Margaret Lenore Brennan

Profile picture for Margaret Lenore Brennan

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright St.
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
PhD Candidate


I am a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Illinois, studying religion, ethnicity, and migration in the early modern Atlantic world. Originally from a small town in northeastern Ohio, I received my B.A. from a small college in Lexington, Kentucky, and an M.Phil in Dublin, Ireland.

Beyond my interest in the study of early modern history, I'm invested in promoting humanities scholarship more broadly. Since 2017, I've worked on the Humanities Without Walls (HWW) grant funded by the Mellon Foundation. In my role as Grad Lab Practicum Coordinator, I coordinate the work of graduate student collaborators in fourteen interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research projects focused on the theme of “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.” In that role, I also collect ethnographic data to reflect on cultures of collaboration and career diversity training for students in the humanities.

Research Interests

Religion, migration, and ethnicity in early modern Europe and the Atlantic world
Collaborative research, public engagement, and career diversity in the humanities

Research Description

My dissertation project, "Refugees to Settlers: 'Palatines' in the Early Modern Atlantic World," looks at the German Palatine migrations of the early eighteenth century.

In 1709, some 13,000 refugees from war, famine, extreme climate events, and religious strife traveled down the Rhine and across the English Channel to London. The sudden appearance of so many "poor Protestant Palatines" completely overwhelmed the ability of the English to provide them with charity or employment, and threw into sharp relief questions of religious conformity, immigration, and labor in Britain.

Upon their arrival in London, Palatine refugees were initially viewed as poor, lazy, and diseased strangers who as dissenting Protestants also threatened the stability of religious life in England. Over a short period of time and in the context of empire, however, they came to be seen as industrious, respectable Protestant settlers who were capable of reforming the reprobate populations among whom they were settled (i.e. Irish Catholics, native Americans, and Caribbean pirates). In closely examining the experience of Palatines in the British Isles, North America, and the Caribbean in the early eighteenth century, this project seeks to trace the changing significance of such categories of difference as religion, race, and ethnicity in the early modern era.


M.Phil in Early Modern British Isles History - Trinity College Dublin, 2011
B.A. in History, Spanish - Transylvania University, 2009


Quadrangle Historical Research Foundation German Script Course Award, 2014
INTERSECT “Cultures of Law in Global Contexts” Fellowship

Awards and Honors

William C. Widenor Teaching Award, 2018
University of Illinois Graduate College Dissertation Travel Grant, 2018
Instructor Ranked as Excellent, Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, 2015, 2018

Courses Taught

HIST 352: Europe in the World: (Instructor of Record)
HIST 100: Global History (Teaching Assistant, Prof. Antoinette Burton)
HIST 141: Western Civilization I (Teaching Assistant, Prof. Clare Crowston)

Highlighted Publications


Brennan, Margaret Lenore Clergy in the Early Modern Caribbean, 1650-1800 History Compass 2019.


Problematizing Graduate Student Encounters of Engagement across the Public-Academic Divide Mission Driven: Reimagining Graduate Education for a Thriving Humanities Ecosystem 2019.