James A. Palmer

Assistant Professor of History
Palmer photo

Contact Information

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 notions of virtue and justice; in lay piety and urban life; as well as in histories of sovereignty and governance. 

My current book, The Virtues of Economy, 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 current research is focused on the history of social justice and virtue both as governing ideas and frameworks for practice in late medieval politics and society.  

Selected Publications:

The Virtues of Economy: Governance, Power, and Piety in Late Medieval Rome (Cornell University Press, 2019).

"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)

Florence from Dante to Machiavelli

The World of the Crusades (Senior Seminar)

Graduate Seminars:

I have offered readings seminars on medieval Christianity, the Crusades, and European Slavery from the late Roman to the early modern period. I will be offering a new seminar if Fall of 2020 on medieval urban history. 

Research Interests
Medieval Europe, Italian Communes, the Italian Renaissance