Susan Longfield Karr

Susan Longfield Karr , PHD

Assoc Professor

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of History

Professional Summary

Above all, my teaching and research focus on state- and empire-state formation and the emergence of the so-called modern rule of law within communities (constitutions) and between them (international law) from about the 15th century to the present. In addition to offering courses on the European Renaissance, Early Modern France, and Britain, I also teach various courses that explore the history and development of rights—natural, civil, and human--from the early modern to the modern era. However,  instead of approaching the history of rights as a history of progress, I explore it as a history of conflict. In so doing, I pay particular attention to the meaning and significance of words within cultural, political, and legal frameworks. For example, my current research project focuses on how languages of tolerance, which we tend to equate with acceptance, were often used in the early modern era to justify empire abroad and construct gradations of citizenship and inequality at home. 


Ph.D.: University of Chicago (Early Modern Europe; Political and Legal Thought)

M.A.: University of Chicago (Early Modern Europe; Political and Legal Thought)

B.A. : University of Kanas (European Intellectual History)

Research and Practice Interests

Research and teaching areas include:

  • The history and development of Rights (Natural, Civic, & Human).
  • The history and development of International law.
  • The History of European legal traditions, jurisprudence, and criminal punishment.
  • The history of political and legal thought (ancient, medieval, and modern).
  • European Renaissance
  • Early Modern Europe 


Positions and Work Experience

- Assistant Professor (TT); Director of Undergraduate Studies History, University of Cincinnati,

- Assistant Professor, Educator; Director of Undergraduate Advising History,

- Lecturer, Department of Justice, Law and Society. American University,

- Senior Lecturer/Course Developer. College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, Norwich University,

- Mellon Fellow in Law and Humanities/Associate Research Scholar. Program in Law and Public Affairs. Princeton University.,

- Assistant Lecturer, University Center for Humane Values. Princeton University.,

- Lecturer, Graham School of General Studies. University of Chicago. ,

- Max Weber Postdoctoral Research Fellow. European University Institute,

Abbreviated Publications

Book Chapter

“Redefining Jus to Restore Justice: The Centrality of Jus Gentium in Humanist Jurisprudence,” in Reassessing Legal Humanism and its Claims: Petere Fontes? Paul du Plessis and John W Cairns, editors. (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2015).

“ ‘The Law of Nations is Common to All Mankind’: Jus Gentium in
Humanist Jurisprudence,” in Morality and Responsibility of Rulers:
European and Chinese Origins of a Rule of Law as Justice for World
Order edited by Janne Nijman and Anthony Carty (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2018). doi:


Jus Gentium in Humanist Jurisprudence, (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2022).

This book explores how the fathers of humanist jurisprudence contributed to the emergence of ius gentium as the common law not simply of Europe, but of all mankind, in the early sixteenth century. They did so by so thoroughly reinterpreting terms, idioms, and categories preserved within Justinian’s Digest that they fundamentally transformed them to address sources and limits of political and legal authority in the broader context of early-modern state formation. In the process, they offered theories of universal jurisprudence grounded in the attributes and actions of man and states that anticipated some of the most salient features of modern sovereignty and rights. Theories that we tend to identify with post-Reformation political and legal thought, rather than the early Renaissance.

Courses Taught

HIST 1003: World History to 1450

HIST 1018: The US Constitution in Historical Perspective (New Course)

HIST 2006: History of France 1450-1789

HIST 2090: Pirates, Brigands, and Tyrants: The Rule of Law Under Siege

HIST 2100: History of Western Legal Traditions

HIST 2110: History Out There: Careers for History Majors

HIST 3000: Introduction to Historical Thought and Methods

HIST 3042: Rulers Rebels & Rights: Early Modern Britain 1485-1689

HIST 3056: European Renaissance: Power, Politics, & Persuasion

HIST 3102: Great Trials in History

HIST 4002: From Natural Law to Human Rights? History of the Western Natural Law and Natural Rights Traditions Up to the French Revolution

HIST 4003: Science Technology, & the Humanities

HIST 4115: Human Rights in History

HIST 5000: History Research Seminar

HIST 7031: European History Graduate Seminar

HIST 7060: Graduate Methods Seminar

HIST 8025: Graduate Readings in Human Rights

HIST 8045: Graduate Readings in European Renaissance

HIST 8073: Graduate Teaching Practicum