Dr. Sara Beam

Dr. Sara Beam
Office: Cle B205

BA (McGill), MA, PhD (Berkeley)

Area of expertise

Early Modern European History, Social and Cultural History, Criminal Justice, Gender History

Office Hours

Spring 2024: Friday 1:00 - 3:00 on Zoom


Born and raised in Toronto, I have since lived in Switzerland, France, India, Japan and the United States. Along the way, I graduated with a B.A. from McGill University in 1990 and a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999. I began teaching at the University of Victoria in 2002.

Curriculum Vitae

Faces of UVic Research video

UVic Expertise Database Profile

Selected publications


The Trial of Jeanne Catherine Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France







The Trial of Jeanne Catherine: Infanticide in Early Modern Geneva
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021).

Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007).

Laughing Matters Secondary Bibliography  *Winner of the 2008 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize for History/Theology awarded by the Sixteenth Century Society and shortlisted for the Wallace Ferguson Prize for best non-Canadian History Prize, Canadian Historical Association.

Edited Works:

Guest editor with Megan Armstrong of the forum “Communities and Religious Identity in the Early Modern Francophone World,” French Historical Studies 40:3 (2017): 381-473.

Recent Articles:

“Turning a Blind Eye: Infanticide and Missing Babies in Seventeenth-century Geneva,” Law and History Review 39 no. 2 (May 2021): 255-276

“Torture and Punishment in Reformation Geneva,” in Companion to the Reformation in Geneva. Edited by Jon Balserak. (Leiden: Brill, 2021), 322-344

“Violence and Justice in Europe: Punishment, Torture and Execution,” Cambridge World History of Violence. Edited by Robert Antony, Stuart Carroll, Caroline Dodds Pennock. Vol. 3, ch. 20. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, 389-407. 

“Gender and the Prosecution of Adultery in Geneva, 1550-1700,” in Women’s Criminality in Europe, 1600-1914. Edited by Manon van de Heijden, Marion Pluskota and Sanne Muurling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, 91-113.

Spanish translation of 2017 “Consistories and Civil Authorities” as “Consistorios y los autoridades civiles” in Fe y castigo en la Europa del Antiguo Régimen. Translated by Doris Moreno. Edited by Gretchen Starr-Lebeau and Charles Parker. Madrid: Catedra, 2020, 88-99.

 “Consistories and Civil Authorities,” in Judging Faith/Punishing Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World. Edited by Gretchen Starr-Lebeau and Charles Parker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, 66-76.

 “Local Officials and Torture in Seventeenth-century Bordeaux,” in Social Relations, Politics and Power in Early Modern France. Robert Descimon and the Historian’s Craft. Edited by Barbara B. Diefendorf and Michael Wolfe. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2016, 61-86.

“Adultère, indices médicaux et recul de la torture à Genève (XVIIe siècle),” Genre et histoire 16 (Fall 2015).

“Calvinist Comedie and Conversion during the French Reformation: La comedie du Pape malade (1561) and La comedie du Monde malade et mal pense (1568),” in French Renaissance and Baroque Drama: Text, Performance and Theory. Edited by Michael Meere. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2015, 63-82.

“Rites of Torture in Reformation Geneva,” Past and Present (2012) n. 214, supplement 7, Ritual and Violence: Natalie Zemon Davis and Early Modern France, 197-219.


HSTR 120 History of Human Rights
HSTR 240A Europe, Renaissance to the French Revolution
HSTR 337A The Birth of the Renaissance in Itlay
HSTR 337B The Religious Reformations of the 16th Century
HSTR 346 France from the Renaissance to Louis XIV
HSTR 442 Criminality and Violence in Europe, 1400 - 1800
HSTR 496 Approaches to History
HSTR 504 Field in European history

Topics include:

  • History of Sex and Violence from Medieval Times to the Present
  • Religion and the State in Europe, 1400-1700

Grad students

Axel Schoeber, PhD, “Gerard Roussel: An Irenic Religious Change Agent”

Justine Semmens, PhD (ongoing), “The Changing Dynamics of Sexual Deviance in Counter-Reformation France, 1550-1650”

Caitlin Copage, MA, “The Violence of Innocents: Children in the Wars of Religion in France”

Lisa Kuncewicz, MA, “'In this Book There is Nothing of Ours': Women's Spiritual Biographies in Seventeenth-Century France"

Meaghan Trewin, MA,  “Cuisine, Customs and Character : Culinary Tradition and Innovation in Eighteenth-Century France”

Axel Schoeber, MA, “The Aspiration of the Cercle de Meaux in the 1520s”

Sheena Sommers, MA, “Infanticide Trials at the Old Bailey”

Meghan Kort, MA (ongoing), “Girlhood in Seventeenth-century France”