Sarah FerberProfessor Sarah Ferber

BA Hons (History), PhD (History), University of Melbourne

Phone: +61 2 4221 3704
Location: 19.2050

Professor Ferber researches in two fields of cultural history: early modern European religion and contemporary bioethics. 


  • 'IVF and Assisted Reproduction, the Global Experience' (With Professor Vera Mackie and Dr Nicola Marks, ARC-funded collaborative research project:ARC DP 2015-2017, $518,593)
  • 'Magic, Witches and Demons in Pre-modern Europe and its colonies’ (monograph) 


  • Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Preternature 
  • Associate Investigator (Honorary), ARC Centre for the History of the Emotions
  • 2009 All Souls College, Oxford University, Visiting Fellowship
  • 2005 Visiting Scholar, Hastings Center, New York   

Areas of HDR & Honours supervision

  • Late Medieval and Early modern European history
  • Modern medical history
  • Medical ethics history 


Searchable RIS publications from 2000 to date


  • 2013 Bioethics in Historical Perspective, Houndmills: Palgrave
  • 2011 The Body Divided: Human Beings and Human 'Material' in Modern Medical History, editor with Sally Wilde, Farnham: Ashgate
  • 2004 Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France, London: Routledge.
  • 1995 Enhancing the First-year Experience. With C. McInnis et al. Melbourne: University of Melbourne, Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
  • 1994 Beasts of Suburbia: Reinterpreting Cultures in Australian Suburbs. Editor, with Chris Healy and Chris McAuliffe. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Refereed Articles and Book Chapters

  • 2016 ‘Psychotic Reactions? Witchcraft, the Devil and Mental Illness’ in Laura Kounine and Michael Ostling (eds), Unbridled Passions: Emotions in the History of Witchcraft, (London: Palgrave) pp. 231-45, (forthcoming).
  • 2015 ‘The constitution and conditions of everyday magic in late medieval an early modern Catholic Europe’, in Kathryn A. Edwards, ed., Everyday Magic in Early Modern Europe, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2015, pp. 161-180.
  • 2015 ‘Devotional Violence and Emotional Governance in a Seventeenth-Century French Female Religious House’ in Susan Broomhall and Sarah Finn, eds, Violence and Emotions in Early Modern Europe, London: Routledge, pp. 111-26.
  • 2013 ‘Demonic Possession, Exorcism and Witchcraft’, in Brian P. Levack, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 575-592.
  • 2011 ‘The Body Divided in Time and Place: An Introductory Essay', with Sally Wilde, in S. Ferber & S. Wilde (eds), The Body Divided: Human Beings and Human 'Material' in Modern Medical History, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 1-8.
  • 2009 ‘Possession and the Sexes.’ Alison Rowlands (ed.), Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 214-238.
  • 2008 ‘Ecstasy, Possession, Witchcraft’ (2004), in Darren Oldridge, ed., The Witchcraft Reader, 2nd edition, London: Routledge, 2008, pp. 230-239.
  • 2008 ‘The Abuse of History? Identity Politics, Disordered Identity and the “Really Real” in French Cases of Demonic Possession', Stephanie Tarbin and Susan Broomhall (eds), Women, Identities and Communities in Early Modern Europe, Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 29-41. 
  • 2007 ‘As Sure As Eggs? Responses to an ethical question posed by Abramov, Elchalal and Schenker’, Journal of Clinical Ethics, 18:1. pp. 35-48. 
  • 2007 ‘Some Reflections on IVF, Emotions, and Patient Autonomy’, Journal of Clinical Ethics, 18:1. pp. 53-55.
  • 2005 ‘Cultivating Charisma: Elisabeth de Ranfaing and the Médailliste cult in seventeenth-century Lorraine’, F.W. Kent and Charles Zika (eds), Rituals, Images and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 55-84.
  • 2005 ‘Delivering Demons, Punishing Wives: False imprisonment, exorcism and other matrimonial duties in a late 20th-century manslaughter case.’ With Adrian Howe, Punishment & Society, 7:2, April. pp. 123-46.
  • 2005 ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Devil: Exorcism, expertise and secularisation in a late twentieth-century Australian criminal court.’ With Adrian Howe. Hans de Waardt, Juergen Schmidt, and Dieter Bauer (eds), Dämonische Besessenheit Zur Interpretation eines kulturhistorischen, Phänomens, Bielefeld: Verlag für Regionalgeschichte. pp. 281-292.
  • 2004 ‘Miracle in Iowa: Metaphor, analogy and anachronism in the history of bioethics.’ Monash Bioethics Review, 23:3. pp. 6-15. 
  • 2003 ‘Possession Sanctified: The case of Marie des Vallées.’ Jürgen Beyer, Albrecht Burkardt, Fred van Lieburg and Marc Wingens (eds), Confessional Sanctity (c. 1500 – c. 1800), Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für europäische Geschichte Mainz, Abteilung abendländische Religionsgeschichte, Herausgegeben von Gerhard May, Beiheft 51, Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern. pp. 259-270. 
  • 2002 ‘Reformed or Recycled? Possession and exorcism in the sacramental life of early modern France.’ Kathryn Edwards (ed.), Witches, Werewolves and Wandering Spirits: Traditional Belief & Folklore in Early Modern Europe, Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, vol. 62, Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press. pp. 55-75. 
  • 1997 ‘Charcot’s Demons: Retrospective medicine and historical diagnosis in the writings of the Salpêtrière school’, in Marijke Gijswit-Hofstra, Hilary Marland, Hans de Waardt (eds), Illness and Healing Alternatives in Western Europe, Routledge Social History of Medicine, London: Routledge. pp. 120-140. 
  • 1993 ‘Le Sabbath et son double.’ Nicole Jacques-Chaquin and Maxime Préaud (eds), Le Sabbat des Sorciers en Europe, XVe XVIIIe siècle, Grenoble: Jerôme Millon. pp. 101-109. 
  • 1991 ‘The Demonic Possession of Marthe Brossier, France, 1598–1600.’ Charles Zika (ed.), No Gods Except Me: Orthodoxy and Religious Practice in Europe, 1200–1600, Melbourne University History Monographs 14. pp. 59-83. 
  • 1985 ‘Finding the Witch Within: Two confessions of demonic crime.’ Melbourne Historical Journal. pp. 2-8.

