Faculty Profiles

faculty photo imageMichael P. Breen

Professor of History and Humanities
History Department
Division of History and Social Sciences

Michael P. Breen is a specialist of early modern French & European social, political, and cultural history. His first book, Law, City, and King: Legal Culture, Municipal Politics, and State Formation in Early Modern Dijon (University of Rochester Press, 2007) examined how the political activities and consciousness of the barristers (avocats) who dominated local governance in an early modern provincial capital evolved in response to the expansion of the royal state. He is currently working on Law and Society in Medieval & Early Modern Europe (under contract with Cambridge University Press), which examines how and why "the rule of law" emerged in medieval Europe and came to be a foundation of the European social order, rivaling and even surpassing the importance of religion. Law and Society examines not only development of the legal professions and their crucial role in transforming European politics, culture, and society, but also the law's evolution as a set of social, cultural, and institutional practices shaped by the ordinary men and women who increasingly utilized it in their daily lives. At the same time, he is also beginning a study of the controversies surrounding a medico-legal procedure used by early modern French Church courts to adjudicate marital annulment lawsuits (the épreuve du congrès) and the larger implications of these debates for the legal culture of the period (an article on this will appear shortly in the Journal of Modern History). Professor Breen has received numerous fellowships to support his research, including an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, an NEH Summer Stipend, and grants from the American Philosophical Society and Folger Shakespeare Library. He has also been an Invited Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and has served on the editorial boards of French Historical Studies and Histoire, Économie, et Société.

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