Karen Melvin

Thomas Hedley Reynolds Professor of History



Pettengill Hall, Room 123

Latin American and Latinx Studies

Pettengill Hall, Room 123



B.A., Boston University; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley


I’m a scholar of colonial Mexico and the early modern Catholic world. I’m currently writing a book about two of the first international charities: rescuing Christian captives from North Africa and maintaining a Catholic presence in the Holy Land. During the seventeenth through early-nineteenth centuries, New Spain provided more funds for these projects than anywhere else in the world. I want to know why.

My publications include:

  • Building Colonial Cities of God: Mendicant Orders and Urban Culture in New Spain, 1570-1800. Stanford University Press, 2012
  •  Imagining Histories of Colonial Latin America: Essays on Methods and Practice. Co-edited with Sylvia Sellers-García, University of New Mexico Press, 2017
  • Other articles and book chapters can be found here.
  • I’m also a principal investigator for Reading the Inquisition, a collaborative digital history project that presents inquisition cases as original documents, Spanish transcriptions, and English translations.



My teaching encompasses a wide range of Latin America’s history from Aztecs to the present day, including courses open to all students:

HIST/LALS 181 Creating Latin America: A broad overview Latin America from indigenous societies before the arrival of Europeans through 21st-century globalization.

HIST/LALS 270 The Spanish Empire: From Madrid to Manila: A history of early globalization through the lens of the first global empire.

HIST/LALS 272: The Mexican Revolution: Students debate issues from the first major social revolution of the 20th-century.

HIST/LALS 279: The Age of Revolutions: Latin American Edition: Investigates challenges to colonial rule from the Tupac Amaru revolt through Independence.

HIST/LALS s29: Montezuma’s Mexico: Aztecs and their World: What was life like for people in the Aztec empire? What did they believe about how the cosmos worked?          

 I also offer smaller seminar classes for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, including:

HIST/LALS/REL 301Y: The Spanish Inquisition: Students use Inquisition cases—including for blasphemy, heresy, and witchcraft—to better understand people and societies of Spain and New Spain.

Curriculum Vitae


Current Courses

Winter Semester 2023

HIST 270 / LALS 270
The Spanish Empire: From Madrid to Manila

HIST 301W / LALS 301W
Latin America during the Cold War