Sarah Bernhardt

PhD Candidate in Early Modern History

I am a doctoral student at Gonville and Caius, supervised by Professor Mary Laven. My PhD explores the borderlands of Early Modern Savoy, especially the role of the senses, material culture and ritual. Prior to Cambridge I graduated from St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, with a masters in medieval history, and I hold a BA in fine art from Central Saint Martins. My research has been generously funded by a Lightfoot Studentship at the University of Cambridge, and the Economic History Society. I have worked with several cultural institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Venice Biennale, the New Museum, and Lisson. My art has been exhibited in galleries such as White Cube and MOSTYN. I also mentor through the Girls' Network. I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2024.


My PhD examines the devotional life of Savoyard inhabitants, particularly on the border with Geneva and following the Council of Trent. I am broadly interested in pre-modern experiences of the senses, and I have also written about the influence of history in contemporary artistic practice.

At Cambridge I supervise for Part I: Paper O5 - Europe in the World, 1450-1780, Part II: Paper 14 - Material Culture in the Early Modern World, as well as a seminar on Microhistory for Part IB. At King's College London, I give seminars on political development and state formation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

'The Senses and the Borderlands of Early Modern Savoy' - Early Modern World History Workshop, Cambridge University, November 2023

'Beyond Religious Violence: Bloodshed and the Borderlands of Savoy' - Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS), Liverpool John Moores University, July 2023

‘The Senses and the Savoyard Borderlands after Trent’ - European Reformation Research Group (ERRG), 30th Annual Meeting, Newcastle University, August 2022

'Crusading Imagery in the Context of Contemporary Global Art' - Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East (SSCLE) Engaging the Crusades Conference, Royal Holloway, University of London, June 2022

'The Place of Scent in the High Middle Ages' - Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, 2nd International Conference on the History and Culture of Perfume, December 2021

'Participation and Promise: The Culinary Interventions of Michael Rakowitz' - Nasher Sculpture Centre, Texas, USA, October 2020







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