Dr Sara Barker

Dr Sara Barker


After undergraduate studies at the University of Durham and an MA in Early Modern History at the University of York, I undertook my doctoral research at the University of St Andrews. From here, I went to Paris as a postdoctoral research fellow on the St Andrews French Vernacular Book Project. From 2009-2010, I was the postdoctoral research fellow on the Renaissance Cultural Crossroads project, based in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick. Before joining the School of History in Leeds in September 2014, I spent four years as Lecturer in European History 1500-1750 at the University of Exeter.

In 2012 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I'm also an elected member of the Bibliographical Society, and a member of the Society for Renaissance Studies, and the Renaissance Society of America. I am Director of the Centre for the Comparative History of Print (Centre ChoP) at Leeds, and I am series editor for Manchester University Press’s Studies in Early Modern European History. I have been on the editorial board of Library and Information History. In 2019, I joined the committee for the Society for the Study of French History. I am also the research officer for HistoryUK

In the past, I have given talks to local community groups and schools on topics such as what history at University is really like and how much early modern people knew about foreign events. I was a contributor to the BBC series 'Inside Versailles' and have contributed to the BBC Sounds podcast ‘You’re Dead to Me’. 

I am available to the media for comment on issues relating to the European Reformations, early news history, sixteenth and seventeenth-century French culture and society and the history of news and printing. 


  • Director, Centre for the Comparative History of Print
  • Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes
  • Deputy Director of Admissions

Research interests

I am interested in the cultural, social and political history of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe, particularly in the development and use of printing in times of unrest and crisis.

My early research focused on sixteenth-century France, and the processes and effects of the French Reformation, particularly how different media forms were used to explore different problems faced by the French Reformed community during the period of the Wars of Religion.

Current projects

My current research focuses on early printed news and its movement between different countries and communities, in particular translations of news pamphlets in western Europe in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I am interested in printed news before the development of the newspaper, in particular the ways in which news moved between countries, which stories were translated and why, the sources used for news reports, the formats that were used, how stories were told and translated, and the ways in which printers sold ‘foreign’ news to readers. My work combines detailed textual analysis of the translations undertaken and consideration of broader concerns about change, time, space and community identity in the post-Reformation era. As part of this, I have worked with projects like the Universal Short Title Catalogue at the University of St Andrews, and I was an Associate Member of the News Networks In Early Modern Europe Network. In 2017, I was awarded the Katherine F. Pantzer Jr Fellowship by the Bibliographical Society to investigate formatting and typographical changes in translated news pamphlets. As well as publishing several essays on related aspects, I am currently working on a monograph, provisionally titled ‘New and True? Translation, News and Pamphlets in Early Modern England and France'. 

I'm also interested in the ways that the events of the French Reformation and the French Wars of Religion were recorded, both at the time and as they passed into history. I was awarded a Huntington Fellowship in 2017-18 to investigate how the French Wars of Religion were written about in England as they were happening, comparing original compositions with translations of French works. I've also got an interest in how the French Wars of Religion have been represented in art, literature and film over time.

I also research print practices and history of the book. I received funding from the Printing Historical Society in 2016-17 to investigate how and why printers copied each others works during the French Wars of Religion. This project led to a bigger project, funded by a British Academy Small Grant, looking at printing piracy during the French Wars of Religion. In 2019, I was awarded the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies Fellowship to undertake research into the evolution of pamphlet design in early modern France. I have also edited a collection of essays on International Exchange in the European Book World with Matthew McLean at the University of St Andrews.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries from students wishing to pursue research in the following fields:

  • early modern printing, book production and use
  • early modern European cultural history
  • the cultural impact of the Reformation
  • early modern French cultural, social or political history

If you are interested in working in these or connected areas, please email me a 500 word outline of your proposed topic and a copy of your CV.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Bibliographical Society (elected)
  • Society for Renaissance Studies
  • Renaissance Society of America
  • Society for the Study of French History

Student education

I am an experienced tutor, and I teach at all levels of the undergraduate programme. I also teach at MA Level, and supervise PhD students.

I'm particularly keen on exploring ways to support all kinds of student learners, and I work a lot on researching and developing new, innovative forms of assessment. I regularly take part in external conferences about teaching History in Higher Education in the UK. I have also taken part in HEA workshops and conferences on using film and TV to teach early modern history. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was also awarded an Aspire Fellowship in 2013 at the University of Exeter. I also blog about teaching and studying history at HE History Hub.

My research informs how I teach. As someone interested in how information travels, I encourage students to think beyond the content of a source to consider how its material composition affects its reception. I make extensive use of online digital material, from sites like EEBO, Gallica, and Jocande. In lectures, I use images, music, tv clips and scenes from films to bring the early modern period into the classroom.

My overall teaching aim is to open up sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe to those who are a bit nervous about studying new areas at degree level and to give them the confidence to tackle some of the big questions that emerge from this era.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for the Comparative History of Print
  • Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>