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Jonathan Seitz, PhD

Jonathan Seitz, PhD

Teaching Professor of History
Assistant Department Head
Department of History
Center for Science, Technology and Society
Center for Interdisciplinary Study
Jewish Studies
Office: 5024 MacAlister
Phone: 215.895.0996


  • BA, Chemistry and History, Swarthmore College
  • MA, History of Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • PhD, History of Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Curriculum Vitae:

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Research Interests:

  • History of science, medicine, and technology
  • Religious history
  • History of witchcraft, magic, and related
  • Italian history


I teach broadly in pre-modern history, religious history, and the history of science, technology, and medicine here at Drexel. I have developed courses on the history of witchcraft and magic, on the Republic of Venice, and on religion and science, among others. Many of my courses draw on my research, which focuses on the historical intersections among science, medicine, and religion, particularly in the early modern era (roughly the 1400s through the 1700s). This was a time of great change across the globe: new ways of thinking about God, nature, and humanity emerged in Europe and new ties bound together distant societies, disrupting older patterns of belief and action. In my book Witchcraft and Inquisition in Early Modern Venice, I revealed how people struggled to understand and distinguish natural events from supernatural phenomena in that era, using the records of Inquisition witchcraft trials and other sources found in various libraries and archives in the city of Venice and in and around the Vatican.

I am currently investigating the influential but controversial place of Catholic healing clerics -- exorcists -- in early modern society. My work shows how religious and medico-scientific authority aligned and diverged, and how an emerging professional community of exorcists constructed and successfully (for a time) defended their expertise in the face of resistance from powerful social institutions. Many of these debates have a familiar ring. Then, as now, people faced conflicting claims about what “experts say” about particular scientific or medical questions, who speaks for nature, and who gets to determine what is or is not “natural.” My work on this project has been supported by funding from the American Historical Association and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Selected Publications:

  • Jonathan Seitz (2022) “Clerical Exorcists and the Struggle for Professional Status in early modern Venice: Learning, Licensing, and Practice,” Renaissance Quarterly 75: 1-33.
  • Jonathan Seitz (2018) “Interconnected Inquisitors: Circulation and Networks among Peripheral Tribunals,” in The Roman Inquisition: Center versus Peripheries, eds. Christopher Black and Katherine Aron-Beller. Boston: Brill.
  • Jonathan Seitz (2011) Witchcraft and Inquisition in Early Modern Venice. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Jonathan Seitz (2009) “‘The Root is Hidden and the Material Uncertain’: The Challenges of Prosecuting Witchcraft in Early Modern Venice,” Renaissance Quarterly 62: 102-133.