DR Una McIlvenna

DR Una McIlvenna


  • Renaissance literature
  • balladry
  • court studies
  • early modern history
  • history of emotions
  • history of public execution/capital punishment



  • My research interests lie in the fields of early modern cultural and literary history.

    My current project, Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1550-1900, investigates emotional responses to public execution in the early modern period, looking in particular at the use of songs and verse in accounts of crime and execution across Europe. Crime reports were often printed in huge numbers on cheap pamphlets and set to the tune of well-known songs, enabling the reader to sing along to the account of the (often violent) crime and the public execution of the condemned. My research examines how the emotional resonances of a familiar tune could be transferred or subverted in the new version of the song. Central to my work is the idea that singing the news of crime and punishment was a long-standing, pan-European tradition. I’ve begun to widen my research into news-songs on all sorts of topics: natural disasters and wonders, military battles and sieges, and politics and social satire.

    My first monograph, Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici (Ashgate-Routledge, 2016), looks at how the reputations of aristocratic women at the early modern French court were constructed, attacked and defended in a society where literacy was beginning to gain supremacy over orality.   


Member of

  • Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS). Member 2011 -
  • Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Member 2010 -
  • Renaissance Society of America. Member 2009 -


Selected publications


Education and training

  • PhD, Queen Mary University of London 2010

Awards and honors

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK), 2016
  • Newberry Library Short-Term Fellowship, 2014


Available for supervision

  • Y

Supervision Statement

  • I am interested in supervising research on the history of crime and punishment, early modern ballads, early modern European history, and court studies.