Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

Department of History
Associate Professor of European History
Co-Director, Children and Childhood Network

I am interested in social, cultural and religious history from the early modern to the modern period (16th - 20th century). I am currently working on two research projects: the first is on global Protestantism and the networks of radical religious communities (a collaboration with Dr. Kat Hill, Birkbeck); the second project is a study of the role of children in Protestant missions in Britain and Germany.

I studied at the Universities of Hamburg, Cambridge and Oxford, where I wrote my doctoral thesis (DPhil) under the supervision of Professor Lyndal Roper at Balliol College. In 2006 I was awarded a Research Fellowship at Downing College, Cambridge. In 2009 I joined the School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham.

I have received awards from the British Academy/Leverhulme Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Institute of Historical Research, the German Historical Institute London, the German History Society, the Institute of European History, Mainz, and a Scatcherd European Scholarship to spend time at the University of Rome, La Sapienza. My 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. My first book Women and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Münster (Oxford University Press, 2014) won the 2015 prize of the Women's History Network.

My areas of expertise are gender history, the history of children and childhood, the history of migration, the history of modern missions.


  • 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)
  • Gender in early modern Europe
  • Martin Luther and the German Reformation
  • M for Murder: Interpersonal Violence in Early Modern Europe
  • Reforming the Catholic Church in Early Modern Europe
  • Christian History, 1500-Present

Second year

  • History in Theory and Practice
  • Group Research: ‘Crime and deviance in early modern Europe’
  • Research Methods
  • Options on ‘Who are you? Contested identities in the early modern period’; ‘Witchcraft in early modern Europe’; ‘Power and State-formation in Early Modern Europe’

Third year

  • Special Subjects on ‘Big City, Small Worlds: The Making of Early Modern Cities’; ‘Historical relations: Families in global perspective, 1500-2020’
  • Advanced Options on ‘Witchcraft, Power and State-Formation in Early Modern Europe’; ‘Women behaving badly in Tudor and Stuart England’; ‘Political Participation in Early Modern Europe’
  • Historical Reflections
  • Dissertation supervision


  • I am the convenor of the MA in History (Distance Learning)
  • MA in Reformation and Early Modern Studies
  • MRes in Early Modern History

Postgraduate supervision

Until August 2020 I was Deputy Director of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. I am committed to ensuring the highest quality in PGR supervision and professional development.

PhDs I supervise or co-supervise include:

‘Dragons and Serpents in early modern German religious culture’
‘British missionary children and transnational religious migration’
‘Pedagogy and Persuasion: The Power of the Catechism in Germany, 1529-1597’
‘Publications, Popular Opinion and Gender in the Context of Witchcraft in the Holy Roman Empire, 1480-1560’
‘The Politics of Tradition and Colonisation by Stealth in 19th Century Hawaiʻi’

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am currently working on a book on children in the German missionary enterprise, ca. 1800-1950. 

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.


Recent publications


Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2014, Women and the counter-reformation in early modern Münster. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/women-and-the-counter-reformation-in-early-modern-mnster-9780199683314?cc=gb&lang=en&#>


Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2019, 'What Debora's letters do: producing knowledge for the Basel Mission family', KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 243-262. https://doi.org/10.1086/704744

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2017, 'Sex, Honour and Morality: About the Precarious Situation of Servant Girls in Post-Tridentine Muenster', Mélanges de l'École française de Rome-Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines (MEFRIM), vol. 128, no. 2. <http://mefrim.revues.org/2590>

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2015, 'Family matters: Peter Canisius as confessor and spiritual guide in early modern Augsburg. A Case Study', Journal of Jesuit Studies, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 606-623. https://doi.org/10.1163/22141332-00204004

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2006, 'Concubinage and the Church in early modern Münster', Past & Present, vol. 1, no. suppl_1, pp. 72-100. https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtj016


Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2013, Community and Piety in early modern Catholic cities. in A Bamji, G Janssen & M Laven (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter Reformation. Ashgate.

Book/Film/Article review

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2011, 'Celibacy between Deviance and Normality: Church Politics and Parish Every Day Life in the Duchies of Juelich and Berg in the 16. and 17. Century', German History, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 312-314.

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2011, 'Magistrates, madonnas and miracles. The Counter Reformation in the Upper Palatinate', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 404-405. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046910003544

Laqua-O'Donnell, S 2011, 'Witchcraft, gender and society in early modern Germany', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 405-406. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046910003313

View all publications in research portal