Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

Department of History
Lecturer in Early Modern History
Head of Postgraduate Studies (Taught)

Contact details

Simone Laqua-O’Donnell is a historian of early modern Europe. She studied at the Universities of Hamburg and Cambridge and was a PhD student at Balliol College, Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Lyndal Roper. Her PhD was supported by the AHRC. In 2006 she was awarded a Research Fellowship at Downing College, Cambridge. In 2009 Simone joined the School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham, as Lecturer in Early Modern History.

Simone Laqua-O'Donnell has received awards from the Institute of Historical Research, the German Historical Institute London, the Institute of European History, Mainz, and a Scatcherd European Scholarship to spend time at the University of Rome, La Sapienza. She is a founding member of the Catholic Reformation Research Network and a member of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies. Her research on the introduction of the decrees of Trent in early modern German convents has been awarded the 2003 Essay Prize of the Royal Historical Society and the German History Society. Her book Women and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Münster (OUP, 2014) has been awarded the annual book prize of the Women's History Network.

Her areas of expertise are Gender History, Reformation History, the Holy Roman Empire, Witchcraft and the History of Crime.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Birmingham
  • DPhil University of Oxford
  • MSt University of Oxford
  • BA (Hons) University of Cambridge



First year

  • The Making of the Modern World, c.1500-1815
  • Practising History (skills and approaches):
  • ‘Martin Luther and the German Reformation’
  • ‘M for Murder: Interpersonal Violence in Early Modern Europe’
  • ‘Beyond repair? Reforming the Catholic Church in Early Modern Europe’
  • Christian History, 1500-Present

Second year

  • History in Theory and Practice
  • Critical Analysis: ‘Power and State-formation in Early Modern Europe’
  • Research Methods
  • Option: ‘Who are you? Contested identities in the early modern period’

Third year

  • Reviewing History: ‘Political Participation in Early Modern Europe’
  • Special Subject: ‘Big City, Small Worlds: The Making of Early Modern Cities’
  • Option: ‘Witchcraft, Power and State-Formation in Early Modern Europe’
  • Historical Reflections
  • Dissertation supervision


  • MA in Reformation and Early Modern Studies
  • MRes in Early Modern History

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to discuss research projects on any aspect of early modern German history.
I am currently supervising a PhD project on pedagogy and catechism in early modern Germany (jointly with Dr Elaine Fulton).


My new research project, tentatively entitled God’s Children: Children and the Missionary Enterprise, 1750-2000, engages with mission history on two levels: mission and children, and the children of missionaries.

Children were at the heart of the missionary enterprise because they embodied the new generation of faithful believers and the future of the evangelical enterprise. From the day they were born, children were thus seen as deserving special attention and were theorized, discussed, nurtured, taught and worried over by missionaries and their leadership the world over. Given how much energy missions dispensed on children, it is surprising how little attention historians have so far given to them.

My research on missionary children will take a long-term perspective in two regards: the timeframe of the study will reach across 250 years (1750-2000) and the study will make the term “child” stretch into adulthood, to better understand their formation and fate across the span of their lives. This will be achieved by employing a number of approaches, for example, biographical and generational studies of their lives and network analysis. I will also make this a comparative study of the English Church Mission Society (founded in 1799) and a German mission (which one is still to be determined) to see how the issue of (post)-colonialism, that forms the background for the English missionary enterprise, compares to the German case, with Germany being a relative latecomer to the colonial endeavour, at least officially.

The project asks about the piety of children, and how it impinged on the children’s social lives, political preferences and cultural engagements, in essence the relationship between their religious beliefs and their lives. It asks after the social influences, the political and cultural factors which affected missionary children in their respective communities. It discusses the official stance towards the children of missionaries from the side of the authorities (leadership/politics) and how this matched their parents’ views and wonders what kind of networks and communities the children depended on and what this tells us about relationships of trust. In doing so it will question what “family” meant to these children to see if we need to adjust that term and think about its uses. 

As such, this research speaks to many pertinent (historical) issues: the history of childhood, the history of kin, networks, transnational families, split families and the long-term development of children, colonialism/post-colonialism and imperialism, identity formation, race and gender … .

My first book was on Women and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Münster (OUP, 2014) and examines how women from different social backgrounds encountered the Counter-Reformation. The focus is on Münster, a city in the north of Germany, which was exposed to powerful Protestant influences which culminated in the notorious Anabaptist kingdom of 1534. After the defeat of the radical Protestants, the city was returned to Catholicism and a stringent programme of reform was enforced.

By examining concubinage, piety, marriage, deviance, and convent reform, core issues of the Counter-Reformation's quest for renewal, the shows how women participated in the social and religious changes of the time, and how their lives were shaped by the Counter-Reformation. Employing research into the political, religious, and social institutions, and using a large variety of sources, the research analyses how women experienced the new religiosity, morality, and discipline that was introduced to the city of Münster during this turbulent time.



  • Women and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Münster (Oxford University Press, 2014). Winner of the 2015 Women’s History Network (UK) Book Prize, “awarded for an author’s first single-authored monograph which makes a significant contribution to women’s history or gender history and is written in an accessible style”.

Articles and book chapters

  • 'Family Matters: Peter Canisius as Confessor and Spiritual Guide in early modern Augsburg. A Case Study’, Journal of Jesuit Studies 16/1 (2016).
  • ‘Piety and Community in Early Modern Catholic Europe’, Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (Ashgate, 2012).
  • ‘‘Women on top’ and the ascent of men: A discussion of the advance and advantages of gender as an analytical tool’, convened by Bridget Heal and Simone Laqua-O’Donnell, Colloquia: Journal of Central European History (November, 2010).
  • ‘Concubinage and the Church in early modern Münster’, Past and Present Supplement, Ruth Harris and Lyndal Roper (eds), The Art of Survival: Gender and History in Europe, 1540-2000, (Oxford, 2006).
  • ‘Der Prozeß der Entjudung in der schlesischen Stadt Glatz, 1933-1945’, in Arno Herzig (ed.), Glaciographia Nova: Festschrift für Dieter Pohl (Hamburg, 2004).