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Michelle Armstrong-PartidaAssociate Professor

Michelle Armstrong-Partida, Associate Professor (Ph.D. in History, University of Iowa, 2008; M.A. in History, University of Iowa 2001; B.S., Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, 1996). Medieval Europe and the premodern Mediterranean; Social History; Gender, Sexuality, & Women's History; Violence; Christian-Muslim-Jewish Relations.

As a historian of late medieval European history, I specialize in the study of gender and sexuality, women’s history, and the sociocultural interactions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Iberia and the Mediterranean. Much of my research focuses on the intersection of masculinity, violence, the sexual practice of concubinage, and Mediterranean social customs.

Defiant Priests: Domestic Unions, Violence, and Clerical Masculinity in Fourteenth-Century Catalunya (Cornell, 2017), my first book, investigates how long-standing concubinous unions and clerical violence shaped the masculinity of priests two hundred years after canon law prohibited the most visible markers of adult masculinity for men, such as wives, children, and weapons. This book offers an alternative narrative to the effects of the eleventh-century reform movement that imposed celibacy on clergymen in the major orders and challenges the common assertion that celibacy was the defining characteristic of the medieval priesthood. Defiant Priests has received three book awards from the Society for Medievalist Feminist Scholarship, the American Historical Association, and the American Catholic Historical Association.

I also have a collection of essays Women & Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, co-edited with Alexandra Guerson and Dana Wessell Lightfoot, that is forthcoming with the University of Nebraska’s Women and Gender in the Early Modern World series.

My current book project, On the Margins of Marriage, is a comparative study of concubinous unions among the peasantry, urban poor, and merchant class across the late medieval Mediterranean. It reveals how a concubinary relationship could be an important stage of life for both men and women as they transitioned into and out of marriage. This ambitious study is based on archival research in Barcelona and Valencia, Rome, Venice, Lucca, Pisa, and Palermo, as well as Marseille, Perpignan, Toulouse.

I also draw parallels between Latin Christian merchants with Jewish and Muslim merchants, who likewise kept concubines that were often slave women from eastern Europe and Africa, to illustrate a commonality of sexual practices. My research exposes the significant population of enslaved, single, married women, and widows, who by circumstance or choice, ended up in an informal union to weave the experiences of women at the lowest levels of society into an account of medieval people who remained on the margins of marriage. Recently, this project has received support from the Institute for Advanced Study (2018-2019) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (2019-2020).


  • Ph.D. in History, University of Iowa, 2008
  • M.A. in History, University of Iowa, 2001
  • B.S., Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, 1996


  • Medieval Europe and the premodern Mediterranean
  • Social History
  • Gender, Sexuality, & Women's History
  • Violence
  • Christian-Muslim-Jewish Relations