Photo of Professor Mary Laven
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Professor Mary Laven

Fellow, Director of Studies in History (Part II)
University Positions
Professor in Early Modern History
Specialising in
Early Modern History

Mary Laven is Professor of Early Modern History and a Fellow at Jesus College.

Academic interests

Mary Laven's academic interests include:

  • The social and cultural history of early modern Europe, especially Italy
  • Religion, gender, and material culture.

Degrees obtained

  • MA, Cantab.
  • MA, London.
  • PhD, Leicester.

Awards and prizes


I studied History at Cambridge, took a Master's in Renaissance Studies at the Warburg Institute, and completed a PhD on early modern nuns at the University of Leicester. I've been a lecturer here at Cambridge since 1997 and am a Fellow of Jesus College. 

I was one of the curators of two recent exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum: Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and Madonnas and Miracles. I am also a syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

I appeared on BBC Radio Four's In Our Time in 2015, discussing Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty.

With Cambridge colleagues Abigail Brundin and Deborah Howard, I am the co-author of a new study of domestic life, The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy

Other interests

Music, art, beer.

Department link

Publications, links and resources

  • Laven, M. with Ivanič, S. and Morrall, A. (2019) Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Laven, M. with Brundin, A. and Howard, D. (2018) The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Laven, M. (2018) ‘“From His Holiness to the King of China”: Gifts, Diplomacy and Jesuit Evangelization’. In Biedermann, Gerritsen and Riello, eds., Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 217-34.
  • Laven, M. with Corry, M. and Howard, D. eds, (2017) Madonnas and Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy, London: Philip Wilson.
  • Laven, M. (2016) ‘Recording Miracles in Renaissance Italy’, Past & Present, 230 suppl. 11: pp 191-212.
  • Laven, M. and Galandra-Cooper, I. (2016) ‘The Material Culture of Piety in the Italian Renaissance: Retouching the Rosary’, in Richardson, C. et al eds.,The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe, Abingdon: Routledge, pp 338-53.
  • Laven, M. ed, (2015) Journal of Jesuit Studies 2, special issue on the theme of The Jesuits and Gender: Body, Sexuality and Emotions. Introduction, pp 545-57.
  • Laven, M. with Avery, V. and Calaresu, M. eds, (2015) Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, London: Philip Wilson.
  • Laven, M. (2013) The Role of Healing in the Jesuit Mission to China, 1582-1610. In: Stig Sørensen, M.L. and Rebay-Salisbury, K., eds., Embodied Knowledge: Historical Perspectives on Belief and Technology, Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp 67-76.
  • Laven, M. (2013) Legacies of the Counter-Reformation and the Origins of Modern Catholicism. In: Bamji, Janssen, and Laven, eds, Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation, Ashgate: Farnham and Burlington, pp 451-69.
  • Laven, M., Bamji, A., and Janssen, G., eds, (2013) Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation, Ashgate: Farnham and Burlington.
  • Laven, M. and Clark, E. eds, (2013) Women and Religion in the Atlantic Age, 1550-1900, Ashgate: Farnham and Burlington.
  • Laven, M. (2012) Jesuits and eunuchs: Representing masculinity in late Ming China. History and Anthropology, pp 199-214.
  • Laven, M. (2011) Mission to China: Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Encounter with the East, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Laven, M. (2006) Encountering the Counter-Reformation. Renaissance Quarterly, pp 706-720.
  • Laven, M. (2005) Cast out and shut in: the experience of nuns in Counter-Reformation Venice. In: Milner, S., ed, At the Margins: Minority Groups in Premodern Italy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp 93-110.
  • Laven, M. (2003) Testifying to the self: nuns' narratives in Early modern Venice. In: M. Mulholland and B. Pullan, eds., Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200-1700, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp 147-58.
  • Laven, M. (2002) Virgins of Venice: Enclosed Lives and Broken Vows in the Renaissance Convent, London: Viking Penguin.
  • Laven, M. (2001) Sex and celibacy in early modern Venice. In: Historical Journal, pp 865-88.

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