Known for his earlier work on the history of sacramental confession, David Myers has taken a different path and has now completed a new book, Death and a Maiden: the Tragical history of Margarethe Schmidt, Infanticide. This intensive exploration of crime and punishment in northern Germany describes the chaotic and controversial prosecution of an adolescent farm girl for a heinous act—of which she might well have been innocent. Death and a Maiden uncovers the obscure, fascinating, and often terrifying lives of poor women in an early modern city. In conjunction with this project, Myers has received prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as an international award from the Herzog August Bibliothek, sponsored by the government of Germany.
Death and a Maiden has also brought Myers into close contact with the history of torture in European society. While writing the story of a young woman tortured into repeated false confessions, Myers was stunned to discover his own country cruelly and ignorantly repeating the mistakes of the past. This discovery has prompted him to examine more deeply the way in which physical coercion corrupted the search for truth in early modern criminal cases. He has also incorporated the history of European judicial torture into his undergraduate and graduate courses alike.
Myers has also begun to wrestle with the theme of religious encounters in the early modern world. This may stem from the interests he developed while growing up in the bi-cultural world of the Texas-Mexican border and as a student in Mexico City. The wonderful diversity of New York City has led him to appreciate the rich variety of religious contact in early modern Europe among Christians, Muslims, and Jews, as well as the encounters of Europeans with Asian and New World religions.
Myers continues to write on confession and penance, expanding and intensifying the themes first explored in "Poor, Sinning Folk": Confession and the Making of Consciences in Counter-Reformation Germany (Cornell University Press, 1996). Having researched the disciplinary structures of Counter-Reformation Catholicism, he continues to be fascinated by the process of forming a modern religious conscience and the interplay of mind and culture in developing ethics.
Along with his scholarly interests, David Myers has written and reviewed widely on issues of history, torture, and religion for The Chicago Tribune and Conscience. Recently he participated in a forum on Religion and the State at the European Parliament in Brussels, where he spoke on the history of Church-State Relations in Europe. The proceedings are being published by Catholics for Choice.