Lehfeldt, Elizabeth A. 1966-

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Lehfeldt, Elizabeth A. 1966-


Born January 29, 1966. Education: Indiana University, Ph.D.


Office—History Department, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-2214. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, writer, and editor. Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, associate professor and interim director of general education, beginning 1995.


(Editor and author of introduction) The Black Death, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.

Religious Women in Golden Age Spain: The Permeable Cloister, Ashgate (Burlington, VT), 2005.

Author of book reviews, including reviews for H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.


Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt is a historian whose interests focus on early modern European history, primarily European social history, women's history, and Spanish history. She is the editor of The Black Death, which contains a series of essays on the Black Death organized by cultural, municipal, and medical reactions to the disease. Section one focuses on Europe before the Black Death arrived, while part two focuses on the medical and epidemiological aspects of the plague. In part three, essayists address the religious and cultural responses to the plague. Part four looks at the impact of the Black Death on organizations, while part five explores its socioeconomic impact. According to the publishers, this is the first text to contain secondary sources on the Black Death.

The author's book Religious Women in Golden Age Spain: The Permeable Cloister was called "a thoughtful, extended essay on two hundred years of convents in Spain" by Church History contributor William A. Christian, Jr. Published in 2005, Religious Women in Golden Age Spain uses a chronological and conceptual framework covering the period from 1450 to 1650 as the author identifies and analyzes the role of nuns and convents in the late medieval and early modern Spanish society. Although ostensibly set apart from the day-to-day realities of the world, the convents and nuns, according to the author, were actually a tangible presence in the society around them and were constantly dealing with worldly preoccupations, from the management of property to lawsuits.

Writing in the book's introduction, the author notes that the book's primary concern is "the conflict between a male ecclesiastical hierarchy and the women in its care—particularly during periods of reform and change, the relative autonomy of female religious communities in the administration of finances and property and in defining their monastic lifestyle, and the significant investment that towns have in ‘their’ convents." The author goes on in her introduction to write that "convents were an integral part of the religious and social agenda of the day," adding: "This book then seeks to identify and analyze the place of convents in the religious geography and social landscape of early modern Spain."

In her book, Lehfeldt notes that conflict arose because of the nuns' ongoing interaction with the world outside of the convent. The author writes in her introduction: "As institutions, convents constantly blurred sacred and secular interests. Administrating and managing their estates was a necessity. Furthermore, through their economic contacts with the secular world, the convents established the financial wherewithal necessary to dedicate themselves to the devotional responsibilities with which secular society had entrusted them. Nuns, for their part, expressed no sense of inconsistency between a life lived within the cloister and ties to property that required them to exercise a very temporal identity."

In the first part of the book, the author focuses on exploring the convents' and nuns' ties to the secular community both economically and spiritually. She then goes on to discuss how the Church instituted an ongoing effort to enclose, or isolate more completely from the community, the nuns and the convents, especially through a mandate from the Council of Trent in 1562 that ordered cloistering for certain nuns and convents. The author also examines how women outside of the convent interacted with the nuns, from lay sisters and servants to renters.

Noting that he would have liked to have read more about the personal histories of some of the nuns, Church History contributor William A. Christian, Jr., went on to write in the same review: "This study is nevertheless handy as a compact overview of Spanish convents in the early modern period; it shows the wide variety of options for women as religious, and it details the intermittent attempts to control their communities on the part of the monarchy and some members of the religious hierarchy." Alison Weber wrote in the Renaissance Quarterly: "Lehfeldt's meticulously researched study places female monasticism within a chronological framework broad enough to reveal the perennial tensions between societies' desire for hermetic sacred spaces and access to them. Religious Women in Golden Age Spain instructively transcends the temptation to equate spatial segregation with powerlessness."



Lehfeldt, Elizabeth A., Religious Women in Golden Age Spain: The Permeable Cloister, Ashgate (Burlington, VT), 2005.


Church History, September, 2006, William A. Christian, Jr., review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 667.

English Historical Review, June, 2006, Helen Rawlings, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 926.

History, January, 2007, Mary Laven, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, pp. 114-115.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 24.

Renaissance Quarterly, summer, 2006, Alison Weber, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 548.

Sixteenth Century Journal, winter, 2006, Ruth MacKay, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 1084.

Women's History Review, April, 2007, Sarah Bastow, review of Religious Women in Golden Age Spain, p. 271.


Cleveland State University Department of History Web site,http://www.csuohio.edu/history/ (May 18, 2008), faculty profile of author.

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