Miles Pattenden

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline History
Tutorial Fellow and Lecturer at University of Oxford

Research project

The Electoral Politics of the Early Modern Papacy, 1450-1700


In the early modern period – as perhaps still now – the death of a pope was the single most important event in the Roman political calendar. Though it occurred only at irregular intervals and its timing was rarely discoverable in advance, it triggered a sequence of negotiations, decisions, and events that, for their scale and impact, lacked any obvious parallel elsewhere in Europe. For a brief (or sometimes not so brief) moment, the norms of political and social activity in the city were suspended and papal subjects and subordinates were forced to reconcile themselves with the disappearance of the figure whose authority generated the institutional framework for their lives and to reaffirm the legitimacy of the established order by refilling the position he had vacated. The record of how they set about this provides a unique opportunity to examine not only the various aspirations they held for papacy at this crucial transformative period in its history but also how they represented it to each other and the world at large. 

This project is the most comprehensive and detailed study of that record to date, not only presenting it for the first time in a single place, but also harnessing it to examine the wider political culture of early modern Rome. Covering the centuries after the papacy’s return to Rome in 1420 (a watershed moment after which the outcomes of papal elections ceased to be routinely disputed), it evaluates how the elite of the Catholic Church managed the political risk associated with conclaves and the long-term effects of their behaviour on the papacy’s robustness as an institution of government. Given contemporary concerns about political and financial systems within Europe today, it has strong potential to contribute to broader debates about what causes institutional fragility and how it can be guarded against.



Miles Pattenden has previously been Tutorial Fellow at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford and also taught at University College Cork. He studied at the University of Cambridge and holds a Master from the University of Toronto and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford.

Selected publications


Pius IV and the Fall of the Carafa: Nepotism and Papal Authority in Counter-Reformation Rome, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013.


‘The Conclaves of 1590-92: An Electoral Crisis of the Early Modern Papacy?’, Sixteenth Century Journal, vol.44, forthcoming 2013.


‘Governor and Government in Sixteenth-Century Rome’, Papers of the British School at Rome, vol.77, 2009, pp.257-72.


‘The Canonisation of Clare of Assisi and Early Franciscan History’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol.59, 2008, pp.208-226.


junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Anthropology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Comparative Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Cultural Studies