Dr Sara Barker

Dr Sara Barker

Lecturer in Early Modern History

+44 (0)113 343 8400

Summary: Early Modern France, especially late sixteenth and early seventeenth century: history of printing, books and news, particularly international works and translation; the European Reformation.

Location: Michael Sadler building 3.08



After undergraduate studies at the University of Durham and an MA in Early Modern History at the University of York, I undertook my doctoral research at the University of St Andrews. From here, I went to Paris as a postdoctoral research fellow on the St Andrews French Vernacular Book Project. From 2009-2010, I was the postdoctoral research fellow on the Renaissance Cultural Crossroads project, based in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick. Before joining the School of History in Leeds in September 2014, I spent four years as Lecturer in European History 1500-1750 at the University of Exeter.

In 2012 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I'm also an elected member of the Bibliographical Society, and a member of the Society for Renaissance Studies, the Sixteenth Century Studies Society and the Renaissance Society of America. I am on the committee of the Centre for the Comparative History of Print (Centre ChoP) at Leeds, and I am on the editorial board of Library and Information History

Research Interests

I am interested in the cultural, social and political history of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.

My early research focused on sixteenth-century France, and the processes and effects of the French Reformation, particularly how different media forms were used to explore different problems faced by the French Reformed community during the period of the Wars of Religion.

Current Projects

My current research focuses on early printed news and its movement between different countries, in particular translations of news pamphlets in western Europe in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I am interested in printed news before the development of the newspaper, in particular the ways in which news moved between countries, which stories were translated and why, the sources used for news reports, the formats that were used, how stories were told and translated, and the ways in which printers sold ‘foreign’ news to readers. My work combines detailed textual analysis of the translations undertaken and consideration of broader concerns about change, time, space and community identity in the post-Reformation era. As part of this, I have worked with projects like the Universal Short Title Catalogue at the University of St Andrews, and I was an Associate Member of the News Networks In Early Modern Europe Network. In 2017, I was awarded the Katherine F. Pantzer Jr Fellowship by the Bibliographical Society to investigate formatting and typographical changes in translated news pamphlets. As well as publishing several essays on related aspects, I am currently working on a monograph, provisionally titled ‘New and True? Translation, News and Pamphlets in Early Modern England and France'. 

I'm also interested in the ways that the events of the French Reformation and the French Wars of Religion were recorded, both at the time and as they passed into history. I was awarded a Huntington Fellowship in 2017-18 to investigate how the French Wars of Religion were written about in England as they were happening, comparing original compositions with translations of French works. I've also got an interest in how the French Wars of Religion have been represented in art, literature and film over time. 

I also research print practices and history of the book. I received funding from the Printing Historical Society in 2016-17 to investigate how and why printers copied each others works during the French Wars of Religion. This project led to a bigger project, funded by a British Academy Small Grant, looking at printing piracy during the French Wars of Religion. I have also edited a collection of essays on International Exchange in the European Book World with Matthew McLean at the University of St Andrews. 

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome enquiries from students wishing to pursue research in the following fields:

  • Printing history, particularly in the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries
  • early modern European cultural history
  • the cultural impact of the Reformation
  • early modern French cultural, social or political history

If you are interested in working in these or connected areas, please email me a 500 word outline of your proposed topic and a copy of your CV.

Undergraduate Teaching:

HIST2073: Most Christian Kings develops from my ongoing fascination with early modern French culture. The module explores life in France between the accession of Francis I and the death of Louis XIV, and the problems of the French state at this time. We look at the institutions, the people and the places of early modern France, and their ongoing legacy in the modern world.

HIST3497: Printing and Books in Early Modern Europe is designed to introduced students to one of the most vibrant and interdisciplinary areas of early modern studies, and to draw on the wealth of resources we have in Leeds. Students learn about the business and practicalities of printing, as well as about books, authors and readers. We have sessions in Special Collections in the Brotherton Library, as well as visiting the Print Room in the School of English and the Leeds Library. 

HIST3688: The French Wars of Religion is inspired by the period that made me want to become a historian, which I first encountered as an undergraduate and which went on to become the focus of my masters and doctoral studies – the series of civil wars that ripped France apart for nearly four decades at the end of the sixteenth century. The module presents a fascinating mix of religion, politics, war & violence, with students becoming familiar with the full range of French society: monarchs, noblemen and women, merchants, peddlers, students, farmers and foot-soldiers. 

I also contribute to HIST1060: Faith, Knowledge and Power, 1500-1750 and to HIST2557: Thinking about History.

My research also informs how these modules are taught. As someone interested in how information travels, I encourage students to think beyond the content of a source to consider how its material composition affects its reception. I make extensive use of online digital material, from sites like EEBOGallica, and Jocande. In lectures, I use images, music, tv clips and scenes from films to bring the early modern period into the classroom. My overall teaching aim is to open up sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe to those who are a bit nervous about studying new areas at degree level and to give them the confidence to tackle some of the big questions that emerge from this era.

Teaching enhancement work:

I am very interested in keeping up to date with the latest work on university education: in my previous post at the University of Exeter, I contributed to departmental and college workshops on developing online support tools for students. I have also taken part in HEA workshops and conferences on using film and TV to teach early modern history. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was also awarded an Aspire Fellowship in 2013 at the University of Exeter. I also tweet about early modern things I come across from teaching, researching and in everyday life at@DrSKBarker and blog about teaching and studying history at HE History Hub

EKT / Esteem Indicators / Media Contact / Advisory roles:

In the past, I have given talks to local community groups and schools on topics such as what history at University is really like and how much early modern people knew about foreign events. I was a contributor to the BBC series 'Inside Versailles'.

I am available to the media for comment on issues relating to the European Reformations, early news history, sixteenth and seventeenth French culture and society and the history of Britain’s links to the continent.