Karl Shoemaker

Position title: Robert F. and Sylvia T. Wagner Professor of History and Law

Email: kbshoemaker@wisc.edu

Phone: 608.263.1830

Office: 4101 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4005 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm

Karl Shoemaker


I am a legal historian, specializing in pre-modern European legal traditions. 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. My research also ranges more broadly into the development of the western legal tradition, with an eye toward comparing developments in English and Roman law. My first book, Sanctuary and Crime in the Middle Ages, 400-1500 (Fordham University Press, 2011) won the John Nicholas Brown book prize from the Medieval Academy of America. I am currently working on a monograph that examines the legal career of the devil in pre-modern Europe.

I teach 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.

I was previously on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Legal History, and was the incoming president of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. I was also a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Undergraduate Education.


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
J.D., Cumberland School of Law
B.A., Liberty University


Selected Publications

  • “Wrong: Toward a Cultural History of a Medieval Legal Concept” in A Cultural History of Law in the Middle Ages, eds. Laurent Mayali and Emanuele Conte (Bloomsbury Press, 2018), pp. 113-124.
  • “Germanic Law” in The Oxford Handbook of European Legal History, eds. Heikki Pilhajamäki, Markus Dubber, and Mark Godfrey (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 249-264
  • “Medieval Canon Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of Legal History, eds. Markus Dubber and Christopher Tomlins (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 681-694.
  • “The Clerk William Tyssyngton and the Pursuit of Fugitives in the Late Thirteenth Century,” in Law and Society in Later Medieval England and Ireland: Essays in Honour of Paul Brand, ed. Travis Baker (Routledge, 2018) pp. 109-119.
  • The King’s Two Bodies as Lamentation,” 13 Journal of Law Culture and Humanities, 24-35 (2017).
  • “The Great Charter Turned 800: Remembering Its 700th Birthday,” William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 25:499-512 (2016).
  • The King’s Two Bodies as Lamentation,” Journal of Law Culture and Humanities (forthcoming 2015), pp. 1-15.
  • Regarding Untimeliness: Medieval Legal History and Modern Law,” Critical Analysis of Law: An International and Interdisciplinary Law Review 2 (2015) pp. 199-213.
  • “The Devil at Law in the Middle Ages” (“Le Diable et le droit au Moyen Âge”) Revue de l’histoire des religion 228 (2011) 567-586.
  • “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, 2011).

Advisor To:

History Courses

  • History 426 – The History of Punishment
  • History 459 – The Rule of Law: Historical and Philosophical Models – Syllabus 2022 (pdf)
  • History 550 – Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in Medieval Civilization
  • History 550 – Medieval Law and Society – Syllabus 2012 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Law and the Sacred in the Middle Ages – Syllabus 2022 (pdf)
  • History 720 – Proseminar in Medieval History
  • History 805 – Seminar in Medieval History