Welcoming New Faculty: Dr. Michelle Armstrong-Partida

In the Fall of 2019 the History Department welcomed four new faculty members, including Associate Professor Michelle Armstrong-Partida. Dr. Armstrong-Partida received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and joins the Emory History Department from the University of Texas El Paso. Prior to her tenure at UTEP, she held the position of American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow in the Emory History Department.


Armstrong-Partida is a historian of late medieval European history with specializations in the study of gender and sexuality, women’s history, and the sociocultural interactions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Iberia and the Mediterranean. Much of her research focuses on the intersection of masculinity, violence, the sexual practice of concubinage, and Mediterranean social customs. Cornell UP published Armstrong-Partida’s first book, Defiant Priests: Domestic Unions, Violence, and Clerical Masculinity in Fourteenth-Century Catalunya, in 2017. The project investigates how long-standing concubinous unions and clerical violence shaped the masculinity of priests two hundred years after canon law prohibited the most visible markers of adult masculinity for men, such as wives, children, and weapons. This book offers an alternative narrative to the effects of the eleventh-century reform movement that imposed celibacy on clergymen in the major orders and challenges the common assertion that celibacy was the defining characteristic of the medieval priesthood. Defiant Priests received three book awards from the Society for Medievalist Feminist Scholarship, the American Historical Association, and the American Catholic Historical Association.

Armstrong-Partida has recently received support from the Institute for Advanced Study (2018-2019) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (2019-2020) for her current book project, titled On the Margins of Marriage. This comparative study of concubinous unions among the peasantry, urban poor, and merchant class across the late medieval Mediterranean reveals how a concubinary relationship could be an important stage of life for both men and women as they transitioned into and out of marriage. The ambitious study is based on archival research in Barcelona and Valencia, Rome, Venice, Lucca, Pisa, and Palermo, as well as Marseille, Perpignan, and Toulouse. The research exposes the significant population of enslaved, single, married women, and widows, who by circumstance or choice, ended up in an informal union to weave the experiences of women at the lowest levels of society into an account of medieval people who remained on the margins of marriage.

Articles written by Armstrong-Partida have appeared in journals such as Gender & History, Journal of the History of Sexuality, and Cahiers de Fanjeaux (among others). She is also the co-editor, along with Alexandra Guerson and Dana Wessell-Lightfoot, of Women & Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia (University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming spring 2020). Armstrong-Partida has taught a range of graduate and undergraduate courses at Emory and UTEP, including “Coexistence & Intolerance: Christians, Jews, & Muslims in Premodern Europe,” “History of Women: Gender & Sexuality in Premodern Europe,” and “Religion, Sex, & Violence in Premodern Europe.”