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Dr Sarah M. S. Pearsall

Dr Sarah M. S. Pearsall

University Senior Lecturer in the History of Early America and the Atlantic World

Academic Secretary, Faculty of History

Robinson College
Grange Road

Cambridge CB3 9AN
Office Phone: 01223 (7)68-885


Sarah Pearsall received degrees from Yale, Cambridge, and Harvard, where she completed her PhD.  She was also the Mellon Fellow in American History and a Junior Research Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge.  She has held teaching positions at St Andrews University, Northwestern University, and Oxford Brookes University (where she was a Reader in American History).  Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the British Academy, the American Historical Association, the Huntington Library, and the Newberry Library, among others.  She joined the Cambridge Faculty in 2012.

Subject groups/Research projects

American History:
Early Modern History:

Departments and Institutes

Robinson College:

Research Interests

Her research specializes in the history of North America in the early modern era, especially the colonial and revolutionary periods of what is now the United States.  Her work probes the intersections of gender, households, and sexuality with the development, maintenance, and end of colonies in a North Atlantic world.  Her current project examines controversies over plural unions in early North America.  She also has interests in Atlantic and Caribbean history, broadly conceived.

Research Supervision

Sarah Pearsall is happy to supervise MPhil and PhD dissertations on most aspects of American, Atlantic, and Caribbean history for the period 1500-1815.  She is currently supervising PhD and MPhil students working in a range of topics in North American and Caribbean colonial history as well as the history of the American Revolution. 


Contributes to teaching in a range of Papers

In MPhil in American History:

  • Option Course, “Atlantic Worlds, ca. 1500-1800” (Convenor)
  • Core Course in "Readings in American History and Historiography"
In MPhil in World History:
  • Option, "Empires in Comparative Perspective" 

In Part II:

  • Dissertations 
  • Historical Argument and Practice 
  • Paper 14, "Material Culture in the Early Modern World"

In Part I

Other Professional Activities

She is North American Editor for History Compass.  She serves on the editorial collective of Gender and History as well as the editorial boards of the Journal of American Studies and Cultural and Social History.  She has co-organized several conferences and workshops, most recently (with Pekka Hämäläinen of Oxford University) “Crossing and Connecting: New Perspectives on Borderlands and Indigenous Histories,” Robinson College, Cambridge University (2013).  She is currently co-organizing a conference, with Sara McDougall of John Jay College, on "Marriage's Global Past, 900-1900" which will be held in Cambridge in April 2016 and will form the basis for a co-edited special issue of Gender and History.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


  • Early Modern History
  • American History

Key Publications


  • Beyond One Man and One Woman: A History of Early American Polygamy (in progress)
  • Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2008, Paperback, 2010).  Winner, Women’s History Network Prize.

Articles and Chapters (Selected)

  • with Sara McDougall, “Introduction: “Marriage’s Global Past,” Gender & History (forthcoming, 2017)
  • “Women, Power, and Households in Early Modern North America” in Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor and Lisa Materson, eds. Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History (Oxford University Press, forthcoming, 2016)
  • Forum Co-Editor (with Mark R. F. Williams), “David Underdown’s Revel, Riot, and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England, 1603-1660” for  Cultural & Social History (in press, 2015)
  • “Native American Men—and Women—at Home in Plural Marriages in Seventeenth-Century New France" Gender & History 27:3 (November 2015): 591-610.
  • "Re-Centering Indian Women in the American Revolution" in Susan Sleeper-Smith, et al, eds. Why You Can't Teach American History without Indians (University of North Carolina Press, 2015)
  • "'Having Many Wives' in Two American Rebellions: The Politics of Households and the Radically Conservative," American Historical Review 118: 4 (October 2013):1000-1028.
    • Winner, Arrell M. Gibson Award for Native American history, Western Historical Association
    • Winner, Jensen-Miller Award for the History of Gender and Women, Western Historical Association
  • with Julie Hardwick and Karin Wulf, “Centering Families in Atlantic Worlds, 1500-1800” William and Mary Quarterly 70:2 (April 2013): 205-244.
  • “Women in the Revolutionary War” in Jane Kamensky and Edward G. Gray, eds. Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2012): 273-290.
  • “Citizens of the World: Men, Women, and Country in the Age of Revolution,” in Old World, New World: America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson, eds. Leonard J. Sadosky, Peter Nicolaisen, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy (University of Virginia Press, 2010): 61-82.
  • “Gender” in The British Atlantic, 1500-1800, eds. David R. Armitage and Michael Braddick (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002, revised edition, 2009): 133-151, 318-323, 362-363.
  • “Hume—and Others—on Marriage” in Impressions of Hume, eds. P. J. E. Kail and Marina Frasca-Spada (Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • “‘The late flagrant instance of depravity in my Family’: The Story of an Anglo-Jamaican Cuckold,” William and Mary Quarterly 60:3 (July 2003): 549-582.