Sophia Rosenfeld

Sophia Rosenfeld

Professor (1995)

On Leave: fall 2014-spring 2015

Office Hours: by appointment only; please e-mail

Office: Nau 391

Phone: (434) 924-6967

Email: sar5d (at)

Fields & Specialties

European and American Intellectual and Cultural History; Comparative Age of Revolutions; History of Democracy


B.A.Princeton 1988
M.A. Harvard 1990
Ph.D. Harvard 1996

Click here for a complete C.V. 

Selected Publications


The Choices We Make: The Roots of Modern Freedom (under contract with Princeton University Press; in progress)

Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard University Press, 2011; paperback 2014)

*prizes: Mark Lynton History Prize, 2012; Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Book Prize, 2011

*translations: Korean (Bogle Books, 2011), French (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014)

*for reviews, commentary, and interviews, as well as related op-ed pieces, see

A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late 18th-Century France (Stanford University Press, 2001; paperback 2004)


"On Lying: Writing Philosophical History After the Enlightenment and After Arendt," in The Futures of American Intellectual History, eds. James Kloppenberg et al., forthcoming

“Sensus Communis,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Political Thought, ed. Terence Ball (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

“‘Europe,’ Women and the American Political Imaginary: the 1790s and the 1990s,” Journal of the Early Republic (for a special forum on the Republican Court, forthcoming 2015)

“Benjamin Rush’s Common Sense,” Early American Studies (for a special issue on Benjamin Rush, forthcoming 2015)

“National Revolutions: France,” in The Princeton Companion to Atlantic History, ed. Joseph Miller (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 407-11

“The Social Life of the Senses: A New Approach to 18th-Century Politics and Public Life,” in A Cultural History of the Senses in the Enlightenment, ed. Anne C. Vila (in ‘Cultural History of the Senses’ series, ed. Constance Classen, London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 21-39

“L’Europe des cosmopolites: quand le XVIIIe siècle rencontre le XXIe [Europe of the Cosmopolitans, or When the Eighteenth Century Meets the Twenty-First],” in Penser l’Europe au XVIIIe siècle: commerce, civilization, empire, eds. Antoine Lilti and Céline Spector (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2014), 203-228

“The Choice Isn’t Clear” (review essay), The Nation (June 23-24, 2014): 31-35

“Humanity and its Common Sense,” in The Concept of Humanity in an Age of Globalization, ed. Zhang Longxi (Goettingen: V&R Unipress, 2012), 121-136

“Liehards: On Political Hypocrisy” (review essay), The Nation (September 10, 2012): 27-30

"On Being Heard: A Case for Paying Attention to the Historical Ear," The American Historical Review 116 (April 2011): 316-334 (for a special forum on sensory history)

“Una censura senza censori. Il destino del senso commune nella Francia settecentesca [Censorship without Censors: The Fate of Common Sense in Eighteenth-Century France],” trans. Franco Motta, in Censura nel secolo dei lumi. Una visione internazionale, ed. Edoardo Tortarolo (Torino: UTET, 2010), 41-62

"Thinking About Feeling, 1789-99,"  French Historical Studies 32, no. 4 (fall 2009): 697-706 (for a special issue on the state of scholarship on the French Revolution)

"Tom Paine's Common Sense and Ours," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 65, no. 4 (October 2008): 633-668

"Before Democracy: The Production and Uses of Common Sense," Journal of Modern History 80, no. 1 (March 2008): 1-54 

"Sign Language as a Political Weapon: The Case of the French Revolution," Sign Language Studies (Fall 2005): 17-37

"Politics, Epistemology, and Revolution," Intellectual News, No. 11/12 (Summer 2003): 64-69

"Citizens of Nowhere in Particular: Cosmopolitanism, Writing, and Political Engagement in Eighteenth-Century Europe," National Identities (special issue: "The Local Life of the Nation") 4, no. 1 (March, 2002): 25-43; reprinted in Cosmopolitanism: Critical Concepts in Sociology, eds. Gerard Delanty and David Inglis (Routledge, 2010)

"Writing the History of Censorship in the Age of Enlightenment," in Postmodernism and the Enlightenment: New Perspectives in Eighteenth-Century French Intellectual History, ed. Daniel Gordon (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 117-145

"Les Philosophes and le savoir: Words, Gestures, and other Signs in the Era of Sedaine," in Michel-Jean Sedaine, 1719-1797: Theatre, Opéra-Comique and Art, eds. David Charlton and Mark Ledbury (Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate Publishing, 2000), 39-51

"Universal Languages and National Consciousness during the French Revolution," in La Recherche dix-huitiémiste. Raison universelle et cultures nationales au dix-huitième siècle, eds. David Bell, Stéphane Pujol and Ludmila Pimenova (Paris/Geneva: Honoré Champion and Slatkine, 1999), 119-131

"Deaf Men on Trial: Language and Deviancy in Late Eighteenth-Century France," Eighteenth-Century Life (special issue: "Faces of Monstrosity in Enlightenment Thought"), 21, n.s., no. 2 (May 1997): 157-175

opinion pieces in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Daily Beast; book reviews in The Nation, the American Historical Review, Journal of Modern History, Annales HSS, William and Mary Quarterly, etc.

Selected Awards and Activities


Director, Pavilion Seminars Program, College of Arts and Sciences (2011-2014); Advisory Board, Institute for Humanities and Global Cultures (2011-); Project Director, Center for the Liberal Arts (2002-)


Institute for Advanced Studies (Princeton), Member of School of Social Science (2014-15)

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2013-14)

Modern Intellectual History, Co-Editor (with S. Moyn, C. Capper, D. Kelly) (2013-)

McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Research Associate (2013-)

Intellectual History of the Modern Age series, University of Pennsylvania Press, Executive Editorial Board Member (2014-)

American Philosophical Society Senior Library Fellow (2013-14)

American Historical Association, Nominating Committee Member (2013-15) and Modern European Section Executive Board Member (2015-17)

Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard (2012)

SHEAR Book Prize (2011)

Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship (Spring 2010 and 2003-04)

University of Virginia School of Law, Visiting Professor (2008-09)

American Council of Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship (2004-05)

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), Visiting Professor (Spring 2004)

Remarque Institute for the Study of Contemporary Europe Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, New York University (1999-2000)

International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, East-West Seminar participant (Summer 1996)

Spencer Foundation Fellowship for Research on Education (1994-95)

Mellon Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities (1993-94, 1989-91)

Current Research

My first book, A Revolution in Language (2001), concerns the impact of Enlightenment thinking about language and communication on the political culture of the French Revolution and its aftermath.  My second book focuses on the political significance of another aspect of Enlightenment epistemology: common sense. In Common Sense: A Political History (2011), I  explore the relationship between the  idea of common sense and the development of democracy in Great Britain, America, and continental Western Europe, including France and the Netherlands, from the early 18th century to the present day. The goal of this study is to uncover the intellectual origins and evolution of the modern political phenomenon known as populism.  I am also engaged in an ongoing project concerned with the history of conceptions of European unity and cosmopolitan citizenship since the late 17th century and a new book project (The Choices We Make: The Roots of Modern Freedom) on the valuation of choice as a key element of modern conceptions of liberty.  Other interests include the history of censorship and the management of dissent, aesthetics and the history of sense perception, dance history, revolutions, the history of historical methods, and the history of political theory and democratic culture, with a special emphasis on the 17th- through 19th-century Atlantic world. 


Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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