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Matthew Vester, Ph.D.


Teaching Fields

  • Renaissance and early modern European History (esp. the Savoyard lands, France, and Italy)
  • Comparative social history of politics
  • History of the Alps
  • Kinship and place


  • Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1997
  • M.A., University of Virginia, 1992
  • B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, 1988

Research Interests

Dr. Vester works on the comparative social history of politics in early modern Europe.  He is interested in political culture, which for him includes institutional practices, patronage systems and other informal political ties, and political thought (customary and written). His work is informed by a desire to uncover the rich variety of political interactions in the past (especially within families, localities, and regions), thereby avoiding an anachronistic exaggeration of the role of ‘the state’ in early modern political life. 

The territorial context in which he has investigated these problems is that of the lands formerly ruled by the house of Savoy, in current-day southeastern France, northwestern Italy, and western Switzerland. 

His current project examine political practices and assumptions within rural communities, noble families, and regional institutions in the Alpine duchy of Aosta between 1550 and 1630, drawing attention to the spatial dimensions of family power. He is revising a book manuscript, On the Edge of the Italian Renaissance:  René de Challant and His World, 1504-1565, that analyzes the spatial contours of noble lordship in the context of fragmented rule between Italy, France, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Other work explores similar problems through an analysis of a sixteenth-century border dispute between the Sabaudian lands and the Republic of Genoa, and through the transfer of political technology in early modern Europe.  He has published on apanages and relationships between different branches of ruling dynasties, on the history of taxation, and on the political use of ecclesiastical revenues. He coordinates the international Sabaudian Studies network (see and

Courses Offered

  • HIST 101: Western Civilization to 1600
  • HIST 204: Renaissance and Reformation
  • HIST 205: Absolutism and Enlightenment
  • HIST 211: The Mediterranean, 1200-1800
  • HIST 313: Early Modern France
  • HIST 330: History of Italy to 1800
  • HIST 416: The French Wars of Religion
  • HIST 480: History of the Alps
  • HIST 481: The Mediterranean, 1200-1800
  • HIST 494: Introduction to Historical Research
  • HIST 700: Historiography
  • HIST 705: Readings in Early Modern History
  • HIST 706: Seminar in Early Modern History

Selected Publications

Co-editor (with Alessandro Celi), Tra Francia e Spagna.  Reti diplomatiche, territori e culture nei domini sabaudi tra Cinque e Settecento (Rome: Carocci, 2017)

Editor, Sabaudian Studies: Political Culture, Territory, and Dynasty, 1400-1700 (Kirksville MO: Truman State University Press, 2013).

Renaissance Dynasticism and Apanage Politics: Jacques de Savoie-Nemours, 1531-1585 (Kirksville MO: Truman State University Press, 2012)

“Who Benefited from Tithe Payments in Late Renaissance Bresse?” The Catholic Historical Review 96, 1 (2010): 1-26

“The Political Autonomy of a Tax Farm: The Nice-Piedmont Gabelle of the Dukes of Savoy, 1535-1580,” The Journal of Modern History 76 (December 2004): 745-92

Grants and awards:
Renaissance Society of America Research Grant, 2008
Chester Penn Higby Prize (Modern European History section, AHA), 2007
Villa I Tatti Fellow, 2006-7
UCLA Clark Library Postdoctoral Fellow, 1997-98