Katrina Olds

Katrina B. Olds

Associate Professor, History

Full-Time Faculty
Department Chair


Katrina Olds is a specialist in early modern Spanish history. Her research interests include popular culture and religion; Counter-Reformation history and hagiography; the history of the book; and religious and intellectual exchange in Spain and the Americas.

She has been the recipient of several honors during her tenure at the University of San Francisco: in 2017 she received the University Distinguished Research Award, jointly awarded by the University of San Francisco and the USF Faculty Association (2017); she was named Dean’s Scholar in the Humanities (2015); and appointed to the University’s National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in 2011‐12.

Katrina’s first book is a study of the ‘false chronicles,’ a set of forged historical texts that a Spanish Jesuit named Jerónimo Román de la Higuera claimed to have discovered at the end of the sixteenth century. Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain (Yale, 2015) studies the chronicles and their pervasive influence on Spanish history, religion, and culture. In so doing, the book contributes to various fields of historical inquiry, including forgery; Hapsburg Spain; the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order); Counter-Reformation Europe; the book and of reading; popular religion and culture; and saints and hagiography.

The book was recognized by the American Catholic Historical Association as the recipient of the John Gilmary Shea Prize of 2016, and with an Honorable Mention for Best First Book from the Association of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies (2013-15). It was the subject of a special review essay in History and Theory, and has been reviewed positively in several scholarly journals, including American Historical Review, English Historical Review, Journal of Jesuit Studies, Renaissance Quarterly, and Revista de Libros.

Prof. Olds has also published on the authentication of saints’ relics in the Counter Reformation. Her 2012 article, which appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, details the difficulties which the bishop of Jaén (Spain) confronted in his attempt to verify the authenticity of the relics of Arjona in the first half of the seventeenth century. She suggests that the ambiguities attending to the holy were not limited to peripheral dioceses such as Jaén, but in fact, reached the very heart of Roman Catholicism in the century following the Council of Trent.

Her current research includes studies of the myth of an apostolic visit to the Americas; popular culture in the early modern Spanish world; and “superstition” and its foes.

Prof. Olds received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2009, and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1998. As an undergraduate at Macalester College, she concentrated in Religious Studies and Spanish, wrote an honors thesis on the Virgin of Guadalupe, and studied abroad in the Dominican Republic, where she learned to speak Spanish, got to see the pope (from very far away), and became fascinated with popular Catholicism.

Prof. Olds is always happy to engage with students about their academic and intellectual preoccupations; strange histories in the past and present; and grad school, a/k/a, "What should I do with my life?" She is the faculty adviser for the History honors society (Phi Alpha Theta) and is especially interested in helping students develop pride and a sense of ownership in their intellectual endeavors. In addition to the range of classes that she teaches for the history department on pre-modern Europe, Prof. Olds enjoys offering interdisciplinary courses in the humanities for the Honors Program in the Humanities, Global Humanities, the Saint Ignatius Institute, and the Honors College.

Research Areas

  • Counter-Reformation visions of history and hagiography
  • The history of the book
  • Religious and intellectual exchange in Spain and the Americas


  • USF's National Endowment for the Humanities Chair, 2011-12


  • PhD and MA, History, Princeton University
  • Masters of Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Awards & Distinctions

  • Distinguished Research Award from the USF Faculty Association and USF, 2017
  • Dean’s Scholar in the Humanities, 2015

Selected Publications

  • Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain (Yale University Press, 2015)
  • "The 'False Chronicles,' Cardinal Baronio, and Sacred History in Counter-Reformation Spain." Catholic Historical Review 100, no. 1 (2014): 1-26.
  • "The Ambiguities of the Holy: Authenticating Relics in Seventeenth-Century Spain." Renaissance Quarterly 65, no. 1 (2012): 135-184.
  • "Visions of the Holy in Counter-Reformation Spain: The Discovery and Creation of Relics in Arjona, c.1628." In The 'Vision Thing': Studying Divine Intervention, Collegium Budapest Workshop Series, No. 18, edited by William A. Christian Jr. and Gábor Klaniczay. Budapest: Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study, 2009.
  • "How to Be a Counter-Reformation Bishop: Cardinal Baltasar de Moscoso y Sandoval in the Diocese of Jaén, 1618-1646." In Entre el cielo y la tierra. Las élites eclesiásticas en la Europa Moderna, special monograph volume of Mágina: Revista Universitaria, vol. 13, edited by María Amparo López Arandia (University of Córdoba, Spain). Jaén: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia ' Andrés de Valdelvira,' (2009): 197-213.