Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her passion for history with students

During her visit to Sacred Heart, Dr. McShea spoke to Upper School students about the inspiration and research behind her book.

Dr.+Bronwen+McShea+shares+her+new+book+Apostles+of+Empire%3A+The+Jesuits+and+New+France+%0Awith+Upper+School+students.+Courtesy+of+Ms.+Rachel+Zurheide+
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Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her passion for history with students

Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her new book Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France 
with Upper School students. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her new book Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France with Upper School students. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Rachel Zurheide

Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her new book Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France with Upper School students. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Rachel Zurheide

Rachel Zurheide

Dr. Bronwen McShea shares her new book Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France with Upper School students. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

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Dr. Bronwen McShea visited Sacred Heart Greenwich to discuss her book, Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France, October 25.  Dr. McShea is a scholar of both European and Christian history.  In addition to her book, Dr. McShea has written several reviews and articles and focuses her studies on the Catholic faith and how it shapes culture.

During her visit to Sacred Heart, Dr. McShea spoke to Upper School students about the inspiration and research behind her book.  Mrs. Linda Vasu, Assistant Head of School, PreK-12 Academic Programs and Curriculum, Director of Center for Research, Teaching & Learning, and Upper School English & World Literature Teacher, introduced Dr. McShea before she spoke.

Dr. Bronwen McShea speaking about her new book, Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France, and the inspiration behind her research of the French Jesuit missionaries.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

“[Dr. McShea’s] book has received high praise for its meticulous, elegantly written, and luminous study of the Jesuits of New France and their influence on North America and Canada,” Mrs. Vasu said.  “In the tradition of our Sacred Heart foundresses, Dr. McShea is a woman of vision and intellectual vitality.”

Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France, Dr. McShea’s first book, published in July, focuses on the history of the French Jesuit mission to indigenous North Americans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Dr. McShea also highlights the secular elements of this period in history in her book. 

“I became interested in the controversial subject of what role Christian missionaries from Europe played in the history of colonialism in the Americas,” Dr. McShea said.  “As both a Catholic and as a critically thinking scholar interesting in knowing the full truth, I wanted to see what nuance and new light I could offer to people on different sides of this controversial subject.”

Dr. McShea has also started writing her second book about Marie Madeleine de Vignerot, duchesse d’Aiguillon.  She was the niece of Cardinal Richelieu, a Cardinal of the Catholic Church and the first minister of state under King Louis XIII.  She hopes to publish this book by the end of next year.

“I found out that Marie d’Aiguillon helped influence a lot of French Catholic missionary ventures in other parts of the world. She is an unusual figure because she is a laywoman, who seems to have been a driving factor in the expansion of French Catholicism around the world and that is an unusual story,” Dr. McShea said. “I would like to tell her story because it was told one time in 1879 in French and it needs a lot of updating.”

In addition to writing, Dr. McShea gives lectures and courses to university students.  Most notably, she taught an original course on the history of Jesuits at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.  She also speaks at several conferences and moderates panels on the history of Catholicism. 

As both a Catholic and as a critically thinking scholar interesting in knowing the full truth, I wanted to see what nuance and new light I could offer…”

— Dr. Bronwen McShea

Dr. Bronwen McShea discussing her knowledge of the Jesuit mission in New France with Upper School students.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Dr. McShea’s most prestigious accolades include a first-place award from the Catholic Press Association and Yale University’s Hans Gatzke Prize in European History for her dissertation on the Jesuits of New France.  In addition, Dr. McShea is an artist, and the majority of her work is based on Christianity.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, a Master’s Degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in early modern history from Yale University, Dr. McShea is now an Associate Research Scholar with Princeton University’s James Madison Program.  She has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions and a new faculty fellow at Columbia University. 

Dr. McShea originally started studying non-religious elements of history but later realized that she wanted to combine her Catholic faith with her studies.

“All through college I took many history courses and I was interested mostly in the history of politics, society, and non-religious topics but my Catholic faith was, in a personal way, important to me, and I realized at the end of college there was a gap in my scholarly background, my love of history, and my love of things related to my religious faith,” Dr. McShea said.  “I realized there were ways I could bring them together and do the history of Christianity as one of my fields to try to bring these things together that were both important to me.”

Video by, Sydney Kim – Managing Editor