(Ph.D. Princeton University; Associate Professor)
Professor Lester specializes in the social and religious history of Europe during the High Middle Ages (1000-1400). She received her A.B. (Classics and History) from Brown University (1996) and her Ph.D. (History) from Princeton University (2003). She studied at Mansfield College, Oxford University (1994/95) and at the École normale supérieure in Paris (2000/01). Her first book, Creating Cistercian Nuns: The Women’s Religious Movement and Its Reform in Thirteenth-Century Champagne (Cornell UP 2011) won the SMFS best first book award. Lester teaches courses on medieval religion and society, the crusades, English legal history, and women and gender in the pre-modern world. She has published on the institutionalization of charity, the meaning of space and the development of urban networks, and relics and devotion in France and Flanders during the Middle Ages. She is the co-editor of Cities, Texts, and Social Networks (2010) and Center and Periphery: Studies on Power in the Medieval World in Honor of William Chester Jordan (2013). Her research has been supported by several fellowships including: a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Medieval Institute at University of Notre Dame (2004/5), Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ (2012) and an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship (awarded 2011/held 2013). Her new research focuses on the material history of devotion during the period of the crusades. She is currently writing two books: Fragments of Devotion: Relics and Remembrance in the Time of the Fourth Crusade and a general synthesis entitled Medieval Europe: A World Without Empire (for Yale UP).