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Matthew Vester


Teaching Fields

  • Renaissance and early modern European History (esp. the Savoyard lands, France, and Italy)
  • Political Culture
  • Kinship


  • 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 is interested in how people conceptualized rights, interests, and responsibilities and how they acted upon such things during the centuries between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era. He has studied these problems in the contexts of taxation, kinship and noble networking, village life and local politics, and institutional relationships between church and state. He is inclined toward microanalysis and most of his work has been based in the archives of the Sabaudian lands - the states straddling the Western Alps, formerly ruled by the House of Savoy. His current book project, "Isabelle de Challant and Giovanni Federico Madruzzo: Gender, Kinship, and Dynastic Identity during the Late Renaissance," identifies the factors leading to diverse understandings of noble identity, even among members of the same family. Vester is also working on an English translation of Ludovico Antonio Muratori's 1749 work "Della pubblica felicità" [On public happiness]. He is involved in two research projects with students, one on the role of the laity in the Catholic church (based on a study of Paolo Sarpi's "History of the Council of Trent" [1619]) and the other a historiographic study of early modern Italian noblewomen.  

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 277: Revolutions in Science and Technology
  • HIST 313: France from 1450 to 1750
  • HIST 330: History of Italy (1200-1800)
  • HIST 393: The Golden Age of Piracy
  • HIST 415: Early Modern Law & Society
  • HIST 416: The French Wars of Religion
  • Graduate Courses in Historiography, Early Modern Europe, and Microhistory

Graduate Students

M.A. Students

  • Katherine Doherty
  • Elizabeth Dubendorfer
  • Willa Reising
  • Megan McGee, “Cologne During the Witch Hunts, 1627-1662” (2011)
  • Michael Piano, “Paolo Sarpi, the Family, and ‘the Body’: Dynastic History, the Family and Constructed Kinship in the State and Church, and the Virtue of the Parental Nobility” (2011)
  • Kelly Benner, “Rethinking Modes of Political Influence: Catherine de’ Medici and her Female Political Network” (2011) 
  • Philip Hnatkovich, “’Old England in Perfection’: Historical Arguments in the Jewish Naturalization Controversy of 1753” (2005)

Ph.D. Students
  • Cole Volman, “English Jesuit Schools Abroad and Catholic Kinship Networks, 1580-1650” (current student)
  • Catherine Ferrari, “Kinship and the Law in Seventeenth-Century Piedmont: Noblewomen as Litigants and Political Actors” (2022)
  • Megan McGee, “Schmick’s Frontier: Native American and Moravian Community-Building in Colonial Pennsylvania, 1753-1765” (2018, co-directed)



Transregional Lordship and the Italian Renaissance: René de Challant, 1504-1565 (Amsterdam University Press, 2020) 

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

Sabaudian Studies: Political Culture, Territory, and Dynasty, 1400-1700 (edited volume) (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) French version published by Droz in 2008.


Osvaldo Raggio, Feuds and State Formation, 1550-1700: The Backcountry of the Republic of Genoa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018; Italian original published in 1990)

Jon Mathieu, History of the Alps 1500-1900: Environment, Development, and Society (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2009; German original published in 1998)

Journal Articles, Book Chapters, and Essays (selected)

“René de Challant and Renaissance Lordship,” Studi storici 61, 3 (2020) 

“Introduzione: L’influenza francese in Valle d’Aosta, 1536-1642,” in Tra Francia e Spagna

“Sabaudia et les Pays-Bas au début du seizième siècle,” in Tra Francia e Spagna

“Le corti sabaudi e la Valle d’Aosta nel XVI secolo,” in Les Sénats des États de Savoie: carrefours des circulations et des mobilités judiciaires (Époque moderne – XIXe siècle), ed. Françoise Briegel and Sylvain Milbach (Roma: Carocci, 2016)

“Property and Family Strategies in the Alps: The Regis of St Vincent,” in La maison de Savoie et les Alpes: emprise, innovation, identification, ed. Stéphane Gal and Laurent Perrillat (Chambéry: Éditions de l’Université de Savoie/Laboratoire LLSETI, 2015)

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

“Perché l’autonomia istituzionale non significò meno tasse nella Bresse savoiarda (1560 - 1580)” Quaderni storici 40, 1 (2005): 41-72

“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

“The Bresse Clergy Assembly and Tithe Grants, 1560-1580,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 35, 3 (2004): 771-94

“Social Hierarchies: The Upper Classes,” in Companion to the History of the Renaissance World, ed. Guido Ruggiero (Blackwell, 2002), pp. 227-42

Grants and Awards

  • Corresponding member of the Deputazione Subalpina di Storia Patria (Turin, Italy), 2019
  • Corresponding member of the Académie Saint-Anselme (Aosta, Italy), 2019 
  • ERASMUS+ Fellow — University of Trento (Italy), 2017
  • Garrett and Deborah Smyth Green Faculty Award — Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, 2015
  • Outstanding Researcher Award — Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, 2008
  • Renaissance Society of America Research Grant, 2008
  • Fondation Humbert II et Marie-José de Savoie (Lausanne, Switzerland) — publication subsidy, 2007
  • Chester Penn Higby Prize — Awarded by the Modern European History section of the American Historical Association for the best article published in the Journal of Modern History over a two-year period (for “The Political Autonomy of a Tax Farm”), 2007
  • Villa I Tatti Fellowship — Year-long support for research at The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Florence, Italy), 2006-7
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst grant, 2006
  • West Virginia Humanities Council Fellowship, 2004
  • Riggle Fellowship in the Humanities — West Virginia University, Eberly College of Arts & Sciences, 2002
  • Senate Research Grant, West Virginia University, 2001
  • Special Research Fellowship, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1999-2000
  • Center for Seventeenth & Eighteenth Century Studies, UCLA — Postdoctoral Fellow, 1997-98
  • Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA — Lynn White, jr. Dissertation Fellowship, 1996-97
  • UCLA History Department — Graduate Fellowship, 1992-96
  • Center for German and European Studies (UC Berkeley) — Entering Graduate Student Merit Fellowship, 1992-94
  • Centre Culturel Italien, Grenoble (France) — Scholarship for study in Perugia, Italy, 1990
  • Rotary International Fellowship, Université de Grenoble II (France), 1989-90
  • Alpha Sigma Nu, National Jesuit Honor Society, 1988