people / faculty / Michael Wintroub


Michael Wintroub

Associate Professor
7323 Dwinelle Hall
Research Interests
Late Medieval, Early Modern & Modern European social & cultural history.  Themes of interest include civic humanism, ritual & pageantry, religion, popular & court culture, kingship, travel writing, cross cultural contact, identity formation, vernacular consciousness, material & visual culture, gender history, the history of science, intellectual history and the history of anthropology.


My work is concerned with what Mauss has called “total social phenomena”—that is, “phenomena in which religious, legal, moral, aesthetic and economic institutions found simultaneous expression.” I am particularly concerned with the ways in which empire, language arts, new “scientific practices” and religion intersected with and developed alongside—and through—one another. In my first book, A Savage Mirror: Power, Identity and Knowledge in Early Modern France (Stanford University Press, 2006), my interests were drawn to the ways that monarchical power—and the rise of the imperial nation state—were linked to transformations in elite identity, to civic ritual, spiritual practices, vernacular consciousness and the discovery and exploitation of the New World.

I am currently working on two book projects. In the first, Voyages of Thought: a History of Translation, Commerce and Discovery in Early Modern France and its New Worlds, I explore the ways in which new approaches to the study of nature and society (e.g., cartography, navigation, anatomy, grammar, and authority) were informed by—and informed—religious practice, commerce and “imperialism.”   In its most general sense, this book aims to explore the phenomenon of globalism as an historical category.  It argues that in crucial and unexamined ways the modern world—its cultures, its political systems, its science(s) and its languages—have been shaped by early modern histories of contact and commerce with the New and Old Worlds bordering the Atlantic. Voyages of Thought is an investigation of this global world along two interpenetrating registers: a local—micro—history about particular groups and networks of actors, and a macro history about fundamental transformations in the ways western societies have come to adjudicate questions of knowledge, status and authority.

My second book project is called The Duchess and the World: the Language of Love and Empire in the Early Modern Atlantic World.  This book examines the life and work of Marie Madeleine de Vignerod, the Duchesse d’Aiguillon, and her activities as a patron of natural philosophers, artists, and writers and as a sponsor of overseas expeditions. The Duchess and the World, however, is not biography in the usual sense of the word; rather, it is an experiment in historical semiotics—a relational history of associations, translations and mediations growing out of a case study of the life of a remarkable, and now mostly forgotten woman. My aim will be to trace the complex interconnections between spirituality, gender, commerce, colonialism and knowledge production across and through a network of human, textual and artifactual associations spreading from the Duchesse out through convents and churches, courts and salons, academies, charitable societies and trading companies, to peoples as far away as China, Siam, Cochinchine, Cayenne and New France.

With regards to teaching, my interests are not limited to either national borders or traditional chronologies.  Ranging from antiquity through the modern, and utilizing diverse approaches, courses I have taught have focused on the relationship between the New World and the Old; on the scientific revolution(s); on humanism and court culture; on travel, collecting and museums; on material culture and the production of practical, theoretical and social knowledge; on the end of the world and the writing of history, and on the role that ritual, ceremonial and theatre have played in social conflict, identity formation and state-building.


A Savage Mirror: Power, Identity and Knowledge in Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 306 pp.

“Touching Brazil: Writing Colonization During the Wars of Religion,” article in preparation.

Taking a Bow in the Theater of Things,” ISIS (2010): 779-793.

The Heavens Inscribed: The Instrumental Poetry of the Virgin,” British Journal for the History of Science, 42 (2009): 161-185.  *Winner of the Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society for the best article published in English on early modern French history (2009-2010).

Response to Hillary Bernstein,” H-France, Society for French Historical Studies (September, 2007), 8pp.

Words, Deeds and a Womanly King,” French Historical Studies, Special issue: “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on French Literature and History” 28:3 (2005): 387-413.

L’ordre du rituel et l’ordre des choses: l’entrée royale d’Henri II à Rouen (1550),” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 56 (mars-avril, 2001): 479-505.

“The Astrolabe,” and “Court Culture in A. Hessenbruch (ed), Reader’s Guide to the History of Science (London, 2001), 44-46 and 154-157.

“Taking Stock at the End of the World: Rites of Distinction and Practices of Collecting in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 30 (1999): 395-424.

Civilizing the Savage and Making a King: the Royal Entry Festival of Henri II (Rouen, 1550),” Sixteenth Century Journal 29 (1998): 467-496. *Winner of the Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society for the best article published in English on early modern French history (1998-1999).

The Looking Glass of Facts: Collecting, Rhetoric and Citing the Self in the Experimental Natural Philosophy of Robert Boyle,” History of Science 35 (1997): 189-217.

Cabinet, an interactive CD ROM developed by the Virtual Teaching Collection at Cambridge University in conjunction with Oxford University (L. Thomas, S. Lucy, C. Gere, R. Boast and M. Wintroub).  Content for the History of Science authored by Wintroub, 1997.

“Collecting, Displaying and Teaching Material Culture,” Museum Collections and the Information Superhighway: Proceedings of the conference held on 10 May 1995 at the Science Museum, ed. G. Day (London, 1995), 65-67.

"Entitlements of Power,” co-authored with Keith Topper and Kevin T. Thomas, Strategies, 4/5 special issue, Critical Histories (1991): 3-6.

“Building a New Left: An Interview with Ernesto Laclau,” co-authored with Strategies editorial board, Strategies 1 (1988): 10-28.


Included among the awards that I have received are:

Mellon Project Grant for Associate Professors (2010-2011)

Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (2006-2007) 

Weiss/Brown Publication Subvention Award for the publication of outstanding works of scholarship thatconcern European civilization before 1700 from the Newberry Library, Chicago (2003)

National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for University Teachers  (1999-2000)

Horace T. Rackham Grant & Fellowship from the University of Michigan (1998-1999)

William T. Ludolph, Jr. Faculty Development Award, University of Michigan (1997 & 2000)

Gilbert Chinard Scholarship from the Institut Français de Washington, Chapel Hill, NC (1993)

J. Paul Getty Research Center Predoctoral Fellowship (1992-1993)

Lynn White Jr. Memorial Fellowship from the UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, (1990-1991)