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

Fall Semester 2022

HIST 181
Creating Latin America: A History

HIST 399
Historical Methods

LALS 181
Creating Latin America: A History