Professor Natalia Nowakowska

Featured Publication
King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther

A new history of the early Reformation in the Polish monarchy under King Sigismund I (1506-48) (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.

Forthcoming: 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'.



Natalia is interested in the fragmentation of the late medieval world, and in what we mean by the categories ‘medieval’ and ‘early modern’. She has published on religion and the printing revolution, with articles in ‘Past and Present’ and ‘Historical Research’ on this topic. In 2012-13, Natalia held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, in order to write a new history of the early Reformation in the Polish monarchy under King Sigismund I (1506-48). This will be published by Oxford University Press in the Reformation’s 500th anniversary year, in 2017.

Another big question which runs through Natalia’s research is where ‘Central Europe’ fits into broader histories of pre-modern Europe and the wider world, and indeed how useful this concept is. Her current ERC-funded project, Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Memory and Identity focuses on one of Renaissance Europe’s most powerful but also least-known dynasties, an originally Lithuanian family who by 1500 controlled vast land masses, from the Baltic to the Adriatic. This project asks new questions about perceptions of dynasty, Jagiellonian identity, the long-term cultural memory of this royal house and its role in shaping local, national and regional identities (

A full list of publications, with some uploaded online, can also be found at Other publications are accessible on

  • 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

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:

List of site pages