Our Students - Profiles

Sara Ludin


Year: Advanced to Candidacy (ABD) - JSP


B.A. in Philosophy, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (2008)
Coursework in Soziokulturelle Studien, Europa-Universitaet Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder, Germany (2009-2010)


Legal history; law and language; early modern Europe, especially the German lands; agonistic pluralism and difference; religion, secularism, and theories of secularization

Field Exams:
European Legal History
Law and Religion

David Lieberman
Winnifred Sullivan
Christopher Tomlins
Jonathan Sheehan

Currently: Visiting Research Fellow at Brown University, Department of History (2014 to present)


Fulbright Fellowship, Berlin, Germany (2008-2009)
Dartmouth General Fellowship, Berlin, Germany (2009-2010)
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (2014)

Employment Experiences:

Graduate Student Instructor "European Legal History," Fall 2011
Graduate Student Instructor "Comparative Perspectives on Norms and Legal Traditions," Spring 2012 and Spring 2013
Graduate Student Instructor "American Legal and Constitutional History," Fall 2013
Graduate Student Researcher "Law and Humanities Faculty Strategic Working Group," under Marianne Constable, Spring 2014

Dissertation Abstract:

A Matter of Religion? Peace, Property, and the Politics of Difference in a Sixteenth-Century German Imperial Court

This dissertation offers a genealogy of “religion” as a modern legal category by investigating how the Protestant Reformation unfolded in German civil law courtrooms between 1521 and 1555. Case files from the Imperial Chamber Court and a recently discovered cache of judges’ notes are at the heart of the project. While 1521 marks the moment at which Lutheranism was declared a heresy (in the Edict of Worms), 1555 marks the moment at which it was recognized as a legal confession (in the Augsburg Religious Peace). How did they get from Worms to Augsburg? In particular, how did civil litigation in this early Reformation period transform the ways in which the people involved spoke about the nature of the issue on their hands? How did it transform, at law, from a matter of heresy to a matter of religion? The term "religion" is central to my investigation. Over the course of this unsettled period, "religion" rises to the surface as a legal term of art. In dozens of Reformation cases, proto-Protestant litigants argued that the dispute was a "matter of religion" (Religionssache) and therefore stood outside of the jurisdiction of the Court. The elaboration of this argument, and the transformation of its reception, can tell us many things. For one, it tells us that we have not yet fully understood the ways in which the early Reformation shaped the history of this consequential category. For another, by focusing on the ways in which this new problematic--the matter of religion--became legible at law, we can understand more about the meaning of law, legal institutions, authority, peace, sovereignty, and property in this period of German history. This dissertation highlights the legal creativity and improvisation that this new agonistic difference elicited, and the ways in which legal language exceeds the intentions and varied motivations of its authors.