Dr Sarah M. S. Pearsall

University Senior Lecturer in the History of Early America and the Atlantic World
Dr Sarah M. S. Pearsall

Sarah Pearsall is available for consultancy.

Sarah Pearsall received a Bachelor's degree from Yale University, a Master's degree from Clare College, Cambridge University (where she was the Paul Mellon Fellow), and an M.A. and Ph.D. in early American history from Harvard University, where Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was her advisor.  She was subsequently 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 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 was the Senior Fellow at the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas in 2017-2018.  She joined the Cambridge Faculty in 2012.  She is a Director of Studies in history at Robinson College, where she has also been a graduate tutor.

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. She also has interests in Atlantic and Caribbean history, broadly conceived.

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, Early American History (Convenor)
  • 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 (Supervisor)
  • Historical Argument and Practice 
  • Paper 24, The American Revolution in Unexpected Places (Convenor, Lecturer, Supervisor)
  • Paper 14, Material Culture in the Early Modern World (Lecturer)

In Part I

Sarah Pearsall is on the editorial collective for Reviews in American History and Gender and History as well as the editorial boards of the Historical Journal, the Journal of American Studies, and Cultural and Social History. She is also on the Advisory Board for the Cambridge History of the American Revolution.  She has co-organized several conferences and workshops, most recently (with Frank Cogliano of Edinburgh University) the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early Republic (SHEAR), in Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 2019.  She has served on numerous prize and fellowship committees for organizations in the United States and Europe. She has given invited public lectures to a range of audiences in many locations in Europe and the United States.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


Tags & Themes


Robinson College
Grange Road
Cambridge CB3 9AN

Office Phone: 01223 (7)68-898


Key Publications


  • Polygamy: An Early American History (Yale University Press, 2019)
  • Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2008, Paperback, 2010).  Winner, Women’s History Network Prize.

Special Issue Volumes 

  • Guest Co-editor (with Sara McDougall), Special Issue: "Marriage's Global Past" for Gender & History 29:3 (Nov. 2017)
  • Guest Co-editor (with Julie Hardwick and Karin Wulf), Special Issue: “Centering Families in Atlantic Worlds, 1500-1800” for William and Mary Quarterly (April 2013)

Articles and Chapters (Selected)

  • “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, 2018)
  • with Sara McDougall, "Introduction: Marriage's Global Past," Gender & History 29:3 (November 2017): 505-528
  • 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 12:3 (2015): 289-342
  • “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