Professor Natalia Nowakowska

Featured Publication
King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther

King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther: the Reformation Before Confessionalization (OUP, 2018)

The first major study of the early Reformation and the Polish monarchy for over a century, this volume asks why Crown and church in the reign of King Sigismund I (1506-1548) did not persecute Lutherans. It offers a new narrative of Luther's dramatic impact on this monarchy - which saw violent urban Reformations and the creation of Christendom's first Lutheran principality by 1525 - placing these events in their comparative European context. King Sigismund's realm appears to offer a major example of sixteenth-century religious toleration: the king tacitly allowed his Hanseatic ports to enact local Reformations, enjoyed excellent relations with his Lutheran vassal duke in Prussia, allied with pro-Luther princes across Europe, and declined to enforce his own heresy edicts. Polish church courts allowed dozens of suspected Lutherans to walk free. 

Examining these episodes in turn, this study does not treat toleration purely as the product of political calculation or pragmatism. Instead, through close analysis of language, it reconstructs the underlying cultural beliefs about religion and church (ecclesiology) held by the king, bishops, courtiers, literati, and clergy - asking what, at heart, did these elites understood 'Lutheranism' and 'catholicism' to be? It argues that the ruling elites of the Polish monarchy did not persecute Lutheranism because they did not perceive it as a dangerous Other - but as a variant form of catholic Christianity within an already variegated late medieval church, where social unity was much more important than doctrinal differences between Christians. Building on John Bossy and borrowing from J.G.A. Pocock, it proposes a broader hypothesis on the Reformation as a shift in the languages and concept of orthodoxy.

This book was awarded the George Blazyca Prize and Gerald Strauss Prize, named co-winner of the Kulczycki Prize and the BASEES Women’s Forum Prize, and received Honourable Mention for the Zelnik Prize

nowakowska  jag

'Remembering the Jagiellonians', ed. Natalia Nowakowska (Routledge, Autumn 2018)

A collection of 9 essays, examining for the first time the comparative, long-term cultural memory of the Jagiellonian dynasty (1386-1572) in Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech lands, Germany/Austria, Scandinavia, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, from the 15th-century to the present day. This book seeks to promote dialogue between historians of pre-modern Europe, historians of modern Europe, and theorists of cultural memory in literature and social science. It is published as part of Routledge's new book series 'Remembering the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds'.


  • Central Europe
  • Dynasties
  • Language & Concept History
  • Reformation & Late Medieval Church
miniatures of the jagiellonian family lucas cranach the younger mid 16th century

My research seeks to find new perspectives on the history (and concept) of Europe. To do so, my work explores two key fault-lines in European history: between medieval and modern, and between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Much of my research has been focused on Poland and its neighbours in the 14th-16th centuries, as peoples and places who sat squarely across both those fault-lines at once.

One strand of my research has looked afresh at the last years of the late medieval church in Central Europe, and the emergence of radically new world-views with the Reformation. These problems were explored in my book Church, State and Dynasty in Renaissance Poland: the Career of Cardinal Fryderyk Jagiellon (winner of the Polish Studies Association first book prize), and in articles on crusading and early printing (Past and Present, Historical Research). In 2012-13, I held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, during which I completed a new history of the early Reformation in Poland. This book seeks to shake up traditional ideas about the geographies and trajectory of Lutheranism, and also offer an alternative interpretation of the Reformation itself as a concept. King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther: the Reformation Before Confessionalization (OUP, 2018) was awarded the George Blazyca Prize and Gerald Strauss Prize, named co-winner of the Kulczycki Prize and the BASEES Women’s Forum Prize, and received Honourable Mention for the Zelnik Prize.

Another strand of my research has been the Jagiellonians, the originally Lithuanian royal house who ruled half of Christian Europe by 1500. From 2013-18, I was Principal Investigator of a €1.4m European Research Council (ERC) project entitled ‘The Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Memory and Identity in Central Europe’. With a team of 5 post-doctoral researchers, the project studied this vast dynasty in a newly panoramic way. The project’s first book, Remembering the Jagiellonians (Routledge, 2019) reconstructs how memories of the dynasty have shaped the politics, culture and identities of Central Europe, from the 16th century to the internet age. The project’s second book, meanwhile, will interrogate the concept of dynasty in the Renaissance, and trace the gradual construction of a ‘Jagiellonian’ identity by humanists, princes, poets and subjects from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Following on from this project, I am currently writing a new history of the Jagiellonians, which applies a global history lens to this polytheistic tribe who become a leading dynasty of the European Renaissance (1386-1596).

  • What’s in a Word? The Etymology & Historiography of Dynasty: Renaissance Europe & Beyond

  • 'Rioting Blacksmiths and Jewish Women: Remembering the Reformation in Early Modern Polish Chronicles’

  • 'An Ambiguous Golden Age: the Jagiellonians in Polish Memory and Historical Counsciousness'

  • Remembering the Jagiellonians

  • King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther: the Reformation Before Confessionalisation

  • Rhetorics of Decline & Rebirth: The End of the Jagiellonian Dynasty (1572-c.1600)

  • Reform Before Reform? Religious Currents in Central Europe circa 1500

  • Lamenting the Church? Bishop Andrzej Krzycki and Early Reformation Polemic

  • High Clergy and Printers: Anti-Reformation Polemic in the Kingdom of Poland, 1520-36

  • High clergy and the printing press:Anti-Reformation polemic in the Kingdom of Poland, c.1517-1540

  • More
In the Media

Interview, Tygodnik Powszechny, Poland (August 2017)

Feature interview, Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland (April 2015)

Newsweek Poland (December 2014)

El Pais (March 2013)

Morning Report: New Zealand Radio (March 2013)

Natalia writes a blog, Somerville Historian, about teaching and writing history at Oxford:

In 2012-13, she also kept a blog-diary about the experience of drafting a historical monograph,

Dr Natalia Nowakowska introduces a new research project which examines the Renaissance Europe Jagiellonian dynasty as an international political phenomenon:


Current Teaching

Prelims: FHS:

European & World History, 1400-1650

European & World History VI

Conquest & Colonisation of the Spanish Americas

British History IV

British History IV

Disciplines of History
Approaches to History (Gender, Anthropology, Art)