Meg Roberts

PhD candidate in Early American History

I am a PhD candidate in American History at Newnham College, looking at caregiving and disability during the American Revolution. My doctoral project is supervised by Dr Sarah Pearsall and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and a Cambridge Trust Vice Chancellor’s Award. I completed my BA in History at the University of Sheffield (2016), where I was supervised by Dr Simon Middleton and Dr Andrew Heath and received the Sir Ian Kershaw Dissertation Prize. I completed my MPhil in American History in Cambridge in 2018, supervised by Dr Nicholas Guyatt. My MPhil thesis examined work, disability and 'capacity for labour' in the Early American Republic and was awarded the inaugural Sara Norton MPhil Prize by the Cambridge History Faculty.

My archival research in 2020/21 will be supported by the following fellowships:

  • William H. Helfand Fellowship in American Medicine, Science, and Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania/Library Company of Philadelphia
  • David Center for the American Revolution Fellowship, American Philosophical Society
  • Robert M. & Annetta J. Coffelt and Robert M. Coffelt Jr. Fellowship, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 
  • AHRC International Placement at the John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress
  • AHRC International Placement at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Broadly, I am interested in histories of disability, gender, labour and sexuality in eighteenth/nineteenth-century North America and Britain. My doctoral project draws together histories of disability, women’s work, medicine, coerced labour, emotions and material culture to understand practices of caregiving for people with long-term illnesses and impairments in the late eighteenth century. I hope to establish caregiving and domestic care labour as a crucial aspect of the American Revolutionary experience.

My other projects include a history of the top hat as a symbol of both imperial masculinity and queer gender nonconformity in Britain since 1800. Part of this research is featured in the 2020 exhibition ‘Beyond the Binary’ at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The emphasis on material culture in my research is informed by professional and voluntary work in the museum sector. Most recently, I spent three months in Spring 2021 as an AHRC Research Intern at the University of Cambridge Museums, working with the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. 

Paper 22: North American History from ca. 1500 to 1865, Michaelmas 2020 (Supervisions and Guest Lecture)

Historical Argument and Practice Workshops, Lent 2021 (Race), Michaelmas 2021 (Gender and Sexuality)

I have co-convened the AHRC-funded Body and Food Histories Group in the Cambridge History Faculty since 2019 and co-organised a two-day online conference ''The Ideal Body': Perceptions of Perfection from Early Modernity to the Present' in July 2020, along with regular fortnightly events each term. 

I am a member of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, Oxford, for which I organised a colloquium, ‘Writing Queer Lives’ in February 2020.


'Arenas of Care and the Health Crisis of the American Revolutionary War', Virtual Brown Bag talk, American Philosophical Society, March 2022.

'Shots, Pots, and Pox: Caregiving in Williamsburg during the American Revolutionary War', John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library Fellows' Forum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, January 2022.

''Useful Members of Society’: Work and Capacity in Deaf and Blind Schools, 1817-1840', 2021 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife: Living with Disabilities in New England, 1630-1930, Historic Deerfield, June 2021. 

'Care and Crisis in the American Revolutionary War', The Social Life of Care conference, CRASSH, University of Cambridge, May 2021. 

'Domestic Caregiving in the American Revolutionary War', Virtual Fellows' Colloquia series, Library Company of Philadelphia, Feb 2021.

'The Queer History of the Top Hat: A New Framework’, Out Loud: Celebrating LGBTQ+ Research in Newnham's MCR, Newnham College, Feb 2021.

'Queering the Collections: Approaches to LGBTQ+ Representation in Museums', Group for Education in Museums, Oct 2020.

''As Far As They Have Capacity For Labour': Work and Disability in the Early American Republic', British Group of Nineteenth Century American Historians PG/ECR summer workshops, July 2020. 

''As Far as They Have Capacity to Labour’: Work and Disability in the Early American Republic', Labour History Research Cluster Inaugural Workshop, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, May 2020.

'The Top Hat: A Queer History in Britain since 1800', Writing Queer Lives Colloquium, Oxford Centre For Life-Writing, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, Feb 2020. 

'A Queer History of Top Hats', Queer Clothes: Sartorial Non-Conformity & Gender Expression, Cambridge Queer History Month, Newnham College, Feb 2020. 

'Work, Manufacturing and Disability in the Early Republic', Oxford Early American Republic Seminar, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, Oct 2018. 

'Race and Policing in the Nineteenth Century Metropolis' (co-authored with Dr Andrew Heath), Race, Policing and Legitimacy Symposium, Department of Law, University of Sheffield, June 2016. 


Tags & Themes


Newnham College, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DF




‘Useful Members of Society’: Work and Capacity in Deaf and Blind Schools, 1817-1840’, Annual Proceedings of the Dublin Seminar for New-England Folklife: ‘Living with Disabilities in New England’ (forthcoming, 2022)

'The Health and Healthcare Outcomes of Trans and/or Non-Binary Adults in England: Protocol for an Analysis of Responses to the 2021 GP Patient Survey'Sexes 3 (2022), 325-335. (co-author)

'Are we asking the right questions? Working with the LGBTQ+ community to prioritise healthcare research'Research Involvement and Engagement 7 (September, 2021). (co-author)


'Shots, Pots, and Pox: Researching Caregiving in Williamsburg during the Revolutionary War', Colonial Williamsburg Foundation blog (July 2022)

'Inspiration Porn and Depictions of Impairment in Early America', Public Disability History blog (July 2021)