AdaPhoto1000Welcome to the home page of Ada Palmer. I am an historian, an author of science fiction and fantasy, and a composer. I teach in the History Department at the University of Chicago.

Here you will find information about my works and activities, samples of my writing and music, links to publications and blog pieces, my curriculum vitae, my forthcoming schedule of teaching, public presentations and concerts, and other useful information.

Upcoming publication

Inventing the Renaissance

The Renaissance is one of the most studied and celebrated eras of history. Spanning the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of modernity, it has come to symbolise the transformative rebirth of knowledge, art, culture and political thought in Europe. And for the last two hundred years, historians have struggled to describe what makes this famous golden age unique.

In Inventing the Renaissance, acclaimed historian Ada Palmer provides a fresh perspective on what makes this epoch so captivating. Her witty and irreverent journey through the fantasies historians have constructed about the period show how its legend derives more from later centuries’ mythmaking than from the often-grim reality of the period itself. She examines its defining figures and movements: the enduring legacy of Niccolò Machiavelli, the rediscovery of the classics, the rise of the Medici and fall of the Borgias, the astonishing artistic achievements of Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Cellini, the impact of the Inquisition, and the expansion of secular Humanism. Palmer also explores the ties between culture and money: books, for example, could cost as much as grand houses, so the period’s innovative thinkers could only thrive with the help of the super-rich. She offers fifteen provocative and entertaining character portraits of Renaissance men and women, some famous, some obscure, whose intersecting lives show how the real Renaissance was more unexpected, more international, and above all more desperate than its golden reputation suggests.

Drawing on her popular blogs and writing with her characteristic energy and wit, Palmer presents the Renaissance as we have never seen it before. Colloquial, funny and brilliant, this is a work of deep scholarship that will make you alternately laugh and cry.

Read More

Strange Horizons column

I am now a regular non-fiction columnist for Strange Horizons, a wonderful magazine that it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with. I’ll have an essay coming out a couple of times a year, and I’m very excited to be working on this. The first is out now:
A Mitfreude of Anime and Manga’s Relationship with Anglophone Science Fiction (Or, This Essay WILL NOT Try to Get You into Anime and Manga!).


Podcast: Ex Urbe Ad Astra, with Jo Walton

I’ve launched my own podcast!  Ex Urbe Ad Astra

Teaming up with my good friend and fellow author & history-lover Jo Walton, we talk with fellow writers, historians, researchers, editors, & other friends about the craft of writing, history, food, gelato, and other topics, with some episodes of just me and Jo having the kinds of intense writing or history discussions we enjoy.

Listen for free on Libsyn, on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, and on YouTube, or support me on Patreon get new episodes early

Sample Episode: Speculative Resistance with Malka Older

The Latest in Academic Speaking

2023 Nuveen Lecture | Why We Censor: From the Inquisition to the Internet

Censorship & Information Control In Information Revolutions

An exhibition and video series at The University of Chicago

Why do people censor? For ambition? Religion? Profit? Power? Fear? This global history of attempts to control or silence information, from antiquity’s earliest written records to our new digital world, examines how censorship has worked, thrived, or failed in different times and places, and shows how real censorship movements tend to be very different from the centralized, methodical, top-down censorship depicted in Orwell’s 1984, which so dominates how we imagine censorship today. From indexes of forbidden books, to manuscripts with passages inked out by Church Inquisitors, to comics and pornography, to self-censorship and the subtle censorship of manipulating translations or teaching biased histories, the banned and challenged materials in this exhibit will challenge you to answer: how do you define what is and isn’t censorship?

Sections of the Project:

  • Eight public Dialogues among the participants, October 5 through November 20, 2018.
  • Videos of the public dialogues, available streaming online.
  • Museum Exhibit “History of Censorship and Information Control from the Inquisition to the Internet” in the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Library, open September 17 through December 14, 2018.
  • A printed catalog of the exhibit, and further publications to come.

Recent Music

KickstarterCoverNewMy second Kickstarter campaign has funded two new CDs.  The first CD “Stories & Stone” is now complete, and contains variant recordings of my Norse Myth music, to accompany the “Sundown Whispers of Ragnarok” Cast Recording. Thanks to a stretch goal, a second CD “Friend in the Dark” is now in progress, the first album with myself and my vocal partner Lauren Schiller performing as the duo “Sassafrass: Trickster & King.” The album is up for digital pre-order, which gives you eight finished tracks now and a complete download as soon as the CD is released. Check out the Kickstarter Campaign.