William H. Sewell

Bio Outline


  • Fellow
  • Successful Societies


  • University of Chicago
Departments of Political Science and History


  • United States


PhD (History), University of California, Berkeley
MA (History), University of California, Berkeley
BA (History with High Honors), University of Wisconsin


William Sewell is a historian with two distinct areas of interest: the history of early modern and modern Europe, and the relationship between history and social theory.

His empirical historical research concerns French social, labour, political and cultural history, particularly in the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848. He is currently working on the relationship between 18th-century capitalism and the cultural origins of the French Revolution. Over the past 15 years, much of his writing and teaching has centred on the development of a theoretical vocabulary that simultaneously speaks to history and the other social sciences.


President, Social Science History Association, 2012

Best Book in Sociological Theory, Theory section, American Sociological Association, 2008

Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2004

Relevant Publications

Sewell, W. "Connecting Capitalism to the French Revolution: The Parisian Promenade and the Origins of Civic Equality in Eighteenth Century France." Critical Historical Studies 1 (2014): 5–46.

Sewell, W. "Economic Crises and the Shape of Modern History." Public Culture 24 (2012): 303–27.

Sewell, W. "The Temporalities of Capitalism." Socio-Economic Review 8 (2008): 517–37.

Sewell, W.H. Jr. Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Sewell, W. "A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation." Am. Journ. Sociology 98 (1992): 1–29.

Sewell, W.H. Jr. A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution: The Abbé Sieyes and "What Is the Third Estate?" Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.

Sewell, W.H. Jr. Structure and Mobility: The Men and Women of Marseille, 1820–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Sewell, W.H. Jr. Work and Revolution in France: The Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.