Katrina B. Olds awarded 2016 Shea Prize

Katrina B. Olds
Katrina B. Olds

Katrina B. Olds of the University of San Francisco was honored with the 2016 John Gilmary Shea Prize for Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain (Yale University Press, 2015).

The Shea Prize is given annually to the author of a book judged by a committee of experts to have made the most original and distinguished contribution to knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church.


“In her scintillating Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain (Yale University Press, 2015), Katrina B. Olds considers the complex story of a set of “false chronicles” of the early Christian history of Iberia forged by a Spanish Jesuit in the late 16th century. While accepted as genuine by many, they also aroused suspicions of their authenticity almost from the time of their “discovery,” and by the 18th century their spurious origin had been demonstrated. Still, the impact of the “false chronicles” endured, and their elements remained embedded in Spanish popular devotion and religious practice. At first glance, this might appear no more than a quirky historical footnote, but in her skilled telling, Olds connects it to broader themes. More than simply an episode in Iberian Catholic and Jesuit history, it becomes a fascinating lesson in historiography. In dealing with her subject, the author deftly examines her Jesuit forger’s skill at mixing fact with fiction to achieve verisimilitude, as well as his possible motives in composing his texts, and offers intriguing insights on the broader subject of forgery in the European Christian tradition. Forging the Past serves as a model of a subtle, imaginatively conceived, and thoroughly engaging examination of a subject, small in itself, but that allows the author and reader to explore matters of universal interest and importance.”