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Karl Shoemaker Shoemaker
Associate Professor

Email: kbshoemaker@wisc.edu
Phone: (608)263-1830
Office: 4109 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4005 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours: TBA

Education: PhD: University of California, Berkeley; JD: Cumberland School of Law; BA: Liberty University

Research Specialization:

I am a medievalist and a legal historian. I am particularly interested in the history of criminal law and the historical development of legal and political institutions concerned with punishment, dispute settlement, and social control in the high and late middle ages. My research also ranges more broadly into the development of the western legal tradition, with an eye toward comparing developments in medieval English and Roman-canon law. My first book examines the development and eventual abolition of sanctuary rights for fugitive criminals across medieval English, Roman, and canon law traditions. I am currently working on a monograph that examines the legal career of the devil in the late middle ages.

I teach a upper level undergraduate and graduate history courses. I also teach undergraduate courses in the Legal Studies Program and the Sociology Department, and occasionally in the Law School

Selected Publications:

Books and edited collections:

  • Sanctuary and Crime in the Middle Ages, 400-1500. (Fordham University Press, spring 2010).
  • Who Deserves to Die?: Constructing the Executable Subject (co-edited with Austin Sarat) (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010)


  • “The Medieval Origins of the Supreme Court's Prohibition on Executing the Insane,” in Who Deserves to Die?: Constructing the Executable Subject, eds. Austin Sarat and Karl Shoemaker (University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2010)
  • “Punishment,” in Law and the Humanities, eds. Austin Sarat, Matthew Anderson, and Catherine O. Frank (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
  • (with William J. Courtenay) “The Tears of Nicholas: Simony and Perjury by a Parisian Master of Theology in the Fourteenth Century,” 83 Speculum 603-628 (2008)
  • “Revenge as a ‘Medium Good’ in the Twelfth Century” in 1 Law, Culture, and Humanities, 333-358 (2005).
  • “The Birth of Official Criminal Prosecutions in the Common Law,” in Rechtssysteme in Vergleich: Die Staatsanwaltschaft (Vittorio Klostermann, 2005).
  • “Foremost Among the Prerogatives of Sovereignty: The Power to Punish and the Death of Comity in American Criminal Law,” in 30 Journal of Law Politics and Society 33-50 (2004)
  • “The Problem of Pain in Punishment: A Historical Perspective,” in Pain, Death, and the Law, pp. 15-41, ed. Austin Sarat, (University of Michigan Press, 2001).
  • “Criminal Procedure in Medieval European Law: A Comparison Between English and Roman-Canonical Developments after the IV Lateran Council” 85 Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte - Kanonistische Abteilung 174-202 (1999).

History Courses Taught:

Lecture Courses:

  • History 426 - The History of Punishment
  • History 459 - The Rule of Law: Historical and Philosophical Models - Syllabus 2010 (pdf)
  • History 550 - Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in Medieval Civilization
  • History 550 - Medieval Law and Society - Syllabus 2012 (pdf)

Undergraduate Seminars:

  • History 600 - Advanced Seminar in History - Topics: "Law and the Sacred in the Middle Ages"

Graduate Courses:

  • History 720 - Proseminar in Medieval History
  • History 805 - Seminar in Medieval History
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