Sara McDougall is Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and appointed to the faculty in Biography and Memoir, French, History, and Medieval Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. She studies gender and justice in the Middle Ages, with a focus on women’s encounters with legal and religious ideas in the society and culture of Medieval France. She is the author of two books, Bigamy and Christian Identity in Late-Medieval Champagne (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), and Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, c.800-1230 (Oxford, 2017). She has co-edited special issues for Law & History Review and Gender & History on historical responses infanticide and on marriage in global history, and a six-volume Global History of Crime and Punishment is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Press in 2023. Recent articles examine punishing women for having sex, infanticide prosecutions, consequences of extramarital pregnancy, illegitimacy and the priesthood, and adultery prosecution in medieval France, as well as other writings on the family, marriage, gender, and crime. She has also written on these topics for Slate, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
In 2023-2024 she will be a Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library. In 2022 she was a visiting professor at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and an Astor Visiting Professor at Oxford University. She was also the Norman Freehling Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities in the winter of 2020. Other fellowships include the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and NYU Law School’s Golieb Legal History fellowship. She completed her doctorate in medieval history at Yale University in May 2009.
Her third book is a biographical microhistory of a woman called Jehanne, a thirtysomething woman from the Lorraine with a remarkable story. Abandoned wife, migrant, priest’s mistress, mother of at least two bastards, sexual assault survivor; all these descriptors all mark her as one of innumerable victims of medieval patriarchy. The story Jehanne told of herself, though, was instead one of survival, and on her own terms. It is a story that defies many of our modern assumptions about sex, gender, justice, and identity in the Middle Ages.