JSP Student Profile

Sarah Monira Ludin


Year: Doctorate in JSP


B.A. in Philosophy, Dartmouth College, cum laude


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
Christopher Tomlins
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Jonathan Sheehan

Website: http://www.sarahludin.com


Fulbright Fellowship, Berlin, Germany (2008-2009)
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (2014)
Visiting Research Fellow at Brown University, Department of History (2014 to 2017)
Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History (2017)

Employment Experiences:

Graduate Student Researcher, Law and Humanities Faculty Strategic Working Group, UC Berkeley Spring 2014
Graduate Student Researcher, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, 2016-2017

Academic 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 Instructor "Foundations of Legal Studies," Summer 2016

Dissertation Abstract:

The Reformation Suits: Litigation as Constitution-Making in a German Imperial Court, 1521-1555

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 the Empire 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 is key to understanding this transformation. Beginning in the 1520s, city councils and princes began to undertake changes in their domains to reform church and polity in the evangelical 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. Thus, Reformation spawned litigation. The case files of this litigation is at the center of the project.

My dissertation shows how experimental uses of mundane, formulaic legal instruments of Roman law civil procedure operated as unexpected proxies for the most pressing constitutional questions of the early Reformation. Litigants and lawyers inserted claims, advanced possibilities, and manufactured precedents that were met variously with opposition, confusion, or a wait-and-see attitude, yet became indirectly consequential in shaping the course of both litigation in an individual case and constitutional understandings.

Furthermore, I offer an account of the Reformation cases—based on the details of litigation itself, rather than the political debates surrounding them—as a pre-history to the Augsburg Religion-Peace of 1555. In particular, I focus on the category “a matter of religion.” Historians have long identified the Reformation as one of the key intellectual contexts in which “religion” gained its modern definition. Often, they point to the touchstone settlement of 1555, in which religion was, for the first time, understood as a legal construct. I show that in dozens of Reformation cases, proto-Protestant litigants argued that a given property, jurisdiction, or land-peace dispute was a “matter of religion” (Religionssache) and therefore did not belong within the jurisdiction of the Court. But the sources reveal that in the sixteenth century, notwithstanding the use of ‘religion’ in Roman law sources, the term was used generically, standing outside of the centuries-old jurisdictional binary of ‘spiritual’ and ‘worldly.’ It was the intention of the proto-Protestants in saying that something was “a matter of religion” to place it in a jurisdictional no-man’s-land—the nature of the dispute belonging properly to a free Christian Council, rather than a civil law or canon law court. Out of the tussle of these inconclusive 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, such that any matter governed by the terms of the Augsburg Religion-Peace was a “matter of religion.”