History Department
History Department

Madeline McMahon

Ph.D., History, Princeton University

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History
Madeline McMahon



Madeline McMahon (pronounced: 'mik-MAN') is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on intellectual, cultural, and religious history of early modern Europe (ca. 1450 – 1800).

McMahon’s book in progress, Bishops and the Creation of Catholic Knowledge in Early Modern Italy, explores the work of bishops’ households during the Catholic Reformation in Italy. Drawing on ongoing work in the history of science, the book focuses on bishops’ and bishops’ employees’ practices to produce knowledge and manage information in their dioceses. By examining manuscripts and early print in Italian archives and the visual and material remains of early modern bishops’ palaces, the book shows how bishops reinvented themselves and their administration in a period when their role was deeply contested.

McMahon’s articles have appeared in International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, and Past & Present. She earned her BA and PhD in history at Princeton University, and her MPhil in early modern history at the University of Cambridge.

She is excited to offer courses at UT Austin on book history, the history of ideas, religious history, and the relationship between “scholarly” and “popular” culture in the early modern period, amongst other topics. She is happy to advise undergraduate honors theses on any aspect of the premodern world.


HIS 366N • World Catholicism 1400-1800

39290 • Fall 2022
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM GAR 1.126

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HIS 378W • Capstone In History

38828 • Spring 2022
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM PAR 210
Writing the History of Books and Readers:

How have new technologies changed how and why people read? What can books tell us about people in the past? How might we access an author’s writing process, discover readers’ reactions to books, reveal where censorship was at work, or reconstruct the way in which news and information circulated? Why do some historical texts survive while others don’t, and what can we learn about what has been lost?


In this capstone seminar for history majors, students will explore the history of books, reading, and written cultures, and will gain hands-on experience of rare materials in UT collections. In the first half of the semester, we will look at how people have read, from the scroll to scrolling the web. In the second half of the semester, we will increasingly focus on the final capstone project, and the assignments will be geared towards its completion.


The capstone seminar requires students to design, research and write a substantial paper (or equivalent project) that makes an original research contribution. Capstone projects can examine any topic in the history of books and reading, broadly construed, including such topics as the readership of cookbooks in modern Texas, the problems institutions and companies currently face with digital storage, or paper-making in medieval Japan, though the topic must be worked out in advance with the instructor. Students are strongly encouraged to use primary sources in UT collections such as the Benson Latin American Collection, Law Library, or Harry Ransom Center in their final project. The class will regularly meet in the Ransom Center.


This course carries the Independent Inquiry flag and Writing flag. Prerequisite: HIS 320W

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