Photo of Dr Harald E. Braun

Dr Harald E. Braun MA (Heidelberg), DPhil (Oxon), FRHistS

Reader in European History (1300-1700) History


Iberian Political Thought and Culture (c.1500-c.1700)

I study late medieval and early modern political culture with an emphasis on the early modern Catholic and Iberian world. I am interested in the ways in which people perceived and sought to make sense of the complex and often confusing relationships that shaped their lives. I do so by exploring the interaction between different discourses describing reality - such as the law, reason of state, scholastic moral theology or humanist historiography - and political decision and action. My two main areas of research are the knowledge of politics and the politics of knowledge in the Spanish Habsburg monarchy in Europe, the Americas, and Asia (c.1500 - c.1750) and the relationship between violence, emotion and norms expressed in law, ethics and theology.

I have opened windows into early modern worlds through my books and journal special issues ('Contexts of Conscience', 2004; 'Juan de Mariana and the History of Spanish Political Thought', 2007; 'Theorising the Ibero-American Atlantic', 2013; 'The Transatlantic Hispanic Baroque', 2014; 'The Renaissance Conscience', 2011; 'Jesuits as Counselors', 2017) as well as peer-reviewed chapters and articles in English and Spanish. I have also led or taken a leading role in major international and interdisciplinary research projects on Spanish Atlantic history and culture such as 'Rethinking the Iberian Atlantic' ( and the major international and interdisciplinary research project 'The Hispanic Baroque' ( funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

I welcome PhD projects in medieval and early modern Iberian, Atlantic and Global History, the History of Political Thought and Culture, the History of Knowledge, and the History of Violence. I have considerable experience and an acknowledged track record of excellence as a supervisor of MA and PhD students. I have supervised PhD research on, for instance, Iberian Crusading Ideology; The College of Cardinals as a "body politic" (c.1000-c.1200); The Visual Language of Early Modern English Kingship; Gender and Kingship in Early Modern England; Revolt, Resistance and Monarchy in Colonial Mexico; and The Genoese Merchant Republic in the Mediterranean and Atlantic World.

Cultures of Political Counsel

Currently, I am researching two distinct but closely related research projects. The first project, 'Cultures of Political Counsel', is driven by a desire to explore the connections between knowledge and political expertise, education, and political decision-making in detail and within an interdisciplinary frame (conjoining history, political science, theology,anthropology and literature). The project focuses on the ways in which political counsel or advice was conceived and communicated, then received and implemented. It investigates how different fields of knowledge - for instance, law, theology, history or medicine - shaped early modern political discourse and debate as well as political careers, institutions, processes and decisions. It explores how the relationship between specific fields of knowledge and political discourse and practice varied in different contexts and changed over time. Correspondingly, I look at the education, ethos and self-perception of the political counselor.
While the early modern polity, especially the Spanish Habsburg empire, still provides the starting point of the project, its scope is widening across time and cultures and expanding into contemporary and global history. I develop this strand through regular coloquia, seminars and panels for international conferences ( RSA and SRS conferences) and publications. One recent publication relevant to this strand of my research is the special issue of the 'Journal of Jesuit Studies' dedicated to 'Jesuits as Counselors' (Spring 2017, Brill Publishers). The contributions to this special issue trace some of the ways in which early modern religious - and Jesuits in particular - acted as counselors and special advisors, whether they did so as confessors to princes, as go-betweens in colonial frontier areas, or whether they revised and re-conceptualized early modern understanding of political knowledge.

Violence, Emotion, and the Law in Early Modernity

My second project explores the relationship between the experience, practice and perception of individual and collective violence, human emotion and legal norms in the late medieval and early modern period. I look at this relationship through the two prisms of political assassination and the perpetration of massacre.I am particularly interested in the role of emotions in conceptualizing the justification and condemnation of collective violence and closely related debates about the boundaries of legitimate collective violence. I am also exploring the relationship between intellectual history (especially the history of political thought) and the history of emotions by looking at the pressures the experience and perception of violence bring to bear on the conceptualization of political norms. My case studies are mostly but not exclusively located in the early modern Iberian world - the study of the relationship between violence, emotion and the law in the early modern world necessarily melds intellectual history and global history.
I pursue this research interest, for instance, as a member of the international and interdisciplinary and international research project 'En los límites de la violencia: masacre y proyección de la Monarquías Ibéricas en los siglos modernos' (Projecto de Investicación del Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Ref. HAR2014- 52414-C2-2-P), which organizes regular meetings and colloquia (e.g. Sevilla 2015, 2016, ongoing), and fields panels at international conferences (e.g. RSA 2017).

Research Grants

Cultures of Political Counsel, c.800 - c.1800


July 2008

Cultures of Political Counsel, c.800 - c.1800


July 2007

Research Collaborations

Hispanic Baroque Project

External: University of Western Ontario

The Hispanic Baroque: Complexity in the first Atlantic culture (2007-2014): The project explores the origins, evolution, transmission and effectiveness of baroque patterns of behaviour and representation in the Hispanic world. We aim to describe the most common and resilient baroque patterns and how they evolve in different social, political, and cultural contexts, to establish their relationship with processes of social identity and organization, to analyse the technologies of culture that enabled baroque adaptability, and to determine its effectiveness based on the reappearance in Neo-baroque phenomena of the contemporary world. Through interdisciplinary collaboration we have been able to create new tools for humanities research.

The project is funded through a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) Major Collaborative Research Initiatives Grant (CAN$2.5 million). It involves 35 researchers from Canada, Spain, Mexico, Australia, England, Bolivia, and USA, who work across a wide range of disciplines (Literary Studies, History, Sociology, Fine Art, Music & Musicology, Anthropology, Geography, Computer Science, Architecture & Mathematics).

For further information, see:

History of the Book Research Group


The History of the Book Research Group brings together specialists from across the Faculty of Arts with an interest in book history in both the pre-modern and modern periods.