James A. Palmer

Assistant Professor of History
Palmer photo

Contact Information

Department
History
Office Location
413 Bellamy

I studied at Michigan State University, Duke University, and Washington University in St Louis, where I completed my Ph.D. in 2015.

I specialize in the history of medieval and renaissance Italy. My research focuses on the mid-thirteenth through the early sixteenth centuries. I am particularly interested in the intersections of religion, politics, economy, and community; in lay piety and urban life; as well as in histories of sovereignty and governance. 

My current book, Good Governance, explores the transformation of Roman political culture from c.1350 to c.1450, and its implications for the history of the city and the Papacy. Specifically, it examines the gradual transition of Roman political elites from a commitment to governing Rome as a free city-commune to a willingness to act as the governing agents of a sovereign papacy. It emphasizes that understanding this transition requires recognition of Roman political engagement not merely with a civic society, constituted of citizens of the city-commune, but with the broader political society of Rome in its guise as the spiritual capital of Latin Christendom. Through an analysis of the transformative effects of everyday Roman politics, this book reframes the story of the establishment of papal sovereignty in Rome as the product of synergy between papal ambitions and local political culture.

My next book will study the role of local political societies in the establishment of territorial states in late medieval Italy. It will focus on the consolidation of papal power in the Papal States, comparing the history of the process in several different localities. 

Selected Publications:

Good Governance: The Virtues of Economy and Power in Late Medieval Rome (under contract, Cornell University Press).

"Medieval and Renaissance Rome: Mending the Divide," History Compass (2017) DOI: 10.1111/hic3.12424.

 "Piety and Social Distinction in Late Medieval Roman Peacemaking," Speculum 89.4 (2014): 974-1004.

Website (including CV and other information):

Undergraduate Courses Taught:

The Early Middle Ages

The High and Late Middle Ages

Renaissance Florence (Senior Seminar)

Medieval Italy (Senior Seminar)

Medieval Italy, 500-1500

Holy War in the Middle Ages