Sixth Series), Volume 16, December 2006, pp 117-141.

‘Evil imaginings and fantasies”’: Child-witches and the end of the Witch-craze’”, Past and Present 167, 2000, pp. 107-39.