Jessica O’Leary

Research Fellow
Gender and Women's History Research Centre

Jessica O'leary

Areas of expertise: women and gender; epistolarity; cultural history; diplomacy; cultural transfer; global encounter; early modern studies.

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4260-522X


Location:ACU Melbourne Campus

Jessica O’Leary is a Research Fellow at the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre in the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences. She is a gender historian of the early modern period, interested in global history and connections between people around the world, especially in South America, Asia and Europe in the fields of politics, diplomacy, and cultural exchange. Her essay on power-sharing between elite couples in northern Italian courts won the Royal Studies Journal prize for best essay by a Postgraduate or Early Career researcher. Her first monograph is entitled Elite Women as Diplomatic Agents in Italy and Hungary: The Aragonese Dynastic Network, 1470-1510 (ARC Humanities Press, 2022). She has also published book chapters on the history of emotions and letter-writing, and on cultural encounter, trade, and diplomacy in the early modern period.

Currently, she is developing various lines of research concerning cross-cultural encounters in the early modern world.

Select Publications

  • Elite Women as Diplomatic Agents in Italy and Hungary, ARC-Humanities Press, Series: Gender and Power in the Premodern World, 2022.
  • “Cultural immersion: diplomacy, learning and mobility in the childhood of Federico II Gonzaga during the War of the League of Cambrai (1508-1516)” Parergon Vol 38, No 2 (2021), 13-42.
  • “Converting the Cityscape: Performing civic pride in accounts of the 1585 Tenshō boys’ Japanese embassy” eds. Katie Barclay and Jade Riddle. Urban Emotions and the Making of the City Interdisciplinary Perspectives. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021), 19-35.
  • “New Christian family networks in the First Visitation of the Inquisition to Brazil” ed. Heather Dalton Keeping family in an age of long-distance trade, discovery and settlement 1550 - 1850. (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 193-212.
  • "Wife, Widow, Exiled Queen Beatrice d’Aragona (1457–1508) and Kinship in Early Modern Europe" in Women on the Edge in Early Modern Europe eds. Lisa Hopkins and Aidan Norrie (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), 139-158.
  • With Carolyn James, "Letter-writing and emotions" in The Routledge History of Emotions in Europe, 1100-1700 eds. Susan Broomhall and Andrew Lynch (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 256-268.
  • “‘She performed miracles in women's clothing’: Eleonora d’Aragona and the defence of co-rulership” I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Vol 19, no 2 (November 2016) 285–307.


  • Echoes of Women in Portuguese America, 1500-1822
    Women played a crucial role in the shaping and making of Portuguese America. Yet, many female voices do not survive directly. Low literacy levels between the sixteenth and nineteenth century meant that few women recorded their experience in their own words. It is mainly through the pens of male missionaries, merchants, politicians, and poets that the female experience survives. However, reading for women in male-authored texts can yield important insights concerning the ways in which gender interacted with settler colonialism. Using written and visual sources, I aim to uncover the ways in which women contributed to and resisted the colonisation of Brazil through their interaction with, and understanding of, the land and the sea.
  • Gender and Knowledge in the European Encounter with Japan
    This project explores the way in which gender influenced European knowledge production in the encounter with Japan. By scrutinising how gender affected European interactions with Japanese men and women, this project will shed new light on practices of cultural understanding and translation in the early modern world.

Accolades and awards

  • Renaissance Society of America Paul Oskar Kristeller Fellow (2022)
  • Maria Sibylla Merian Centre Conviviality-Inequality in Latin America Junior Fellow (2022)
  • Australian Centre for Italian Studies Publishing Grant (2021)
  • Royal Studies Journal Early Career Researcher Article Prize (2018)
  • Monash Historical Studies Masters’ Prize (2017)
  • Cassamarca Dino De Poli Scholarship (2016)
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Award (2016)
  • Bill Kent Foundation Fellow (2013)
  • Ian Turner Memorial Prize (2012)
  • D. Legge Prize (2012)

Public Engagement

  • Exhibition Advisory Member: “Renaissance Children” Museum Hof van Busleyden (2021)
  • Contributor: Digital Humanities Project: “Clothing and textiles at the court of Mantua under Isabella d’Este” (2018)



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