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History Department

Molly Lester
Assistant Professor, Medieval European History 


Ph.D. - Princeton University
M.A. - Princeton University
B.A. - University of Florida


Research Interests

I study late antique and early medieval Europe, with a focus on the history of Christianity. My research interests include heresy and orthodoxy, liturgy, early medieval canon law, the Carolingian reception of Iberian intellectual traditions, and the early medieval church and its slaves.

My current book project, The Word as Lived: The Practice of Orthodoxy in Early Medieval Iberia, c.500-711, explores ideas of Christian orthodoxy and religious practice in early medieval Iberia. By studying changes in liturgy and religious practice, and in the imagination of liturgy and religious practice, I trace changing Christian notions of access to the divine, how Christians conceptualized unity and diversity, and what it meant to practice orthodoxy in a (supposedly) entirely Christian world.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, I am on leave from the Academy as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto.

Recent Publications:

  • “The Politics of Sound and Song: Lectors and Cantors in Early Medieval Iberia,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 72, no. 3 (July 2021): 471-490 (winner of the JEH Eusebius Essay Prize, 2020)
  • “The Ties that Bind: Diagnosing Social Crisis in Julian of Toledo’s Historia Wambae,” in Historiographies and Identity II: Post-Roman Multiplicity and New Political Identities, ed. by Helmut Reimitz and Gerda Heydemann (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020), 269-298
  • Persecutio, Seductio, and the Limits of Rhetorical Intolerance in Visigothic Iberia,” in Heirs of Roman Persecution: Studies on a Christian and Para-Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity, ed. by Éric Fournier and Wendy Mayer (New York: Routledge, 2019), 213-234

Fellowships and Awards

  • 2017 Fellowship at the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities at Stanford University (declined)
  • 2017 University of Kentucky University Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined)
  • 2014-2015 Graduate Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University


My teaching interests span from late antiquity through the early and high middle ages. I am particularly interested in teaching medieval heresy and orthodoxy, the Crusades, and gender and the body. I hope to develop future sources on medieval Spain, medieval saints and society, and the Vikings.

 Courses Taught:

  • HH215: The West in the Premodern World
  • HH315: The Age of Chivalry and Faith
  • HH337x: Romans, Christians, and Barbarians
  • HH337x: The Crusades

 Honors Theses Supervised:

  • Caroline Huber, “Christian Death: A Lens to Examine Change in 13th Century Iceland” (2020)
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