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William H. Sewell Historian

William Sewell’s work has two distinct foci: the history of early modern and modern Europe, and the relationship between history and social theory. His empirical historical research concerns French social, labor, political, and cultural history, particularly in the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848. He is currently working on the relationship between eighteenth-century capitalism and the cultural origins of the French Revolution. Over the past fifteen years, much of his writing and teaching has centered on the development of a theoretical vocabulary that simultaneously speaks to history and the other social sciences.


President, Social Science History Association, 2012.

Prize for Best Book in Sociological Theory, Theory Section, American Sociological Association, 2008.

Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2004.

Relevant Publications

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

W. Sewell, "Economic Crises and the Shape of Modern History," Public Culture, vol. 24, pp. 303-27, 2012.

W. Sewell, "The Temporalities of Capitalism," Socio-Economic Review, pp. 517-37, 2008.

W. Sewell, "A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation," Am. Journ. Sociology, vol 98, pp. 1-29, 1992.


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

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

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

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



Associate Fellow Successful Societies


University of ChicagoDepartments of Political Science and History


PhD (History) University of California, Berkeley

MA (History) University of California, Berkeley

BA (History with High Honors) University of Wisconsin


United States

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