Project Interview: Lance Pederson

Lance Pederson (he/him/il) is a Ph.D. student who studies power, masculinity, and homosexuality in France and its colonial empire from 1660-1815. He obtained his B.A. from Hamline University where he majored in History with a double minor in French and Mandarin Chinese. He completed the first year of his Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign before following his advisor, Dr. Clare Haru Crowston, to the University of British Columbia. He is an affiliate and a graduate student fellow at UBC’s Center for European studies. His current research project focuses on rumors, poison, and the concept of male homosexuality as an “Italian vice” in the court of Louis XIV. More broadly, he aims to develop new approaches to studying queer experiences in the early modern period. His teaching philosophy is centered on presenting historical topics in straightforward and engaging ways that highlight how studying the past is crucial to understanding the world we currently live in.

Q: What is the title of your research project?

A: The main title of my research project is “An Italian Poison in the Château de Saint-Cloud: Sexuality and Conspiracy in Seventeenth Century France.”

Q: What was the main focus of your research project during your time as fellow in the Centre?

A: This project analyzes gossip surrounding the sudden death of Louis XIV’s sister-in-law, Henrietta-Anne of England. In 1670, Henrietta-Anne of England, who was married to Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe d’Orléans, died unexpectedly at the age of 26. An autopsy conducted after her death proved that she was not poisoned, but rumors claiming that Philippe’s most significant male favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine, had worked with other male favorites to send poison from Rome, where he was in exile, to France. These rumors were not just an attempt to implicate an unpopular court figure in a scandal, but an extension of the commonly held perception that male homosexuality was an “Italian vice.” The accusations served as an attempt to distance the sexual preferences of Philippe d’Orléans and his inner circle from those of the rest of the court. This project also aims to situate these rumors within a larger body of scholarship on how accusations of poisoning in Europe and its colonies often had gendered and racialized components.

Q: What drew you to this research project?

A: My research project is an expansion of a project which I worked on last year, while attending the University of Illinois. My previous project focused on how Monsieur’s attraction to other men and his gender non-conformity impacted the way that he was perceived by the court elite. While the previous project had covered a broad overview of Monsieur’s entire life, the research I did with the Centre for European Studies focused on a specific event. As a PhD student, I intend to incorporate the research I began during this fellowship into my dissertation when I advance to candidacy. The work that I have done on this project has also helped me to further develop the first draft of my prospectus.

Q: How did the UBC Centre of European Studies support your research project?

A: The financial support provided by the Centre of European Research allowed me to purchase materials I needed for research, such as books and office supplies. Additionally, I really appreciated the sense of community that I developed with many of the other graduate fellows at the Centre of European Studies. In particular, the conversations that I had with the other two fellows from the history department, Isabelle Avakumovic-Pointon and Ryan Sun, were invaluable resources to me in my work on this research project and my growth as a historian.

Q: What are your plans after the fellowship and after your time at UBC?

A: After the fellowship is completed, I intend to continue my research on Monsieur’s household and his male favorites. I also plan to explore other topics related to queerness in early modern France, including the tenuous boundary between queer masculinities and trans-femininities that existed during this period. I am also looking forward to advance to candidacy and begin work on my dissertation. Once I have completed my PhD, I hope to become a history professor so that I can continue to pursue my passion for teaching and research.

Lance Pederson was a 2024 CES Graduate Research Fellow. This interview was conducted by CES Project Assistant Braden Russell.