Dr Regina Poertner

I started out as a historian of early modern religion and its interaction with politics, law, society, and the economy, and have written monographs on the Counter-Reformation in the Habsburg monarchy (OUP 2001), and on continental influences in the constitutional debates of the British Civil Wars (Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 2009). I am currently Principal Investigator for an AHRC-funded collaborative project in early modern British history with the National Portrait Gallery London. My other main research projects deal with the economic and legal history of the Anglo-Scottish Union, c. 1750-1850, and the history of Civil Wars and their modern legacies. I would be delighted to supervise postgraduate theses that relate to any of my research interests, and am happy to advise on suitable topics. I have experience in working with the media, schools, and partner institutions in the UK, Europe, and the United States, and am interested in developing further collaborations with the public and private sector.

Positions Held:
Current: Associate Professor in History. I studied General and Medieval History, Economic History, and German, at the universities of Bochum and Oxford. I gained a First Class with Distinction for my Joint Honours MA, was elected a Rhodes Scholar in 1991, and hold a D.Phil. in Modern History from Oxford University. From 1998 to 2003, I was Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where I was editor of the journal Research on British History in the Federal Republic of Germany. From 2003-5, I was Lecturer in History at the University of Bochum. I joined Swansea in September 2005, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2010. I am a Council Member of the Society for Renaissance Studies, and a founder member of Swansea’s Centre on Digital Arts and Humanities (CODAH). In 2009, I was Helmut Coing Fellow at the German Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History in Europe and the Common Law World, and I have since retained my affiliation with the MPI.

Select recent conference papers and invited lectures:
'”Our Indies”? Conceptualising nationhood and ethnicity in the Counter-Reformation', Ioannou Centre, Oxford, 24 April 2015
'Law, finance, and landed property in eighteenth-century Scotland’, Leeds, 5 July 2013
'Landed property, enlightened reform, and the fiscal-military state in ancien régime Europe', Paris, Sorbonne-Panthéon, 2 July 2012


  1. Genealogy, public history, and cyber kinship. The Public Historian n/a(n/a), n/a-n/a.
  2. Mapping early modern centres and peripheries: 'marginality' in an east-central European context. Studia Historia 58(1), 1-14.
  3. Heresy and Literacy in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy. In Diversity and Dissent. Negotiating Religious Difference in Central Europe, 1500-1800. (pp. 173-192). New York: Berghahn Books.
  4. Defending the Catholic enterprise: National sentiment, ethnic tensions, and the Jesuit mission in seventeenth-century Hungary. In Trencsenyi, B., Zaszkaliczky, M. & Ball, T. (Ed.), Whose love of which country? Composite states, national histories and patriotic discourses in early modern East Central Europe. Leiden: Brill.
  5. Policing the Subject: Confessional Absolutism and Communal Autonomy in Eighteenth-Century Austria. Austrian History Yearbook 40, 71

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  • HI-M80 Directed Reading in History

    Under the guidance of an expert supervisor, students analyse developments in research and historiography relating to a topic in History which they choose from a wide range of options.

  • HIH118 Early Modern World, 1500-1800

    In 1500, European exploration and colonisation of the rest of the world was only in its infancy. America, two continents North and South, had been unknown to Europeans until just eight years previously. Most of it was still unmapped by Europeans, as were large parts of the rest of the world. By 1800, on the other hand, it was possible to construct a recognisable modern version of a world map. Europeans had explored, colonised, and resettled huge swathes of America in the first instances. They had killed or displaced millions of Native Americans in the process, wiping out whole civilisations, and they had enslaved 12 million or more Africans in that same process, inflicting immense damage on African societies. Europeans were in the early stages of colonising large parts of Africa and Asia too by 1800. And yet, advances in science had transformed human understanding of the universe, of the world, and indeed of ourselves. This was connected through the Renaissance in art, culture, and politics as well as science, to enormous changes in the structure of polities and societies. The early modern era perhaps saw the invention not only of modern empires, but of large, centralised modern states. Also, the Renaissance and then Enlightenment changed the way people and states interacted. Arguably, the early modern period represents the transition period between an era of medieval hierarchy and the origins of modern social and political democracy. Essentially, the aim of the module, through your lectures, seminars, and independent reading and thinking, is to give you a sense of the connections between these places and their histories, highlighting that the increasing inter-connection between them is itself a feature of the early modern period. You¿ll also get a broad sense of how the world as a whole changed between 1500 and 1800.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH237 The Practice of History

    The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization. At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.

  • HIH246 The Enlightenment and the Eighteenth-Century World

    'The Enlightenment' is a broad term denoting the development of new ideas in the late 17th to late 18th centuries on what it means to be human, on society, human progress, social and economic change, and the natural world. Enlightened belief in the power of reason was the starting point for a new form of 'rational' and 'scientific' inquiry into all aspects of human activity and the natural environment. Enlightenment meant finding out how societies needed to change to move forward and achieve the greatest possible happiness and prosperity for the greatest number of the population. Reforms and innovative ideas were presented to the public by writers, philosophers, government officials and lawyers, artists and architects. In the early stages, most 'enlightened' people were male, white, and European. However, in the second half of the 18th C, women, European colonists, and native colonial populations increasingly played a part by appropriating and radicalizing key concepts such as liberty, justice, and natural rights. This module will look at what the Enlightenment was, what it meant in practice for European and colonial societies, and where it fell victim to its own limitations. Subjects typically covered include: war and society, culture, arts, travel, communication and sociability, legal reform, social philosophy, ideas on race, the emergence of modern natural sciences and medicine, economic thought, the situation of minorities.

  • HIH3300 History Dissertation

    The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.

  • HIH396 From Machiavelli to Mussolini: Government and society in Western political thought

    This module offers a guide to the history of ideas on government and society which continue to influence political thought and action in the 21st century. The lectures will start by looking at the origins of democratic thinking in Athens, 5th Century BC, and will then give a brief account of medieval political thought and the impact of Christian-Muslim encounters. The main part of the course will deal with modern ideas on government as developed by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, the political authors of the Enlightenment and American Revolution, and Marx and Lenin. The final part will focus on the Italian and German national socialists' assault on the liberal state and Western democratic tradition. Students will have the opportunity to read and discuss a representative selection from the 'classics' of Western political thought and reflect on their contemporary political relevance. As will be shown, some of today's best-known early modern texts on the nature of state power were misinterpreted by contemporaries and brought into disrepute by fascist ideologues who claimed them in defence of dictatorship.


  • The Rational Apocalypse of Latitudinarians in Restoration England. (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof John Spurr
  • Redeeming Death: Mortality, Portraiture and the Quest for Salvation in Tudor England and Wales (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof John Spurr
  • Untitled (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Stefan Halikowski-Smith

Key Grants and Projects

  • AHRC CDP 2016 - 2019

    'Redeeming death: mortality, portraiture, and the quest for salvation in Tudor England and Wales', with Dr Tarnya Cooper, Chief Curator, National Portrait Gallery London. Professor John Spurr, Swansea, AHRC £ 68,648