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

Christopher Tomlins
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Jonathan Sheehan

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


Fulbright Fellowship, Berlin, Germany (2008-2009)
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (2014)
Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History (2017)

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
Graduate Student Researcher, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, 2016-2017

Dissertation Abstract:

The Reformation Suits: Peace, Property, and the Politics of Difference in a Sixteenth-Century German Imperial Court

My dissertation is a socio-legal history of the early Reformation in the German lands of the Holy Roman Empire. It attempts to account for the most consequential legal transformation of the early Reformation period: while 1521 marks the moment at which Lutheranism was outlawed (in the Edict of Worms), in 1555 it was recognized as a legal confession (in the Augsburg Peace). How did they get from Worms to Augsburg? How did they get from a legal regime of “heresy” to one of “religion”?

I argue that a closer look at civil litigation in this period sheds light on what this legal transformation, from Worms to Augsburg, tracks. Beginning in the 1520s, city councils and princes began to undertake changes in their domains to reform church and polity in the Lutheran manner. These localities and domains were embedded in long-standing and complex feudal, dynastic, and constitutional relations within a legally plural landscape in which “introducing the Reformation” involved violating canon law, civil law, imperial law, custom, privileges, and more. Hence, Reformation spawned litigation. My dissertation shows how litigants drew on existing law and legal culture to handle disputes arising from these reform efforts.

More specifically, it tracks the emergence of “religion” as a legal term of art. In dozens of Reformation cases, proto-Protestant litigants argued that the dispute was a “matter of religion” and therefore did not belong within the jurisdiction of the Court. But the hitherto generic term “religion” had no settled legal or theological meaning in the period, standing outside of the centuries-old jurisdictional binary of “spiritual” and “worldly.” Out of the tussle of civil disputes, “religion” rose to the surface as a technical term, so that by 1555 its meaning was contained within imperial law as a new category of legal issue. My dissertation is a history of ideas that is close to the ground, demonstrating the iterative processes through which specific disputes cumulatively gave rise to new legal terms, instruments, and techniques.