Dr Miles Pattenden

Cultures of Voting in Premodern Europe (Routledge, 2017)

Cultures of Voting in Pre-Modern Europe

Cultures of Voting in Pre-modern Europe examines the norms and practices of collective decision making across pre-modern European history, east and west, and their influence in shaping both intra- and inter-communal relationships. 

Bringing together the work of twenty specialist contributors, this volume offers a unique range of case studies from Ancient Greece to the eighteenth century, and explores voting in a range of different contexts with analysis that encompasses constitutional and ecclesiastical history, social and cultural history, the history of material culture and of political thought. Together the case-studies illustrate the influence of ancient models and ideas of voting on medieval and early modern collectivities and document the cultural and conceptual exchange between different spheres in which voting took place. Above all, they foreground voting as a crucial element of Europe’s common political heritage and raise questions about the contribution of pre-modern cultures of voting to modern political and institutional developments. 

Offering a wide chronological and geographical scope, Cultures of Voting in Pre-modern Europe is aimed at scholars and students of the history of voting and is a fascinating contribution to the key debates that surround voting today.

Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Miles Pattenden, Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700 reassesses the history of early modern papacy through the first major analytical study of the papal election in English. Papal elections, with their ceremonial pomp and high drama, are compelling theatre, but, until now, no one has analysed them on the basis of the problems they created for cardinals: how were they to agree rules and enforce them? How should they manage the interregnum? How did they decide for whom to vote? How was the new pope to assert himself over a group of men who, until just moments before, had been his equals and peers? 

This study traces how the cardinals’ responses to these problems evolved over the period from Martin V's return to Rome in 1420 to Pius VI's departure from it in 1798, placing them in the context of the papacy's wider institutional developments. Miles Pattenden argues not only that the elective nature of the papal office was crucial to how papal history unfolded but also that the cardinals of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries present us with a unique case study for observing the approaches to decision-making and problem-solving within an elite political group.




The Spanish Presence in Sixteenth-Century Italy: Images of Iberia (Ashgate, 2015)

The sixteenth century was a critical period both for Spain’s formation and for the imperial dominance of her Crown. Spanish monarchs ruled far and wide, spreading agents and culture across Europe and the wider world. Yet in Italy they encountered another culture whose achievements were even prouder and whose aspirations often even grander than their own. Italians, the nominally subaltern group, did not readily accept Spanish dominance and exercised considerable agency over how imperial Spanish identity developed within their borders. In the end Italians’ views sometimes even shaped how their Spanish colonizers eventually came to see themselves. The essays collected here evaluate the broad range of contexts in which Spaniards were present in early modern Italy. They consider diplomacy, sanctity, art, politics and even popular verse. Each essay excavates how Italians who came into contact with the Spanish crown’s power perceived and interacted with the wider range of identities brought amongst them by its servants and subjects. Together they demonstrate what influenced and what determined Italians’ responses to Spain; they show Spanish Italy in its full transcultural glory and how its inhabitants projected its culture - throughout the sixteenth century and beyond.




Pius IV and the Fall of the Carafa: Nepotism and Papal Authority in Counter-Reformation Rome

Drawing from new archival research, Pius IV and the Fall of the Carafa shows how the popes of the mid-sixteenth century sought to re-assert and project their authority over the Catholic Church during the first phase of the Counter-Reformation. Its narrative focus is the trial of cardinals Carlo and Alfonso Carafa, nephews of Paul IV (1555-1559), who, together with Carlo's brother Giovanni, were arrested and indicted by their uncle's successor Pius IV (1559-65) on charges of murder, theft, and corruption. Taking place from June 1560 to April 1561 as preparations were underway for a resumption of the Council of Trent, this was the only occasion in the early modern period in which a papal family were impeached for their actions in government. It provided a well-publicized forum in which questions about the nature and extent of the pope's authority were raised, contested, and answered by different groups within the Roman political and ecclesiastical elite. 

While the Carafa trial has previously been understood to have been primarily of importance only to the development of papal nepotism, Miles Pattenden now demonstrates how Pius used it as a vehicle by which to intimidate the College of Cardinals and to re-impose stricter hierarchical control over the institutions of the Catholic Church.

  • History of the Papacy
  • History of Catholicism
  • Early Modern Italy
  • Early Modern Spain

Current Project: Catholicism: a global history from the Council of Trent to Pope Francis

My current major research project is a book about how modern Catholicism was forged and came to dominate the globe as one of the most important and readily identifiable belief-systems of the present age. Specifically, I am investigating the cultural and social practices, values and ideas that collectively contribute to a religion which today boasts over 1.2 billion followers – arguably more than any other single faith. Catholicism has been subjected to intense study and rigorous criticism over the past five hundred years, and yet there remains much about it which has been little appraised on a holistic basis, in particular, what it has contributed to World History by way of religious innovation and fostering global connectivity. My research examines five themes: 1) how Catholic values have affected patterns of production and consumption, 2) how Catholicism has shaped political and economic thought, 3) whether, and if so how, Catholics have understood concepts like the ‘Self’ and ‘Community’ in identifiably distinct ways, 4) how readily they have absorbed new ideas and values at variance with orthodox Catholicism, and 5) how they have sustained their beliefs in the face of competition and dissent. My overall aim is to understand why Catholicism has spread so successfully across the globe and what obstacles presented by different phases of modernity it has had to overcome to do so. These twin aims matter, and not only because identifying the relationship between Catholics’ beliefs and their actions helps us understand Catholicism’s contributions to the diverse societies where it has established a presence. Answers to those questions also tell us something about religious systems in general – in particular, how they respond to, and can adapt to, changing social, political and cultural circumstances. At a time when religiously-inspired acts, particularly acts of violence and intolerance, are on the rise in many parts of the world that is something we need to think about carefully and my study of how Catholicism adjusted to, and flourished in, the modern age will add an important new dimension to that debate.



  • Giovanni Battista Tolomei (1653-1726)

  • The Early Modern Cardinal: A Historical Appraisal

  • The Roman Curia

  • A Companion to the Early Modern Cardinal

  • Cardinals and the non-Christian World

  • The College of Cardinals

  • Review: John Hunt, The Vacant See in Early Modern Rome: A Social History of the Papal Interregnum. Leiden: Brill, 2016.

  • Woolf: The First Blockchain University

  • Antonio de Fuenmayor’s Life of Pius V: A Pope in Early Modern Spanish Historiography

  • Review: Massimo Rospocher, Il papa guerriero: Giulio II nello spazio pubblico europeo (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2015)

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Loek Luiten (from October 2016)

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding History of Italy, Spain and the Hispanic World, 1500-1800; the History of Catholicism, 1500-present

I currently teach:



British History IV

British History IV

General History III

General History VII

Historiography: From Tacitus to Weber

General History VIII

Approaches to History: Anthropology

General History IX

Approaches to History: Economics

General History XVIII

Conquest and Colonisation: Spain and America in the Sixteenth Century

Disciplines of History
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