International conference will celebrate the careers of professors Thomas and Elizabeth Cohen

Thomas and Elizabeth Cohen

A three-day international conference, Making Stories in the Early Modern World, will take place at York University and the Centre for Reformation & Renaissance Studies (CRRS) at Victoria College from Nov. 1 to 3. This event will celebrate the careers of Elizabeth (Libby) Cohen and Thomas (Tom) Cohen, two distinguished historians of Renaissance Italy and professors in the departments of History and Humanities in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University.

Libby Cohen

Over 40 years, the Cohens have played a crucial role in shaping the field of early modern history by focusing on the stories of ordinary and non-elite individuals; on women, gender and the marginalized; and on oral culture, ritual and community. The Cohens’ collective work has resulted in seven books and more than 50 articles and book chapters. They have been honoured with numerous international prizes and awards, including the prestigious American Historical Association Marraro Prize for the best book in Italian history, while in 2018 they jointly held the Robert Lehman Distinguished Visiting Professor position at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies.

The Cohens’ contributions to York University and its students are equally impressive. They have served on countless committees and advisory boards at the departmental, faculty and university levels. Additionally, they have mentored a small army of graduate students: 21 master’s students and 10 PhD students in the departments of History, Humanities and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Tom Cohen

They have focused on the importance of stories in every aspect of their innovative research and pedagogy, inspring a generation of scholars. Making Stories in the Early Modern World brings together senior and junior scholars to explore local and global developments in storytelling, narrativity, constructions of identity, community and alterity across geographies, cultures and faiths. More than 60 international speakers will gather at York University and the CRRS. The truly interdisciplinary group is comprised of historians, literary scholars, historians of art, material culture and of music, and historians of religion. Keynote addresses will be given by noted scholars Natalie Zemon Davis (University of Toronto), Laurie Nussdorfer (Wesleyan University), Edward Muir (Northwestern University) and Leslie Peirce (New York University).

Together, presenters and attendees will explore how early modern people from diverse backgrounds and parts of the world employed narratives to construct, negotiate, and challenge identity, community and space in various socio-historical contexts. Presenters will scrutinize archives, texts and objects as sites of power, and problematize the methodologies of microhistory as they strive to connect past stories to contemporary issues. These opportunities for interdisciplinary and international knowledge exchange offer a fitting tribute to the Cohens. Their substantial contributions have made York University, the CRRS, and Toronto more broadly a leading international centre for the study of the Renaissance and early modern world.

Making Stories has been co-organized by the following early modern historians: Professor Margaret Schotte (York University), Professor John Christopoulos (UBC) and Professor John Hunt (Utah Valley University).

The conference is sponsored by: LA&PS; the departments of History and Humanities; the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics; the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation; the Faculty of Graduate Studies; and Vanier College. Other sponsors include the Centre for Reformation & Renaissance Studies, and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Full schedule, details and registration are available at