Recent book reviews and other research output

  • 2015 Interview with Charles Zika, in Julie Davies and Michael Pickering, The Enchanted World, Melbourne Historical Journal Publications
  • 2014 Review of Richard Raiswell and Peter Dendle, editors. The Devil in Society in Premodern Europe, in American Historical Review, 119:3, pp. 966-67
  • 2013 Review of Tom Koch, Thieves of Virtue, in Social History of Medicine, 27:1, pp. 194-95.
  • 2011 Specialist Interviewee: L'énergumène (film docu-drama, dir. Jean-Loïc Portron), Paris: JBA Productions, for ARTE TV release.

Selected conference presentations 

  • 2016 Opening Address, Thalidomide Association of Australia Conference, October.
  • 2015 University of Limoges, CRIHAM (Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Histoire, Histoire de l'Art et Musicologie). Guest seminar on the history of demonic possession.
  • 2015 Keynote speaker '"Healthy dying" and the language of death', for 'When is Death?' Wellcome Trust/University of Leicester Conference, 16-18 April.
  • 2015 ’Magic, Witches and Demons in Pre-Modern Europe and its Colonies: Current Debates, Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Scholars, ANZAMEMS, Brisbane, July.
  • 2015 ‘Writing a Global History of IVF’, Australian and New Zealand Society for the History Medicine Conference, Sydney, July 1-4.
  • 2013 ARC CHE conference on ‘Violence and Emotions’, UWA.
  • 2013 Invited presenter, 'Journee d'etudes' in honour of Carlo Ginzburg, University of Strasbourg: ‘Une illuminée en ville: les pérégrinations de Madeleine de Flers en extase'. 
  • 2012 ‘The Sabbath of the Soul’, at Spirit Possession: European contributions to comparative studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Pécs
  • 2012 Associate Investigator Report, Biennial Research Meeting, Centre for the History of Emotions, Adelaide
  • 2011: Keynote address, ‘Why Gender Matters’ Conference, Helsinki Collegium.  
  • 2010: Issues paper, ‘Witchcraft, demonology and mental illness’, UWA, ASSA Workshop in the History of the Emotions, Perth, September, 2010
  • 2009: Sixteenth-century studies conference, Geneva, ‘Witches, demons, genre and cultural forms’
  • 2008: Overview commentator, final session, ‘The Devil in Society in the Premodern World’, Toronto.

Selected Conference Organisation and Community Engagement

  • 2015 Co-convenor, ARC CHE Conference, Witchcraft and Emotions, University of Melbourne, November
  • 2011 Invited submission, NSW government consultation on end-of-life care
  • 2009 Convener, Cultural Forms and Ideology in Early Modern Europe.
  • 2008 Invited submission, Queensland Government enquiry into surrogacy.
  • 2008 Co-ordinator, Australian Historical Association keynote session. 



Last reviewed: 29 March, 2017