Institute of Modern History

Laura Dierksmeier (née Melkonian)

Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Member of the Collective Research Center 1070 "ResourceCultures"


Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft
Seminar für Neuere Geschichte
Wilhelmstraße 36
72074 Tübingen

Email: laura.dierksmeierspam

Curriculum Vitae Publications

Research Interests

Current project

Island Economies: A Comparative Study of Island Societies in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period (Inselökonomien – Eine vergleichende Studie von Insel-Gesellschaften im späten Mittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit)

This sub-project of the CRC 1070 "ResourceCultures" (sub-project C 05, directed by Prof. Dr. Jörn Staecker and Prof. Dr. Renate Dürr) investigates the ways in which island societies coped with foreignness and diversity on the basis of a comparative study of the late medieval and early modern social history of Scandinavia and Spain. As a consequence of their topography, island societies were economically dependent on trading with distant partners to a much greater extent than continental polities. The resulting necessity to promote pragmatic world views gave rise to intriguing processes of cultural formation within the highly heterogeneous island populations, which is marked by a complex interplay between references to "the self" and "the other." Accordingly, this sub-project examines the specific mechanisms of social and cultural inclusion and exclusion operating within island port cities, the balancing of conflict and cooperation, as well as the intermingling and segregation of different ethnic and cultural groups.



Charity for and by the Poor: Franciscan and Indigenous Confraternities in Mexico, 1526 – 1700

1st Advisor Prof. Dr. Renate Dürr (Early Modern History)

2nd Advisor Prof. Dr. Andreas Holzem (Catholic Theology)

Oral Defense July 11, 2016


Early modern confraternities, in contradistinction to guilds, welcomed also unemployed, disabled, female, young, and elderly members into their pious, fraternal organizations. These variegated groups operated in most towns in colonial Mexico; more than 300 religious confraternities worked in Mexico City alone within the first decades after the Spanish conquest. Despite their ubiquity, little is known about their contribution to the formation of a new hybrid society following the fall of the Aztec Empire. To address this research gap, my thesis analyses archive sources from Mexico, Spain, USA, and Germany to demonstrate the extensive hospital administration, orphan care, prisoner assistance and debt relief carried out by many indigenous groups within a new Catholic framework. As both recipients and providers of care, poor indigenous inhabitants created their own post-conquest solidarity networks.

Chapter Overview

This study begins (Ch. 1-3) with a historical background of missionary activity in Spain and Latin America and an analysis of missionary moral theology. The subsequent section (Ch. 4-6) reviews the functions and roles of confraternities in Mexico and deciphers a detailed missionary guide on the formation of confraternities (printed in Mexico). The final section (Ch. 7-9) focuses on the charitable work and economic realms of confraternity members in Mexico from 1526 to 1700.