PhD'19 (early modern European history) University of Chicago


Research Interests

Early modern Europe; France; citizenship; history of rights; political thought; religion; secularism; marriage and property; toleration; exile and displacement in Europe and the Atlantic world; cultural history; intellectual history; legal history; history of the book


Liberty of Conscience and the Boundaries of the Polity: Toleration, Sovereignty, and Citizenship in Sixteenth-Century France


Elisa Jones’s dissertation explores the politicized notion of freedom of conscience before and during the French civil wars in the sixteenth century and the resultant struggle between Catholic and Protestant French subjects and the monarchy over religious liberty. This fight held implications for defining who was and was not French, for the understanding of religion in relation to the state and to the church, and in marking out the limits of state power in relation to the private and the public. She argues that the monarchy’s attempts to force freedom of conscience on French subjects reveals that absolutism was not a result of the civil wars but one of its causal factors. The forms of war-time resistance and its organization by French subjects also mirrored and strengthened the role of centralized monarchical institutions in the kingdom. The rights in question were initiated from the top-down, and the centralized absolutist state was reinforced and expanded from the bottom-up. This sixteenth-century example of individual religious liberty demonstrates to what degree civil rights are constructed and negotiated and in what ways they are circumscribed by their very existence. 

Elisa is developing a second research project that approaches the complex relationship between religion, politics, civil rights, and state authority from the perspective of gender, especially the conflicts over marriage and rape during the French Wars of Religion.

Elisa was a Georges Lurcy Fellow (2013–14) and a Fulbright Doctoral Fellow (2012–13), conducting her research in France. She was a Martin Marty Center Junior Fellow at the University of Chicago's Divinity School (2016–17), as well as a Doris G. Quinn Dissertation Fellow in the Department of History (2017–18). The Franco-American Commission has also supported her research. This year, Elisa is a University of Chicago Grad Global Impact Intern in the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Among other projects, she is developing tools in digital pedagogy and the history of the book using the library's vast collection of digitized early French manuscripts and pamphlets.

At the University of Chicago Elisa has taught methodology, research skills, and historical writing. Elisa has lectured in the Core curriculum on the history of European civilization, taught writing with a focus on academic argument for the Writing Program, and served for two years as a Bessie Pierce Prize Preceptor for history students writing BA theses. In the spring of 2018 she was a Hermann von Holst Prize Lecturer, teaching "Heretics and Martyrs: The Problem of Toleration in the European Reformation." At DePaul University and Purdue University Northwest she has taught global history with a focus on the intersections of religion, race, and premodern capitalism, and she has developed and taught online classes in world history and world geography since 2006. Elisa has extensive work experience in research libraries, with interests in manuscripts and rare books, archival processing and storage practices, electronic resource management and metadata creation, and digital history and humanities.


—Historians Garner Teaching Prizes
—History Students Awarded 47 Research Grants in 2017–18
Dissertation Awards for 35 students in 2016–17