Allyson M. Poska, Professor of History, earned a Ph.D. (1992) from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. (1986) in history from Brown University, after receiving a B.A. (1985) in international studies from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Poska is the author of Regulating the People: The Catholic Reformation in Seventeenth Century Spain (1998) and Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain (2006), as well as co-author of Women and Gender in the Western Past (2006).
Dr. Poska was the recipient of a 2000-01 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a project on women in northern Spain. Her book Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain was awarded the Roland H. Bainton Prize as the best book in early modern history in 2006. In 2007, she was the recipient of a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies for a project on transatlantic migration.
Dr. Poska is an expert on women’s history, colonial Latin American history, and the history of early modern Europe, especially early modern Spain.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Latin American History
Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (professional)
Granted for a project on women in northern Spain
Roland H. Bainton Prize (professional)
Her book Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain was awarded the Roland H. Bainton Prize as the best book in early modern history in 2006.
Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (professional)
Received for a project on transatlantic migration.
Poska Publishes New Book (professional)
Allyson Poska, professor of history and program chair of Women's and Gender Studies, has published a new book, "Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire" (University of New Mexico Press, 2016).
University of Minnesota: Ph.D., History 1992
Brown University: M.A., History 1986
Johns Hopkins University: B.A., International Studies 1985
- Sixteenth Century Society
- Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies
- Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
Media Appearances (5)
Archaeological evidence shows that vitamin C deficiency wiped out an entire town
Food News online
Historian Allyson Poska, from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, commented, “These are people who plan to come and make their settlement just like Spain. They dug in their heels and said, ‘I’m only going to eat what I know,’ just like a lot of people. And they paid the price.”
Book brief: UMW history professor wins book prize
The Free Lance-Star print
Allyson M. Poska, University of Mary Washington professor of history, recently won the 2016 best book prize from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women for “Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire.”
Study: Crew that sailed with Columbus suffered scurvy
USA Today online
"These are people who plan to come and make their settlement just like Spain," says historian Allyson Poska of the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. "They dug in their heels and said, 'I'm only going to eat what I know,' just like a lot of people. And they paid the price."...
Poska to Present Lansdowne Lecture
Eagle Eye online
Allyson M. Poska, professor of history and program chair of women’s and gender studies, will give a presentation for the annual Lansdowne Lectures at the University of Victoria on Thursday, Jan. 30. The lecture, History, the Humanities, and the Promise of Possibilities, discusses the humanities as the foundation of intellectual innovation...
Interview with Allyson M. Poska
History Matters online
I was an international affairs major and didn’t even consider a career in history until I handed one of my history professors my law school recommendation forms. He and I had done an independent study together and were working on a potential publication. Working on the project was so exciting. He was enthusiastic and the material was cool. I learned that there was a whole world of thrilling ideas out there. He suggested that I not go to law school, but that I become a historian. It was like the clouds opening up and the angels singing!
In deciding to go to graduate school, I came to understand that history is the tool that I use to understand the world and that it is always exciting to think about learning more. I changed my mind that instant and never regretted a moment. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
ABSTRACT: Atlantic history has become fashionable as a way of linking the histories of Europe and the Americas. However, much work in Atlantic history does little to challenge the national biases of traditional colonial and imperial history. This article argues that gender provides an important conceptual tool for a trans-imperial and comparative exploration, just as it provided important conceptual structures for all the peoples of the Atlantic world. An examination of the research on two gendered issues – work, and family and sexuality – demonstrates that while Europeans attempted to impose their ideas on the various societies that they encountered in Africa and the Americas, such attempts were rarely successful. Gender not only provides the basis for a trans-imperial analysis of the Atlantic world but also enables us to reorient our scholarly perspective in the Atlantic, highlighting the agency of non-European peoples and exposing the limits of European patriarchy.
ABSTRACT: From 1778 to 1784, in an attempt to colonise Patagonia, the Spanish Crown transported more than 1,900 peasants from northern Spain to the Río de la Plata. Based on Enlightenment ideas about economy and society, the Crown used the colonisation scheme to assert control over some of its most marginal subjects. In the hope of transforming these peasants from poverty-stricken burdens on society into filial agents of empire, the Crown invested heavily in the health and wellbeing of the colonising mothers and children, and clearly established the monarchy as a benevolently powerful paternal authority.
ABSTRACT: For decades, scholars have emphasized the importance of female chastity in early modern Spanish society. Early modern thinkers enthusiastically promoted the notion in their works, Mediterranean anthropologists formulated a cultural model around female chastity through their studies, and early modern historians followed suit in their examinations of the Catholic Reformation. However, this analysis of recent works on gender and the extensive demographic literature on early modern Spain reveals that there is little evidence that female chastity was a priority for most Spaniards. Instead, demography, economy, class, and the influence of regional cultures may have had more of an impact on the development of sexual mores than any overarching cultural program.
ABSTRACT: Demographic studies indicate that elderly women were a prominent part of early modern rural society. Particularly in northwestern Spain, where partible inheritance left women in control of significant property, older women played a critical role in determining not only their own elder care but intergenerational relationships and family economies as well. An examination of retirement contracts from the region of Galicia in northwestern Spain indicates that peasant women used their familial authority and wealth to ensure that they and their families would be properly cared for as they aged.
ABSTRACT: In order to assert greater control over its parishioners, the Catholic Reformation Church in the wake of the Council of Trent (147-1563) attempted to bring relationships, especially those involving sexual relations, under its purview. This process involved the redefinition of marriage rituals, especially in terms of premarital sexual relations and the legitimization of marriage promises by a priest. The Council also strongly reiterated Church doctrine concerning the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. However, parishioners often proved to have little enthusiasm for such ecclesiastical regulation. I examined a variety of parish marriage records from 1550 to 1700 from the diocese of Ourense, a rural diocese in Galicia in northwestern Spain. A close look reveals that, despite the injunctions of the Council of Trent, not all promises of marriage and sexual activity led to marriage principally because local religious culture tolerated extra-marital sexuality. Moreover, from time to time even married couples separated and began new lives with new partners despite the ecclesiastical prohibitions. Contrary to historians' claims about the permanence of marriage in early modern Europe, the peasants of northwestern Spain maintained their traditional, more flexible notions of marriage throughout the seventeenth century.